Warning! "Level 3 travel advisory to Cuba, reconsider travel." These blaring words from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consultant Affairs website are short, stark and to the point: "Do not travel." The State Department believes some sonic source has attacked embassy personnel and they say US citizens may be at risk. This warning is just one of several hurdles U.S. travelers face when planning a trip to Cuba.
So why go to Cuba? Well, personally, I'm a photographer who seeks out exciting and unique opportunities, and for everyone else, Anthony Bourdain said it best during his visit to Cuba; “However you feel about the government, however you feel about the last 55 years, there aren’t any places in the world that look like this. I mean, it’s utterly enchanting.”
After President Trump took office, he quickly enacted many of the travel sanctions against Cuba which President Obama had lifted. Now there are 12 categories of authorized travel so just visiting Cuba as a "tourist" is prohibited. I traveled under the category, "Support for the Cuban People," which means I attended scheduled events such as cultural activities and I stayed with Cuban families. Interestingly, on a side note; my expedition mostly avoided tourist areas.
Viva La Revolution
Animated Fidel Castro supporter
Cuba has a long history of conflict and images of their national heroes adorn many streets and homes. Flags and paintings of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara (an Argentine Marxist) are symbolic of the struggles of this island country, and most of the people I met were very proud of their heritage and culture. One example was an elderly woman, wildly waving a machete in the air yelling about how Castro gave her a house after a hurricane destroyed her former countryside home. “I'm a Socialist, not Communist” she kept shouting over and over again! Others I met would limit their opinions about the Government or oppression, which reinforced my belief that one can be proud of their country but not necessarily its Government.