All photographs by Lara Sabry
Communist Cuba, a country where time seems to have stood still, capturing the essence of life in its full glory away from the consumerist, free-market societies. Famous for its vibrant colors and 60’s lifestyle, many spectators are under the impression that Cubans stepped off the fast-paced train of change a long time ago, failing to keep up with the continuous evolution that brings in something new each day.
Away from the fast food chains and the Apple stores, Cubans have introduced me to a life that is worth far more than buying and selling, a life that seems to have been lost everywhere else in the midst of an epic struggle to redefine what it means to be human.
While I may not be able to draw a full-scale picture of how soulful and heartwarming Cubans can be, I’ll leave it to the Cubans themselves to reintroduce you to life the way it’s supposed to be lived.
"It’s very difficult for Cubans to travel abroad. The process is time-consuming and requires a lot of money — an amount that we can’t afford, given that our maximum wage is 20$ per month. To travel abroad and to see what’s out there is a dream every Cuban has."
If you're given the opportunity to travel abroad, what would your expectations be?
"[I expect to see] humans driven by the constant urge to become more modernized; humans who have lost the ability to live. I don’t wish to travel to escape. I wish to travel to reassure myself that the life I have here is the purest reality there is.”
Following a trace of clearly audible rhythms at a distance, I was lead to a live performance taking place at a bar around the corner of the street. I stood there smiling at the sight of all the cheerful people, twisting, turning and simply dancing their worries away. This is when I came across this wonderful, old lady who stood outside the bar on her own, dancing, laughing and teasing strangers passing by. I looked at her and admired her in silence. She turned to me and said:
“Si siempre sonreír, la vida siempre una sonrisa trasera derecha en usted.”
(“If you always smile, life will always smile right back at you.”)
“Lady, do you seek art?”
“Then you’re a Cuban. Ask yourself this — throughout your stay here, have you met one Cuban who does not seek, create or admire art? Isn’t life itself a form of art?”
“My children have recently been using a sentence they learned from the internet, "life is too short." Although I have spent my entire life in Cuba, this sentence comforts the desire that I held when I was a youngster - the desire to travel abroad. I do not wish to travel to a place where life is too short. My life has been a long, fulfilling and happy one.
"You cannot simply claim that life is difficult but you can note that there are difficult moments. And what are moments but a measurement of time? Time, that’s it. If you want to live like a Cuban, wake up, play music, greet your neighbors and strangers passing by, do what you love and remind yourself what it means to be alive”
Señorita, puedo tomar una foto de usted?
(Can I take a photo of you?)
“Una foto de fea mí?”
(A photo of ugly me?), she replied with a child-like giggle.
“Mira, pensar en la vida como un ser vivo y tener en cuenta estas tres reglas de la vida:
1. Si no lo aprecia , no te va a apreciar,
2. 2. Si usted no vive él, que dará a sí mismo a quien lo hará, y
3. 3. Si no se proporciona con la felicidad que se merece , que se irá.”
(“Look, think of life as a living thing and keep in mind these three rules of life:
1. If you don’t appreciate it, it won’t appreciate you,
2. If you don’t live it, it will give itself to one who will, and
3. If you don’t provide it with the happiness it deserves, it will walk away”)
“Cubans can’t access the internet easily . Just a few places provide Wifi and you have to pay to access it. Only the young use the internet and even they don’t have full access to all — and that’s okay.
"We live in a time when human contact still exists. I think the internet has created boundaries between individuals.. With those boundaries came destruction. In Cuba, you will never experience a fight, not even an argument , because we’re so sensitively aware of one another's existence as humans. As for knowledge, I don’t need the internet to access information. What happened to books and newspapers? We have time, niña, to read, to speak, to create and to live. Do you have that too where you come from?”