Photography and Text by Michelle Chiu
At first glance, it was like out of a picture book…or maybe a time machine? Other countries—whether in South America, Africa, or Asia—had all had a niggling sense of familiarity. Cuba felt distinctly different, completely foreign to even my group of seasoned travelers. Was this place just cut off? The clichéd phrase—“out of time”? Or was it something else?
I hadn’t known what to imagine before we arrived in Cuba. Though eerily strange, Havana and Viñales also felt exactly like every description you’ve ever heard of Cuba come to life. Reality rose to meet imagination and hype. Old architecture and classic cars, tobacco farmers and bright, colored houses. Cuba was every bit as beautiful as Hemingway has written…except where it wasn’t.
The constant presence of rubble baffled me. Old Havana’s roads seemed to be in a perpetual state of haphazard construction, forcing pedestrians to navigate around piles of rubble and deep trenches. Further from the tourist zones, the cars (and trains) displayed more age and less glamour. Lots lay abandoned where buildings had simply collapsed from disrepair. The country appeared to have not only two currencies, but two faces.
Ten days in Cuba is only enough to give a quick glimpse and glimmer of Cuba’s marvels and mysteries.
Photography and Text by Michelle Chui, Copyright 2015
About the Author: Michelle Chui is enrolled in the MBA program, Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.