Socialista - Havana, Cuba

Never thought I'd come back so soon. Thought this would have been a 1 hit wonder, a 1 time trip. Cuba has changed me, it has done something to me that is irreversible. I came here with certain expectations, prejudgment and ignorance. I gave a lot to Cuba, beyond what I expected. I lost and left behind the unimaginable most would not be able to stomach yet I move in a humble and reserved motion realizing that what I have gained at that cost is actually priceless. As I leave Havana today I'm taking something back with me, something worth far more than what any price can pay or what I have left behind. I can't even begin to explain how this alternate world completely lost in time has mind blown me. Scholars wisely felt that foreign, distant travel was a form of education. This was unquestionably a lesson I never thought I'd learn. Cuba put me in my place over and over again. It repeatedly shut me down, it fought me. It opened my eyes to a wealth of knowledge and experiences I could not achieve anywhere else.

Cuba is the perfect sociological reaction of what happens when you mix 7 parts impoverished nation with 1 part rich tourist. The result, I can't even begin to explain. I developed a love hate relationship with this place. The more I wanted to get the hell out, the more it sucked me right back in. Cuba is complicated, it provides stereotype-shattering and thought-provoking experiences that no newspaper, tourism book, or blog can capture. It evokes all senses and if it doesn't, consider yourself dead. X and myself agree that Havana is a super sexy character driven scene that draws a lot of emotions. It's heartbreakingly beautiful, ugly, passionate, ghetto while charming in its own exquisite right. It's extremely poor yet filthy rich in culture. Havana can't be replicated, it's unspoiled and there's no other place like it. Trust me on this one. Dismiss whatever ideas you have on Cuba. You can't read about it, I can't explain it to you. You just have to be there to understand it's deep rooted complexities and even when you think you've got a good grasp on it, you don't.

I am admittedly biased. I have grown semi comfortable with Cuban culture despite my limited time spent and have had enough experiences to mitigate my media-driven initial preconceptions. However, without a doubt, someone with no Latin American experience and halfway malleable pre-conceived notions would be caught speechless in Cuba. Experiencing Cuba is like being transported to a different world in a different time. No one outside knows what Cuba is really like and no one on the inside has a clue of the world outside. It's its own world locked away from any form of communication from the outside. Its inhabitants are relentlessly curious and wistful, yet with a big wink of an eye that bravely masks much hardship. These hardships are plenty and while traveling here, your usual luxuries will be striped away from you. You are held hostage to the system, the lifestyle, the beauty and there ain't nothing wrong with that. You'll be extracted from your element from the moment you arrive. 5 star is more like 1 star or rather half. Prepare to be taken off the grid as there is no internet, no facebook, no twitter or google, nada. Toilet paper is scares even in the finest hotels. The food is horrendous, barely edible as you'll be eating for the sake of surviving. Embargo means no import of the all too important condiments and spices. Forget about frappacinos and heavenly beds, you're not getting any of that here. Hospitality and service is non existent.

I feel deeply affected in a good and bad way. I feel privileged to be part of something and to experience a small piece of history before things change which they will. One day in the distant future relationships will change. Havana will change. Millionaires will be born over night. Hermes, Prada, McDonalds and Starbucks will invade faster than my girl friends hitting up a private Proenza sample sale. Havana will be the "what once was" city. I'm sad to say these special rare moments right now will be gone and that right there is very selfish of me to say. Apologies to all my Cuban American friends. Funny thing is, every once in a while, I talk to people about going to Cuba, and they say "I'd really like to go before it changes" 90% of these people will never see Cuba, even after it changes! On the streets of Old Havana and to the extent of my abilities, this is part of what BMTC documentation is all about. It's a full head-first immersion to a place that isn't very much like home despite being only 90 miles away. I came without a spirit but left with a soul and moments like this make my travel worth doing and, I hope, worth sharing. (Pictured Above:
View from Bedroom at Hotel Habana Libre - Havana, Cuba)

 View from Bedroom at Hotel Habana Libre - Havana, Cuba


 American Classic Cars - Havana, Cuba



 Old Havana - La Habana Vieja - Havana, Cuba


 View from Bedroom at Hotel Habana Libre - Havana, Cuba


 Old Havana - La Habana Vieja - Havana, Cuba


 View from Bedroom at Hotel Habana Libre - Havana, Cuba


 American Classic Cars - Havana, Cuba


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The original Cafe Habana - Havana, Cuba

 Obispo Street - Havana, Cuba


 American Classic Cars - Havana, Cuba


 Old Havana - La Habana Vieja - Havana, Cuba



 View from Bedroom Balcony at Hotel Habana Libre - Havana, Cuba


 Plaza de Armas - Havana, Cuba


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 30 lbs of gear


 American Classic Cars - Havana, Cuba


 American Classic Cars - Havana, Cuba



 El Aljibe in Havana, Cuba




 American Classic Cars - Havana, Cuba


 Hotel Raquel Lobby - Havana, Cuba



 American Classic Cars - Havana, Cuba


 American Classic Cars - Havana, Cuba



 American Classic Cars - Havana, Cuba


 El Malecon Havana Cuba


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Hotel Raquel - Havana, Cuba


 Hotel Raquel - Havana, Cuba



 American Classic Cars - Havana, Cuba



 Hotel Raquel Rooftop -  Havana, Cuba


 "Barrio Chino, Habana, Cuba" - China Town, Havana, Cuba


 American Classic Cars - Havana, Cuba


 Hotel Raquel - Havana, Cuba