New Years Day 2009 the whole of Cuba is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Revolution
it’s been building for a long while now. Santiago de Cuba is packed with loyal and patriotic Cubans and those lucky enough are jostling to get the best view of ‘that’ famous balcony in Parque Cespedes, the site of Fidel Castro’s triumphant speech on New Year’s Day in 1959.
I started the day by travelling from Camaguey after a few mojitos on New Year’s Eve, spent in the beautiful, UNESCO declared Trinidad. I ran into a little trouble, bleary-eyed and clutching my camera early in the morning, with the immigration (and probably emigration) police. I didn’t have my passport on me and so spent an hour locked in the back of their car, happily asleep, whilst they tried to be menacing enough to earn a few extra pesos. Feeling a lot better for the sleep and once they had realised I was too unwell to cause any deliberate trouble, I made it to Santiago de Cuba, where rumour had it that Fidel himself would be taking to the balcony to make a speech in the afternoon. Sadly he didn’t, but that didn’t stop the excitement and atmosphere for the whole day and indeed the next two weeks, throughout the country.
After a month travelling through Cuba I can’t stop talking about it. It shall stay with me for a very long time, the energy, the people, their friendliness. It was an incredible month and in many ways I can’t wait to get back there. I just hope it doesn’t change too much over the coming years.
Los Vinales and Baracoa were stunning, the people fantastic and welcoming and, on my second visit, Havana was fascinating. My favourite moment? My last two hours in Havana before flying home, not wanting to leave. The light was incredible but fading fast and I stumbled upon a square a little out of the way behind Capitolio. There were no tourists there and it seemed they never made the effort to get there either; walking about I stumbled upon a shooting gallery – an old man had converted his living room into a shooting range with drinks cans for targets. The very last image I took was of two kids, one shooting an air rifle and just as I pressed the shutter he moved into focus and turned around. With the light all but gone I paid one local Peso and shot at the cans and then headed to my casa before taking a very old taxi to the airport. Looking at the trannies when I got back that image somehow summed Cuba up for me, having seen so many photos of Fidel and his brother in Mexico practicing their shooting, before traveling to Cuba to begin the Revolution. This kid was the link between Fidel’s Cuba and the new, emerging Cuba.