I’m truly honored to be one of the selected photographers included in this year’s VOICE Collection! This competition is run through Click & Company, an amazing brand which includes a monthly publication (Click Magazine), an education site with classes and workshops (Click Photo School) and even an annual photography conference (Click Away). My photograph, Street Play, was shot on the streets of Central Havana, Cuba in the late afternoon sun. It was selected from over 45,000 entries! The full collection can be seen in the online gallery.
I have visited Cuba twice. My first trip was in 2002. I led a group of high school students, and we traveled on an educational license granted by the US government. My more recent trip was in 2016, as a solo traveler, when a formal license was no longer required. The changes I saw were incredible! On my first trip, we ate beans and rice or ham sandwiches at every meal and stayed in a government owned hotel. Cubans were not allowed to own restaurants or host visitors. On my recent trip, I stayed in a family’s home (casa particular) and ate in locally owned restaurants. The laws have changed, and it is now legal for individuals to own small businesses. Can you imagine starting a restaurant aimed at a foreign clientele when there are no examples of individually owned and operated restaurants in your city? The trials and tribulations were real! The people in the highest income bracket within Havana now are those who are interacting with tourists: guides, drivers, artists, restaurant owners, tour operators, and families who can open their homes to host foreign guests. My guide in Havana had left her job as a doctor where she made $70/month to become an English speaking tour guide. Her income is now high enough to support her family.
It is with sadness that I follow the changes the Trump administration has put in place regarding Cuba. Without the increased tourists arriving from the United States, the families opening their homes to foreign guests will be thrown back into poverty. Sadly, it is families and entrepreneurs in Cuba that will suffer from the US changes in policy. I hope to have an opportunity to visit Cuba again. It is an amazing place filled with a vibrance and zest for life that is hard to put into words!