In order to show the world a more in-depth Cuba — different from the dilapidated, colorful buildings, cigars and 1950s cars — photographer Carlos Otero Blanco went where most people are not allowed, the bedroom.
“It’s the most intimate part of a home. A lot of things happen there: They love, argue, dream, procreate.”
And it wasn’t just to discover more about Cuba, but more about the people. “When you look at the photos, you discover the person who lives there,” Otero Blanco said.
“Visitors may see a living room or bathroom, but they are never allowed to go to bedrooms where people have their private lives.”
Dormir con 120
As part of his project called “Dormir con 120” — an ode to the type of film he uses — Otero Blanco traveled around Cuba photographing all kinds of bedrooms, from an old farmer’s house to a more modern one.
See all the different bedrooms from around the island here.
The progression of Cuba’s modern world has been a slow one, but it’s also been eager to thrive thanks to the younger generation. The integration of the internet didn’t arrive on the island until the late aughts. Back then, when U.S. relations with Cuba became friendlier under the Obama Administration, it looked as if Cuba was ready to get online. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that Cuba decided to team up with Venezuela in order for the country to help them venture into the digital age. Now, under the Trump Administration, who is putting the breaks on the Cuba/U.S. relationship, the Cuban people have something more to aspire to.
A Cuban startup has launched a cab service that will help tourists get around the island now that the Trump Administration has blocked airline travel to all areas of Cuba except Havana.
The company is called Sube (which translations to “get on” or “hop on”), and it’s basically a ride-share service like Uber and Lyft, although their intention is to seek out tourists who wish to visit the areas outside of Havana.
Late last year, the Trump Administration issued a travel ban throughout the island, which meant that American airlines could only fly into Havana. All other airports in Cuba were forbidden. The announcement didn’t automatically erase flights that were already booked. U.S. travelers can only arrive in Havana, so if they have plans outside of the capital, getting there is trickier and expensive. The solution is Sube.
Sube wants tourists to know that their service is safe and that they can provide an exciting and fun way to get around the island.
“Sube is a ridesharing app founded in Cuba,” their About section states. “Our drivers will help you move around safely and fast while sharing their knowledge of our customs and culture.”
One of the most popular attractions in Cuba is their vintage cars. So how can these old cars keep up with this new motive of transportation? Sube owners say all cars, vintage ones as well, are in perfect condition and can drive long distances. All drivers have verified licenses as well.
The app launched in 2018, and since then, the app has been downloaded at least 10,000 times and so far has 6,000 registered users.
“We knew the trouble people go through in Cuba to get to work every day, to get home, or if they just want to go out,” Claudia Cuevas Alarcón told NBC News. Aside from Cuevas Alarcón, a 27-year-old, Sube’s creators include 26-year-old Damián Martín, 26, and 27-year-old Darién González.
What makes this company even more fascinating is that these young entrepreneurs have found a way to work the system to their benefit. For example, U.S. credit cards are prohibited on the island, which means travelers can only use cash.
Sube creators registered their company in the U.S., so this makes it possible for travelers to download the app before they leave their home country, upload their credit card information. Once they arrive on the island, they have already reserved their car service, and the exchange of payment is not needed.
It’s not just tourists who use the app, locals are using Sube to get around the island as well.
“If you are visiting Cuba this December, move with SUBE and pay from abroad,” one of their beautiful Instagram posts says. “We have 70 registered and available taxis, which will make your trips more enjoyable and safe. You can book them before your arrival at the airport, until departure. Do not hesitate.”
Other ways to use Sube is pretty straightforward. You can use Whatsapp or Facebook to reserve a cab. Travel experts also suggest that if you’re traveling to Cuba, you should also download apps that will help not only with travel information but translation, money exchange, and texting capabilities. Here are some useful apps that extremely useful: Maps.me, XE currency, Google Translate, Pocket, Havanatrans, Zapya, AlaMesa, CubaMessenger, and ProtonVPN. And, of course, Whatsapp and Airbnb.
It’s very exciting to see young Cubans not allowing connectivity or travel regulations (or any sort of limitation) stop them from progressing into a new frontier of digital capabilities.
