CUBA … part 1 of several

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Where do I begin?  A friend once said to me, ” If you ever have the chance to go to Cuba, go !” So I had the chance, a chance of my lifetime, and I went.  untitled-3

It all started by my researching photography workshops, that’s how I became familiar with Muench Workshops, my escort for 8 unbelievable days. Muench is owned and operated by three landscape photographers. Two of the three owners  traveled with our group of ten, they were our teachers and our mentors, and became our friends.

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In order for an American to travel to Cuba, you must be on a CET, a Cuban Educational Tour.  We were escorted around the Island by Havanatur, perfecto !  We covered a lot of territory, and not just the typical. MW had a say in what we experienced and made sure there was never a dull moment.

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So it all begins. Each day we rose around 5:30am and out the door within the hour shooting the sunrise somewhere anywhere. We’d return for breakfast, have our day mapped out, and continue shooting till the sun had set and our belly’s were full.  Yes, in that order. It was exhausting and exhilarating, and I would not have had it any other way.

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We spent our first night in the Pinar del Rio Province at La Moka Hotel. La Moka is nestled high in the hills, it’s a beautiful rural area with stunning views. ( of course I don’t have a photo of the views)

Our first full day in Cuba we drove to Vinales.  This charming old town is a municipality in the north-central Pinar del Rio Province. Viñales is an agricultural area, where crops of fruit, vegetables, coffee and especially tobacco are grown.

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Our first stop was a tobacco farm owned by the family of Concha and Paco Hernandez. The descendants of this family have tilled the same plot of land for many generations. The Cuban government takes 90 percent of their crop, however the last 10 percent is the best and kept by the Hernandez family. They spray their tobacco leaves with rum and other secret ingredients to make it their brand, to make it their own ‘special’ smoke.  Of course I had to try one, very smooth and little after taste, the way a cigar should be according to me.

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After we smoked our freshly hand-rolled stogies, and photographed to satisfaction, we were seated for a delicious vegetarian meal. The food in Cuba ( Kooba ) is fresh, colorful, and innovative. I wasn’t prepared for the excellent culinary experience, I figured the meals would be mediocre at best. Wrong again, everywhere I turned I was amazed, Cuba was far more than I had anticipated. untitled-215-Edit

Our next stop was the town of Vinales. Vinales consists mostly of one-story wooden houses with porches. Color is everywhere.  This day set our pace, a simple ‘hola’ and the Cuban faces would light up.  The warmth from their smile said it all.  Never have I been in a friendlier country, or a safer country.

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To sum up our first day in Cuba we were all slap happy with excitement, not to mention the island is a photographers paradise. Todays Cuba has allowed the people to set up shop. There are now more ways for them to ‘earn’ money, adding to the 20 CUC allotted for one months pay ( $23.00 USD ) “The people are not eating from the dumpsters as they were 3 years ago,” as one  Cuban put it, ” we have mango’s on the ground”.  The people of Cuba can now travel the world under the stipulation that they have money in the bank, a family on the island, and a home to return to.  These reasons make it harder for the younger generation, especially if they have family abroad.  Visas are not readily available for them for fear one may never return …

Next stop HABANA !.

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15 thoughts on “CUBA … part 1 of several

  1. Fabulous pictures of the people, their cars and their food and their country. Glad you loved it all. XXOO

  2. I could almost smell the tobacco leaves! What a great experience! I love the way you captured the people’s expressions!

  3. Michelle-these are incredible photos! The best you have ever taken. Off the charts! You givie the viewer the feel of being there. Great job!

  4. You have just wetted my appetite for more pictures! You captured the people of Cuba and the essence of the country making me want to book a trip today. Looking forward to more, much more.

  5. Rochelle, I was struck by your first landscape/countryside shots of Cuba, all automobiles. Your inspirations are still born from your roots. Your images are professional in quality. You have an eye for taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. We will talk later about those headlights and cigars!! ;).

  6. Love, love, love these pictures!! I bet this was an amazing experience!!! More photos please!!!

  7. So glad you made it to Cuba. Your photos are a great reminder of when I was there with a group of photographers almost 20 years ago and felt in love with the Cuban people, their music, culture and everything else. Everybody was so warm and friendly. At night I would walk out alone or with a Canadian woman who was my roommate and we never felt safer in any other place of the world.

    I have noticed through the news that many things have changed since those days when we didn’t see any tourist from the USA at all. I am so glad is finally opening up.
    We went with a photographer who was part Cuban and he took about 9 people with him. I don’t know if he is still doing any of that but you should see the strong work he has been doing in Cuba. http://www.ManuelloPaganelli.com

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