Feliz Ano Nuevo! Viva Cuba!

Feliz Año Nuevo! Viva Cuba!

December 25, 2006
Rosa R. Garcia Hernandez
Versalles, Matanzas

I flew overnight from Cuba and landed in Toronto around 1:30am, celebrating New Year’s Eve on the plane with a couple of hundred sleepy, sunburnt Canadians. That was the only time I saw tourists — at the airport and the plazas of Havana. An English fellow asked me to take his photo in front of the Capitolio, and the rest of the time I commingled with Cubans. I consider it one of the benefits of travelling solo: it forces you to speak to the locals instead of just your travelling partner.

I stayed in a casa particular with a family in Central Havana, and travelled with Cubans on buses that buckled under the strain of too many passengers and a train that was delayed by five hours on Christmas Day. I could tell by the way they stared at me that the locals all thought I was crazy for taking an ancient, rickety electric train that was forever blowing fuses when I could be in a comfortable air-conditioned bus that took less time. I had nothing close to the facility to explain in Spanish that I wanted to take the historic Hershey train (built by the Hershey family of PA) because I used to live in Pennsylvania and my late husband loved trains.

I spoke in terrible Spanish which made them laugh, like this woman here in Matanzas. I managed to convey to her that I would mail her the photos and I needed her address. I took photos of ordinary life: kids playing soccer, baseball, handball and basketball, old men sitting around the domino table, grandmas hanging up the washing on the clothesline. And when I was able to, I asked for their addresses so I could mail them their photos. I hope they like them.

Cuba was an incredible experience, and my photostream is going to be Cuba, Cuba, and more Cuba for a while. I shot 18 rolls of film and more than 2 GBs of photos and video!

But now that I’ve downloaded the digital files to my computer and burned them to disk, I’m going to get some sleep…