About 20 years ago, 5-year-old Elián Gonazalez arrived three miles off the coast of Fort Lauderdale from Cuba, on a makeshift raft, in search of his relatives in the states and a better life. Gonzalez’s survival through the arduous waters that would drown his mother and a dozen others along the way, might have been the media’s narrative in a different circumstance.
The 5-year-old would soon become embroiled in an international custody battle. Did Gonzalez belong back in Cuba with his father or in Miami’s Little Havana with his uncle which many believed was his mother’s dying wish?
Elián Gonzalez arrived in Florida in 1999 over Thanksgiving weekend.
Up until 2017, the United States had a “wet feet, dry feet,” policy with regards to Cuban migrants — all were welcome. The policy from 1966 allowed anyone who entered the United States territorial waters from Cuba, legally or illegally, to reside. It was revised in 1995 by the Clinton administration so that any Cubans retrieved in the territorial waters would be sent back, but if they made it onto dry land they would be allowed to stay.
Gonzalez was found by South Florida fisherman in 1999 over Thanksgiving weekend. The 5-year-old was welcomed by the anti-communist community of Cuban exiles. The United States Immigration and Naturalization Service placed Gonzalez with his paternal relatives who lived in Miami and wanted to raise him, however, his father in Cuba demanded his son be returned.
Under the “wet feet, dry feet” policy, Gonzalez would have to petition for asylum because he was discovered before touching dry land. This small detail would cause a six-month, international legal battle and shift the way many Florida Cubans perceive American politics.
Courts decide to send Gonzalez back to Cuba.
While Cuban demonstrators and empathetic Americans supported the stay of Gonzalez — the governmental powers that be were building a case that suggested otherwise. A Florida family court granted custody to Gonzalez’s great uncle in Miami. However, INS had the superior authority to decide that his real legal guardian was his father in Cuba. Had the boy’s mother survived, things might have turned out differently.
On March 21, District Court Judge Kevin Michael Moore of Southern Florida ruled that only a legal guardian can petition for asylum on behalf of a minor. But on April 19, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled that Gonzalez could stay until his family could file an appeal. When government negotiations failed with the family, more extreme measures were taken to retrieve the boy.
On April 22, 2000, on orders from Attorney General Janet Reno, armed government officials raided Gonzalez’s home with guns and tear gas. A photo showing a crying 5-year-old Gonzalez with a large gun pointed to his face would later win the Pulitzer Prize.
Gonzalez was safely repatriated back to Cuba.
The Gonzalez decision may have affected the outcome of the 2000 election.
Following the Clinton administration, the 2000 election was a turning point in American politics. Many Cubans felt alienated by the Gonzalez decision, and thus, walked away from the Democratic party altogether.
“It was humiliating to Cuban-Americans, and the 2000 election was payback,” Miami pollster Sergio Bendixen told the Atlantic in 20001.
Republican George W. Bush won by 537 votes during a messy (and possibly corrupt) recount of the 6 million votes cast in Florida, beating out Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. Known as “el voto castigo,” Gore received only 20 percent of the Cuban vote in Florida, compared to Bill Clinton’s 35 percent in 1996. Thus, 80 percent of Cuban American voters chose Bush over Gore — which should be a lesson to both parties trying to build Latinx coalition.
Bush would go on to start the endless war in Iraq, utilize Islamophobic rhetoric in the wake of 9/11, trigger one of the worst recessions, and until recently, was considered the worst president in U.S. history. Gore would go on to warn us about climate change decades before the discourse entered the national conversation.
What has become of Elián Gonzalez today?
Gonzalez, in his 20s, is now a communist and staunch supporter of the Cuban Revolution. He was welcomed with a celebration upon his deportation. On his seventh birthday, Fidel Castro himself attended his birthday party.
Whether Gonzalez is on the right side of history is beside the point because the 5-year-old boy could not have become who he is today without instigation by the United States. Communist-sympathizer or not — he was correct about one thing:
“Just like her [his mother], many others have died attempting to go to the United States. But it’s the US government’s fault,” Gonzalez told CNN in 2013. “Their unjust embargo provokes an internal and critical economic situation in Cuba.”
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