Candy-colored vintage cars, crisp rum, bold Spanish colo-
nial architecture, a commercially viable Marxist icon, and of course,
cigars — all hallmarks of a seemingly far-flung locale that rests sev-
eral hundred miles off the coast of the United States. In the wake of
the Cuban missile crisis and the 1963 travel restrictions imposed
by President John F. Kennedy that followed, the Cuban nation has
been often romanticized yet remained shrouded in mystery for
most Americans until very recently. Cuba is a land of paradox. It’s a
developing country with a near-perfect literacy rate that’s brimming
with underpaid doctors who moonlight as cab drivers. Here, greas-
ing palms for better treatment is merely handling things Cuban
style, a lo Cubano, yet security cameras on streets are plentiful,
and as of late August 2018, the U. S. State Department softened the
travel advisory for Cuba, moving it from level 3 to 2, placing it with
countries like France, Denmark and the U.K., among others.
There was an influx of American tourism after President Barack
Obama loosened business and travel restrictions in 2015, though
visitor levels have significantly dropped off after President Donald
Trump reversed them. But it is still possible to visit the country.
Prospective travelers can register for a special license with the
U. S. government if the reason for the trip fits a certain category
— these include family visits, professional reasons, journalism,
religious or cultural programs, and humanitarian projects. The
broadest category that can currently be used to
travel independently to Cuba is “support for the
Cuban people.” Visitors will need to abide by
the regulations and participate in activities that
are in the spirit of the category, such as dining
in paladares (private restaurants) and staying
in casas particulares, which are private fam-
ily residences similar to bed-and-breakfasts.
And about the rum and cigars? United States
residents can still legally bring back as many as
100 Cuban cigars and one liter of Cuban rum.
“I’d always wanted to go to Cuba — it was a
full-on bucket list destination for me,” says
Mill Valley–based photographer Jack Wolford.
When an opportunity to join a group of travel
photographers who were going to explore and
document the country presented itself, it
seemed like the chance of a lifetime. Wolford
visited numerous locales, from bustling cities
to bucolic countrysides, and even spent time
with Alex Castro, Fidel’s son. “Just being in his
presence was pretty interesting. You get the
sense of being with someone that’s been
witness to some real history,” Wolford says.
“Alex is a photographer as well and has a couple
of books published, one being a behind-the-scenes perspective of all the world leaders his
dad met and spent time with. It was an amazing
insight into global politics.” Here Wolford
shares some images from the trip.
Local photographer shares the colorful,
cultural treasures of a country time forgot.
EDITED BY KASIA PAWLOWSKA • PHOTOS BY JACK WOLFORD