Modern cars, tacky outfits, overweight, malls with American brands, internet access, private businesses and a rising inequality. Not what you expect when you think of Cuba? Well, this is Cuba too. It’s all a matter of where you point your camera.
This is the view you’ll find around any big hotel in Havana. During 2014-2015, internet has become more accessible in the major cities. You buy a 4$ card (or 2$ in the black market) with a password that lets you connect for an hour to the wi-fi of the hotel.
Old town Havana vs. the shopping mall Comodoro in the fancy Havana district Playa.
A lot of expats live in Playa, but not only expats go shopping here. Many Cubans spend convertible pesos on clothes, drinks and clubs. Yet indeed, not all Cubans. The inequality between Cubans is devastating once you start looking for it.
This is a reality – and this too.
This Colombian travel magazine, just as almost any blog or photo album from Cuba usually reproduces this image of Havana. And it’s not that the 50’s cars don’t exist. They do. But there’s so much more to it.
There are modern Renault and Mercedes stores in Havana. Half of the cars you see in Havana are colorful 50’s cars and the other half just as modern as any car in Europe or Colombia.
And outside Havana, this is a reality too.
When I was in Havana in February 2014, there were a few small scale businesses of people selling sandwiches of hamburgers from a window in their house. Now. there are new businesses popping up every day: small scale restaurants, bars, cafés, fisheries, cell phone repair etc etc. In September 2015, the variety and quality of cheap Cuban, Chinese, American and Mexican food is stunning.
I’m not trying to say that the stereotypical travel magazine version of Cuba doesn’t exits. It does. The Cuban reality is just so much more complex and interesting, when you open up your eyes and camera lens for it. However, it must be said. The cigar smoking ladies chilling outside colorful houses are becoming a myth. There might be a few of them still, but they’re mainly sitting there to get tourists paying for their picture.
Rather, the photo of people checking Facebook and Tripadvisor outside the Habana Libre Hotel, is a more accurate street view in Havana 2015.