"They played a protracted game of the Cuban national sport, waiting, which linked hundred of thousands of Havanans in a paralyzed stalemate. Waiting for Castro to die, waiting for something to change, waiting for visas to leave the country, ticking off days on the calendar as they passed by." – From The Other Side of Paradise (2014) by Julia Cooke
Cuba is a complicated country, full of people who are best described as resilient. They have survived under a restrictive government and found creative ways to support their families and build community. It is not uncommon to meet a Cuban who works at a poorly paying government job, and has a couple of small businesses on the side. A person selling posters to tourists in Havana, can easily earn more money than a doctor. As the political landscape between Cuba and the USA shifts, many Cubans anticipate further economic opportunities. What effect will these changes have on this beautiful island and its resilient people?
Mario, like other Cuban elders, has lived through many changes in his country.
Maria teaches Philosophy at a University, but the average salary of 20 dollars per month is not enough to support her family. Like most Cubans, she finds other ways to make money.
Esmeralda decorates cakes in a shed behind her rural home that she then sells in the community.
Tourists enjoying the natural beauty of El Nicho. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Cubans were literally starving as they went through the euphemistically dubbed "special period". The government's answer was to promote tourism, which now is the country’s main source of revenue.
Che Guevera is a national hero and the growing tourist industry is taking advantage of his popularity on everything from shirts to key chains.
Cuba has an aging population, as people choose to have smaller families and many of the youth have left seeking opportunity overseas.
Sara’s father works in a factory in Washington, U.S.A and her mother hopes that they will soon join him.
With few toys, children find creative ways to entertain themselves. This young boy collects cigarette packages to trade with his friends.
Hector can now legally sell his art. He feels confident in the way Cuba is heading under Raul Castro.
The US embargo didn't stop Yoel from obtaining black market American music and becoming a loyal fan of rapper Lil' Wayne.
Visitors quickly notice how nice it is too see children playing and adults talking, instead of everyone starring at their phones. This will soon change as cellphones become more available.
Despite constantly being surrounded by the books he sells, Eduardo says whatever is happening internationally is unknown to him.
The government rations such as bread have always lacked variety and provided only the basics.
In fancy tourist hotels internet is available for a high price. Cubans still have very limited and restricted access
In Cuba's touristic areas, Canadian flags are as prevalent as Cuban ones. This will be changing as more American tourists head for Cuba as well.
Old crumbling residences stand next to beautifully renovated restaurants that cater to tourists.