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Photos: Cuba At The Crossroads

Cuba is only 90 miles away from Florida, but for most Americans it might as well be another planet. The socialist nation has been off-limits to us since the U.S. trade embargo was imposed 50 years ago.

But things are changing. On Monday, the Cuban government ends a pair of long-reviled travel restrictions, making it easier for Cubans to leave their country. And in 2011, President Obama authorized tightly regulated people-to-people cultural tours, allowing more Americans to go to Cuba.

WBUR’s Andrea Shea had the rare chance to travel there recently on a people-to-people cultural tour with Michelle Wojcik, a Boston gallery owner who, despite the embargo, is able to deal exclusively in Cuban art.

Starting Monday, we’ll hear Andrea’s reports on changes in Cuba, and how artists have been pioneers in the country’s creative economy. They’ll air at 90.9 FM and here at wbur.org. In this visual preview of her series, “Cuba Opens Through Art,” Shea guides us through some of her favorite moments of her trip.

(All photos and reporting by Andrea Shea/WBUR)

Cubans start their day, heading to school and work in the streets of Havana.

Cubans start their day, heading to school and work in the streets of Havana.

Fidel Castro's Revolution is very much a part of the ether in Cuba.

Fidel Castro’s Revolution is very much a part of the ether in Cuba.

Revolutionary fighter Che Guevara's image is everywhere in Cuba. He's like a rock star.

Revolutionary fighter Che Guevara’s image is everywhere in Cuba. He’s like a rock star.

Cuban women dress in Colonial costume for tourists in Plaza de la Catedral. After I taking this picture this woman chased me down and pretty much demanded to be paid. I learned that's the deal with street artists in Havana, too. They play, you pay.

Shea: “Cuban women dress in Colonial costume for tourists in Plaza de la Catedral. After taking this picture this woman chased me down and pretty much demanded to be paid. I learned that’s the deal with street artists in Havana, too. They play, you pay.”

Manny, our Cuban tour guide, took me and another American to see a hidden cigar club in the Conde de Villanueva hotel. I was told Reinaldo Ruiz, this torcerdores or master cigar roller, is one of the best in Cuba.

Shea: “Manny, our Cuban tour guide, took me and another American to see a hidden cigar club in the Conde de Villanueva hotel. I was told Reinaldo Ruiz, this “torcerdores” or “master cigar roller,” is one of the best in Cuba.”

A Monday morning commute along the Malecon.

A Monday morning commute along the Malecon.

Fishermen line the wall along Havana's Malecon on most mornings, hoping to catch some fish for supper.

Fishermen line the wall along Havana’s Malecon on most mornings, hoping to catch something for supper.

Book vendors set up stalls in the market at Plaza de Armas. Since the 90s Cubans have been selling second-hand books and periodicals from the 1940s and 50s.

Book vendors set up stalls in the market at Plaza de Armas. Since the 1990s Cubans have been selling second-hand books and periodicals from the 1940s and 50s.

Workers employed by the Cuban government keep the tombstones in the historic Colon Cemetery pristine.

Workers employed by the Cuban government keep the tombstones in the historic Colon Cemetery pristine.

he Cathedral de San Cristobal

The Cathedral de San Cristobal.

A young Cuban man graciously sits for a photo in the Callejon de Humel, a popular public art project in Havana.

A young Cuban man graciously sits for a photo in the Callejon de Humel, a popular public art project in Havana.

American art collector Tom Licciardi bought a big, red kiss from Cuban women in Havana's San Francisco Square. Cubans have licenses to sell many things to tourists, including smooches.

American art collector Tom Licciardi bought a big, red kiss from a Cuban woman in Havana’s San Francisco Square. Cubans have licenses to sell many things to tourists, including smooches.

Those mythic, vintage American cars are as stunning and ubiquitous as we've heard. They're like rolling reminders of the past when the U.S and Cuba actually had a relationship. In so many ways Havana really does feel like its trapped in time.

Those mythic, vintage American cars are stunning and ubiquitous. They’re like rolling reminders of the past when the U.S and Cuba had a relationship.

The beautiful buildings along the Malecon are crumbling. An ambitious preservation campaign is underway, but an architect from the Office of the City Historian said many of the dilapidated structures along the coast are too far gone to be saved.

The beautiful buildings along the Malecon are crumbling. An ambitious preservation campaign is underway, but an architect from the Office of the City Historian said many of the dilapidated structures along the coast are too far gone to be saved.

Fishermen, young and old, along the Malecon, Cuba's famous waterfront roadway.

Fishermen, young and old, along the Malecon, Cuba’s famous waterfront roadway.

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