Category: Cuba, 2013

Dreaming in Cuban

April 25

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m starting to write this on April 22. Got to begin developing the mindset, and, besides, there are a few background matters to talk and think about, so here it goes.

First, thoughts about blogging. People ask me whether this doesn’t take an awful lot of time. Well, yes; but I think it’s worth it. For one thing, it provides a record of the trip in a way that the journals I used to keep did. But another, and perhaps more important reason, is that blogging forces you to think about things in ways that you might not otherwise think about them (or, at least, I would not).

You go into a trip with certain expectations, and those expectations are bound to color your experience. For me, Cuba is a great trip. It’s close, it’s in the same time zone, but at the same time it’s exotic. The title of this post, Dreaming in Cuban, is stolen from the title of the book by Cristina Garcia that I am currently reading. It’s quite a wonderful book, with the kind of magical realism that I like in Latin and South American writers. It also is written in very poetic language. It evokes some of the mystery that Cuba conjures in my mind – women smoking cigars, bulky vintage American cars, colonial architecture, romantic revolutionaries, and a once exotic nightlife. There also used to be a Jewish presence in Cuba that I hope to at least get a little taste of.

My early recollections of Cuba date back to the 1950s, when, like many US tourists seeking the sun, my parents traveled to Cuba. They returned well tanned and a bit intoxicated by their experience. Of course, Cuba also figures largely in some history that I recollect quite clearly – the Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco and the Cuban missile crisis which to me was the scariest time that we have lived through by a long shot. It took quaint historical events, such as blockades, out of the history books and put them on the front pages of newspapers and on TV screens. To many of us, it seemed like the end of the world as we knew it was a real possibility.

Of course, for 50 years, Cuba was out of bounds for travelers from the US. Only recently has there been some loosening of those restrictions. Now group trips are permitted, but only for cultural purposes. I am traveling with a small group from the Santa Fe Photography Workshop, on a cultural photography trip in which we will be meeting and talking with Cuban photographers. The trip is being led by Nevada Wier, the same person who led the trip that I took to Southwestern China last October and November. We will be a group of 12 people, nine from across the United States, two from Singapore and one from Belgium. The trip is not a workshop, so there will be no formal classes or instruction. However, traveling with Nevada and a group of enthusiastic photographers, I expect to learn quite a bit on the trip.

Carol would have signed on for the trip, too, but there was only one space available, so she became #1 on the waiting list four months ago, but nobody dropped out. As it turns out, she’s had pain in her hip and leg, so the trip would not have been a good idea, anyway. She’s meeting me in Miami at the end of the trip, where we’ll spend a weekend with good college friends.

I take an afternoon flight down to Miami, and shuttle over to Marriott Courtyard for an 8 PM briefing meeting with our group. Ironically, one of the people on the trip had developed severe back pain at the last minute and could not make the trip. Had we known earlier, Carol could have joined us. Damn. Most of the group retired to the bar for some drinks and food, but we disbanded by 10, because of our early start tomorrow. Seems like a very amicable group, all of whom have traveled with Nevada, some many times.

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