Arrival in Cuba

How do you explain what is Cuba in words and pictures? It is something that has to be experienced, but I will do what I can.

We landed in the airport, not the newest and most modern airport but a perfectly good and functional airport. It was recommended that we bring Eros to avoid the 13% exchange fees of dollars, and go upstairs to avoid the huge line at the money exchange. Upstairs they were only selling euros though, not buying them so downstairs to the long line we went.

The long money changing line at the airport

The long money changing line at the airport

After a while I asked one of the taxi guys recruiting passengers if we could pay in euros. Sure, 30 euros to Havana Central, a fair price so off we went in a comfortable modern yellow cab through Cuban countryside and soon, through the city to our destination. When we pulled up our hostess was waiting outside as promised to welcome us and show us to our room.

Our hosts were wonderful, friendly, helpful, really good people. I felt somewhat guilty though. It’s a small two bedroom apartment and the four of them are in a small bedroom on bunk beds while we have a spacious bedroom and balcony overlooking the city. But, they made the guest room as their business. He used to work at a government job but says he doing much better working privately, and that is what gave them the money to fix up the apartment.

We settled in a bit and then went walking to see some of the city. There isn’t a lot of traffic for a big city, but a lot of the cars on the road are the antique cars, most looking shiny and beautiful. If you want to take pictures of cars you could totally fill your camera in a short time because there are so many of them everywhere!

The buildings are in all states of repair or disrepair. Some are gorgeous, elegant, and just beautiful. Others are also beautiful but showing many years of neglect, and some are literally falling apart. Many buildings are also in various stages of renovation. Space is expensive and many apartments are tiny. Many people leave their doors open so as we passed we could see into their apartments. Even where we are staying the space is small for a family (by our standards), and now even smaller since it has been remodeled to accommodate guests.

There is so much life in the street! There are people walking, vendors selling things, kids playing, men hanging out and socializing, and neighbors talking together. In the morning and especially in the evenings vendors come around, often with whistles shouting out what they have to sell. Our hostess said if you are on an upper floor you can lower down a basket or pail to complete your purchase.

We arrived in the afternoon so we had a little time to walk around before we turned in for the day. These are some pictures in the area of the Parque Central (Central Park). There is a bit of information on this park Here.

Of course Cuba is known for its classic cars. There are enough of them that it is hard to take a photo of a street scene without catching one, if not many of them.

And now the rest of the photos, just some random shots of things we saw in the area.

These were just a few photos and thoughts put together while having conversations with our host and hostess on our first evening. There is a lot more to come!

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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24 Responses to Arrival in Cuba

  1. oldsalt1942 says:

    The Cubans have to be the world’s greatest mechanics. Imagine keeping those cars running all these years where everywhere else they’ve pretty much been melted down as scrap…

    I lived near Miami for almost 35 years, off and on, and Jimmy Buffet’s song “Everybody Has A Cousin In Miami,” is more a statement of fact than anything else. But having lived there, and knowing a LOT of Cubans and the mind set of a lot of the older ones, I have to make this observation. I believe that when Raul finally bites the dust and the country opens up, the Cuban “Gusanos” (Worms), are going to try and return and take over. I predict there will be bloodshed because the Cubans who are there now are going to say, “You think you’re taking over? Where the hell have YOU BEEN the last 50 years?”

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    • For sure! I heard about some that had Hyundai engines and other creative modifications, but to even keep the body and chrome looking that good? I don’t know how they manage it.
      Our host said Raul’s successor is already being groomed. I forget his name. But word is the man is at Raul’s side a lot and in the public eye looking like he’s a part of it all, so when it comes time to turn over the office he’ll look like he belongs in it.
      Yes, it seemed that everyone we talked to had a relative in the US, usually in Florida.

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  2. peggyjoan42 says:

    Wow. This is a fantastic post – a peek into what Cuba is really like. Loved all the photos and information you enclosed in this post. Thank you so much for sharing this. Sounds like quite an adventure you experienced in Cuba.

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  3. Hi Kris

    Great to see all the pictures and to hear you are having a great time. See you when you get home. Which is probably now, I’m thinking. LOL

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  4. I have been so excited waiting for this post. Now we have a sneak peek of Havana, which looks like a photographer’s paradise. 20 more days and we will be in Cuba, too. Thanks, Kris. Looking forward to your next post.

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    • I was thinking of you when we were there, thinking about how much you are going to enjoy visiting. We net someone on the bus coming back to David – it’s a lot like Panama right? Latinos, run down buildings, poor people…. ahh NO, it’s not like anything I’ve experienced before. There is a history, culture, class, art going back decades. We can beat them down and deny them a lot of what they need, but there is no taking the history and culture out of them.

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      • One thing that surprised me in your post is that the grocery stores are full and the people can get everything they need. Ron’s sister is going to meet us in the airport and we are going to spend a few days with her Cuban family. I was planning on taking some things the family may need, but now I wonder if I need to. I’ll have to ask Ron’s sister.

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  5. oldsalt1942 says:

    Were they surprised when you spoke to them in Spanish?

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  6. Sunni Morris says:

    Interesting to see what Cuba is like. Love the photos and all the other little tidbits..

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  7. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris, welcome home!
    Amazing what a little taste of capitalism will do for a repressed economy, hey? When the Soviet Union collapsed in ’89, Cuba’s future was bleaker than before. Thankfully, the government allowed some changes and small business ownership took off. The Cubans are remarkably industrious (their classic cars are a prime example) and given a chance, they make things happen. The Cubans we have as friends here have thrived here.
    We would love to visit there but I would want to get out of the city and travel to meet the people, similar to leaving Panama City and heading west. Havana is Cuba with its best foot forward for the tourist trade. I like meeting just plain, real people. Those are a country’s strength. We wish them success.

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  8. Fantastic photos, amiga! You really captured the heart of Havana Centro.

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  9. Carole says:

    Love the photos, great selection. It looks like you had a nice time visiting Cuba. I hope we get there some day before it changes too much.

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  10. Thank you Kris — I loved going to Havana with you and Joe. What a great first experience for you.You found a wonderful place to stay with a nice family so it wasn’t even so expensive. Good job! Alia

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