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February 24, 2015 /

Cuba: A Nation Rich in History

On the morning of our second day in Cuba, we were treated to an unexpected scene in downtown Havana. In celebration of Jose Marti’s birth date, hundreds of school children paraded down the avenue next to our hotel. Many of them were in costume, some held signs or flags, and all participated in vigorous chants led by their adult supervisors. It was the first of many times on our trip that I wished that my Spanish was better but even so, the pageantry and the sweet, earnest faces of the children was a joy to watch.

School children celebrating Jose Marti's birthday

School children celebrating Jose Marti’s birthday

Statue of Jose Marti in Havana's main square

Statue of Jose Marti in Havana’s main square

Jose Marti is a Cuban national hero for his role in the struggle for independence from Spain in the 19th century. His writings, including poems and essays, promoted liberty and political freedom. His dedication to Cuban independence – including sovereignty from the United States — and his fight against slavery and racial discrimination is honored throughout Cuba with statues and celebrations like we were fortunate to witness.

After watching the parade, we took off on foot to discover other sights of Havana, including the capitol dome (currently undergoing renovations), magnificent old buildings in various stages of decay, and the entrance arch to a long-gone Chinatown.

The rest of the day included a tour of the Necropolis de Colon, one of the largest cemeteries in the world, a private talk given by Roberto Salas’ about his stint as Fidel Castro’s private photographer in the 1960s, and a tour of ceramic artist Fuster’s amazing compound in which he has created a spectacular and joyful “Homenate a Gaudi” (“Homage to Gaudi”).

Havana is a photographer's dream

Havana is a photographer’s dream

Colorful buildings in Havana

Entrance to Chinatown

Entrance to Chinatown


The capitol building under repair

The capitol building under repair

Necropolis de Colon cemetary

Necropolis de Colon cemetery

It is easy to see how the artist Fuster was inspired by Antoni Gaudi

It is easy to see how the artist Fuster was inspired by Antoni Gaudi

No day in Cuba is complete without a cool dude and an even cooler car

No day in Cuba is complete without a cool dude and an even cooler car




Leave a Comment
  1. Kate Crimmins / Feb 24 2015 4:51 pm

    amazing cars!

  2. Sammy D. / Feb 24 2015 9:12 pm

    Oh those cars! I selfishly wish the country wouldn’t open up materially because it’s such a rich timewarp. Of course, I’d never want to repress the citizens for even one more day. But modernization does obliterate so much character …

    • / Feb 25 2015 10:02 am

      Oh, I completely agree. The people I talked to seem very excited about the potential changes but I wonder if they truly understand the full implications. I hope they make the changes slowly – complete freedom, of course, first – but then be very careful how much they open up to foreign investments. They are extremely proud of their country and I’m sure would like to maintain their culture and identity.

  3. snakesinthegrass2014 / Feb 25 2015 9:43 am

    Beautiful photographs. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  4. Terri Webster Schrandt / Feb 25 2015 10:55 am

    Really beautiful, Janis! So happy you can share your journey with us all!

  5. Rin Porter / Feb 28 2015 6:10 am

    Glorious, glorious photos! The colors of Cuba are so vivid in your pictures that they almost hurt the eyes. What an interesting and beautiful place. Thanks for sharing your trip. I look forward to more.

    • / Feb 28 2015 12:10 pm

      There was so much beauty everywhere! It was easy to see why the Cuban people are so proud of their country. They are certainly aware of its flaws (and there are many) but they also embrace their rich culture and history.

  6. Shelley / Feb 28 2015 8:08 pm

    Great photos. I’m enjoying the trip!

  7. Ellen Hawley / Mar 15 2015 3:05 am

    So glad to hear about Marti being celebrated.

    • / Mar 15 2015 8:28 am

      Marti is a very big deal in Cuba. He is often described as their George Washington. I have to admit that I didn’t know anything about him before, but I’ve enjoyed reading about him since my return.

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