A Note About Havana

A Note About Havana

Date sent: Sat, 27 Apr 96
From: Cliff Calongne
Just returned from a week in and around Havana Cuba. Primary purpose was to prepare a photo essay on the 1950 era USA automobiles and interview their owner/operators. Staying with a family in the low income Centro Havana proved to be a real bonus as the best photos and interviews were obtained while sitting out on sidewalk with the Nikons sharing a bottle of premier aged rum and cuban cigars with the neighbors.

Raul, the contact arranged over the internet, (an assistant professor at the Universidad of Habana), had arranged for us to be driven around the area with Jose in his lovingly cared for 1954 Chevy four door sedan. It brought me back to fond memories of my youth in San Diego, California.

Not all experiences were enjoyable however; such as waiting outside the Police Station for two hours hoping for the release of my driver from the clutches of the authorities who just didn't like Jose driving me around Revolutionary Square as it was being set up for Fidels' first May Day celebration in two years. Having his credentials checked by Police three times in one day - reinforced the fact that this is still a police state - and even heavier handed than experienced in Russia in '92.

I hope to return soon to visit the many friends made amoung the warm and gentle people of Havana and Hershey (yes, Hershey built an entire village around a sugar plant in the early 1900's) The General Electric train built in 1917 still operates daily and the village, bathed in it's many colors of flowers on tree lined streets retains much of the charm of it's people, many of which originally came there from the West Indies.

Contrasting with this vision is that which Havana's people chuckle about are the massive caricature billboards surrounding the entire Minister of Exterior building lampooning Jesse Helms and others about the Blockade.

Cliff Calongne

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