As I sit contemplating the waning days of summer, my thoughts turn to Cuban travel this winter, and how much I am looking forward to the Profundo Journeys January 2018 trip. This will be my sixth opportunity to explore this enigmatic, fascinating and warm culture. In the first journey, 2013, I wanted to capture 'Cuba before it changed'. Subsequent journeys began to reveal a deeper layer of understanding, in addition to the mystery lurking around every doorway and arched courtyard entrance, there arose the paradox of the society and culture. I think about what draws me back; photography for sure...Cuba is visually rich and layered, from the decaying colonial architecture to the robust activity in the narrow streets. The story is in the details, the way materials are repurposed for survival, the large former private homes subdivided into smaller apartments with low ceilings and maze like configurations, with vestiges of ornate marble staircases bearing evidence of the grandeur of the past.
From a photographers point of view, the light is tropical and intense, creating shadows, textures and geometric patterns. Vibrant pastel colors change from building to building and sometimes apartment to apartment. There is a sense of timelessness, but beyond these walls are the interiors. it is not out of the ordinary to be invited you into a home, even to be offered a cup of Cuban coffee, made like espresso on a single burner stove. It is sharing of intimate space that makes this culture so endearing, given the political disagreements between our governments. Cubans love Americans and are so inquisitive about our lives. Even with a language barrier, communication is possible along with smiles and hugs.
As tourism increases to Cuba, the 'real' Cuba becomes difficult to access.This change is evident in the new economy; more restaurants, private B & B's, , and empty palaces being converted into private hotels. Far from the narrow congestion of the cities, there are country roads leading to smaller villages where people live their lives traditionally, and an authenticity exists to the culture. These are the places that are inscribed in my heart; small fishing towns, towns existing as crossroads for the old sugar economy and small county seats of colonial architecture & cobblestones, where horse and buggies are more populous than cars. We travel here too, life is slower, quiet and more simple, the antithesis of the cities. Tourism has not reached these places; the traveler has stepped back in time.
If you are looking for a trip to Cuba, here is why you would want to consider the January Profundo Journeys trip.DeThere are no other tours that cover the breadth and diversity of this country. Destinations like the Isle of Pines, where the Castros were imprisoned after their trial in 1956; Gibara, a sleepy fishing village except for one week a year when it hosts the international Cine Pobre, and Remedios, unremarkable except for the two beautiful churches on its main plaza...these more remote towns are way off the well beaten path of tourism. But, what trip to Cuba would be complete without Havana, with her four historic plazas, Malecon and beautifully preserved architecture...we return here, too.
We have a wonderful professional, full time Cuban guide. When we first met Eliseo, he thought working with photographers was like 'herding cats'. In the years since, he is like a member of our family. He is extremely knowledgeable, has a wonderful sense of humor, and is a warm and caring individual. To a person, we all concur that he is a part of what has made Cuba special for us.
For those interested in making photographs that capture the experience, I am there as your teacher, mentor and cheerleader. my experience in Cuba is always lifted by watching the joy of my fellow travelers.
I want to share the Cuba I have discovered with photographers and curious travelers alike. As the tenuous nature of US travel restrictions evolve, it will become increasingly difficult for Americans to travel there legally.