A Trip To Old Havana, Cuba by Mattea Perrotta

When you think of Cuba a few things come to mind: vintage Chevrolets, cigars and rum, and lots of rum. Sure, the cars were neat the first ten minutes upon my arrival and the old women with skin like leather made for the perfect subject for any american tourist canon rebel. Yes all these things are beautiful, and quintessentially anyone’s understanding of Cuba. But there was so much more beauty and old timelessness to be discovered. Havana was once considered the Las Vegas of the Caribbean, a place for the Hollywood elite, a getaway for the rat pack and Audrey Hepburn. But when communist Cuba was born, this once glamorous destination spot went south. Little did we know, when President Kennedy signed the Embargo Act in 1962, and Fidel’s communist powers become more in alignment, that subconsciously Cuba was being put into a time capsule to legally be rediscovered by Americans only until this year. To my surprise, since Cuba’s communist exit, so much of the city is still regulated in a way that makes it difficult for Cubans to get daily essential items that we take for granted. This city by the sea once glittered with a smorgasbord of architectural styles and eras of wealth, from the Spanish colonial days,1940’s Hollywood and 1950s modernism. Sadly, so many of the old grandames and Hemingway's poetic romanticism are simply crumbling away; some have collapsed into piles of rubble. Life in Cuba has been hard on the people because they can’t make a living off of their government salaries. Sure they have free education and health care, but there are not enough jobs to provide income for the people. I think it’s inevitable to not be sensitive to this kind of poverty, especially living in a place where a realty TV star may become President. But I did not see any beggars in the streets. The people were gracious, happy and full of life. They finally ate the forbidden fruit of “freedom” after all these years, and to experience that kind of joy and liberty was amazing. Old Havana is beautiful, cobble stone streets, pastel art nouveau architecture decorate Paseo del Prado, but if you travel outside of the center you can discover more about Cuba’s history, such as Havana’s Chinatown. There are strong historical relations for Communist Cuba and China. This made it easy for Havana to establish its own Chinatown. photographs by Mattea Perrotta and Kate Parfet. Text by Mattea Perrotta