Someone asked me why we went back to Cuba less than a year after our first visit there. The first trip that we took in February 2013 was a discovery–curiosity of the “forbidden fruit”. Though Americans can legally travel to Cuba, you need special arrangements to get there. On our second trip, we went with Cuba Explorer, a travel agency located in Canada, which organizes trips to the island for reasonable prices and with a great itinerary and service. On our second trip last December, we went to Havana because I felt I needed to meet its beautiful people again and to photograph them.
Two weeks before going on the trip, I decided to put together 52 images (out of 4,500 I brought back from the previous trip) into a book, I titled, Soy Cubano, I am Cuban. It includes portraits of the people I met on the streets, as well as some of my thoughts. I called it a “Book of Gratitude” and each page has the words “Thank You” in one of the 52 languages of the World, as well as my aphorisms (someone coined them Mannyisms).
As on the first trip, we met a lot of interesting people. I wanted to photograph more children, and there were quite a few of them. Children are beautiful in any country of the world. When our daughters Alona and Tamar were born, I realized that they came to this world to be my teachers. With more teachers, the wiser one becomes. Just take a look at King Solomon—the wisest man who had one thousand wives, and who knows how many children.
One phenomenon in Havana is that parents did not mind when I photographed their children and even thanked me for it. ¡Muchas Gracías! But there were other ones—primarily boys who did not mind being photographed, in exchange for a dollar. I usually do not pay to take photographs, but those kids would swarm around you in the tourist areas asking for a dollar—even before you could see them.
Those kids on the streets asking for a dollar and never accepted “No” for an answer. They were not discouraged and persisted to ask for a dollar from any subject, and were not shy to come back.
There are quite a few other beggars on the streets of Havana. Some dressed up in colorful garbs and even had a state license to pose for the tourists for the same dollar (or local equivalent, the cuc—pronounced, kook). Yet others were just street vendors, or musicians. We learned to have enough change in our pockets to help subsidize the meager socialist government contribution.
As soon as the United States will abandon the embargo, thousands of American tourists will flood Havana. Cubans are getting ready and they are building many new hotels as well as opening new, very beautifully decorated restaurants. By that time, begging teenagers will become more persistent and entrepreneurial. Be sure that you have enough change when you visit there. For me, the trip is worth every penny.
Please call or email me for advice on how to visit Cuba.
If you enjoyed my photos and like my writing, please check out my book Soy Cubano, I am Cuban. It is available as an e-book for $9.99 on BLURB or you may also purchase a hardcopy here. (The links are also on my website.) I am grateful to you, if you buy one, and send it as a gift to your friends.
DO NOT KEEP ME AS A SECRET.
SMILE AND PLEASE SHARE IT WITH A FRIEND