I first met Lady Cuba in 2015, and immediately fell deeply in love with her. Since I left her sweet embrace I have not been the same. What is it about you beautiful Seniorita that I can’t let go of? You have so many wonderful attributes. Your Cohiba and Romeo and Juliet cigars, your sweet Havana Club rum, and your unparalleled shade grown coffee, are the world’s best, and coveted across the globe. But your allures are so much more than these. Your music is rich and vibrant and oozes from every home, restaurant, and street corner. Your dance and art, so brilliantly colorful and alive, mesmerizes me. You have a personality like no one else I have ever met. Enchanting is the word that comes to mind. Oh yes, you are SO special. Your warm and gentle people of all colors from white to black, live, work, and play together in total harmony. For you NO ONE is Cuban, unless ALL are Cuban. You epitomize the concept of “Mejunje” – A place for all.
Dominos is a popular outdoor activity Location – Camaguey
Since we have been apart, I cannot find peace. I awake in the night to the sound of your unique musical rhythms playing in my head. I have apparitions of colorful Cuban dancers as I ride the bus. On the streets of Boston, I believe I smell the aroma of your sweet cigars, only upon further investigation to find out otherwise. Starbucks coffee, once my favorite, now seems mundane. I filled my suitcase with your treats in 2015 and carefully rationed them, but eventually ran out. When I hear a Spanish voice I ask “Cubano”? “Cubano”?, only to be disappointed.
A street band entertains Location – Havana
In 2015, I tasted the forbidden fruit in your garden of Eden, and it rocked my world. The minute I left your shores, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I knew that you were my true love, and I would soon return to your awaiting arms. In 2016 life got in the way, and it did not happen. This was so painful for me. I rebooked for 2017, bought a Cuba themed calendar, and began to X off the days. It made my sadness and desire more manageable, but my heart ached constantly for your embrace.
Bell tower of Inglesia y Convento de San Francisco Location – Trinidad
On January 13th, I found myself in the skies approaching your shores. As the plane descended from the clouds I saw the striking change in color where the azure blue waters of the Gulfstream become the shallow reefs of the Cuban coastline. It is here where Papa Hemingway spent his afternoons aboard his beloved boat Pilar in search of giant marlin, with a Havana Club cocktail always within easy reach. When I spotted your beautiful country, my pulse quickened, knowing I would soon be in your arms once again. I had been separated from my true love for so long, and soon I would again be in your embrace. Upon departing the airport I heard Spanish voices, and smelled your sweet tropical air. The countless 1950’s American cars working as taxis confirmed that I had not been dreaming.
One of the 140,000 Classic American cars still on the road in Cuba Location – Havana
But sweet Senorita, you have changed. We are no longer alone. Your once quiet squares and plazas have been found by others. Cell phones are beginning to arrive. Horse and buggy transportation is yielding to bicycles and scooters, which in themselves are yielding to automobiles. The word is out on how marvelous you are, and many are coming to share your allure. Although your 140,000 1950’s classic American cars still abound, they now share the roads with newer vehicles from Asia and Europe. Your population of 11 million people now hosts an unbelievable 4 million visitors per year. This is all for the best, as this incoming tide raises all boats. You are growing as a nation and progress is inevitable. I see the many ways that this benefits your people and rejoice in this. Trickle-down economics is a slow process, but already I see the early results. It is heartwarming to see that your sweet gentle people struggle less now, and that new opportunities abound across your magnificent island. I love your people and am sincerely happy for them.
As I once again travelled across your land, I came to realize that we still are very deeply in love, and all your charms are intact. How foolish I was to believe that you would always be mine alone. A lady of your beauty attracts many suitors. I must put my selfishness aside and rejoice in the fact that you are able to make other suitors happy too.
Che Lives, and so do 1951 Chevrolets Location – Cienfuegos
Sweet Lady Cuba, you have been open to every country except America for over five decades, and were the “forbidden fruit” for us, and us alone. You were so near, yet so far. As I once again traveled across your land, I began to accept that you are still as magnificent as ever, but now have many lovers such as I. I can still follow in the footsteps of the Three Amigos - Che, Fidel, and Camilo. “Ernesto” Hemingway’s ghost still walks your streets. Your music, art, dance, and people are still magnificent beyond compare. As the most cultured and educated population in the Caribbean you have attracted so many, yet you are still my lover and I yours. This will always be. Your appeal is boundless. No country on planet earth can compare.
The Che Guevara Memorial Location – Santa Clara
Changes are afoot in Cuba. You have lost your brilliant Leader Fidel who brought your country to where is it today. You are proud of your 100% literacy rate, lack of discrimination of any type, world class cigars, rum and coffee, healthcare for all Cubans, and your 30 medical Universities. The 100’s of billboards I saw demonstrate how deeply you loved and now mourn Fidel. You celebrate him by placing his photo in every school, public building, and shop. In both Cuba and America the administrations have changed. What does this mean for our love affair Lady Cuba? Will you again become the forbidden fruit, or will you continue to fill my heart with joy year after year? Such will be revealed only in the fullness of time.
My lover awaits my return. To visit Lady Cuba and experience this love first hand, book one of the many signature or specialty Cuba Tours provided by insightCuba.
Photos and Writing by Howard Axelrod, an Ashland, MA resident, travel photographer and writer, and former high technology executive. He has photographed in 79 countries on six continents and has travelled to 38 of the U.S. states. He is primarily interested in native and tribal cultures, history, architecture, religion, and wildlife, all of which he feels are all disappearing at an alarming rate. His goal is to document through photography and writing as much of this as possible, while it still exists.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org