Stepping Back in Time: The Streets of Havana. {Photos}

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Women in Old Havana

I’ve been back from Cuba for a month now, yet somehow, I can’t seem to forget this fascinating place. Cuba is a place of perseverance, frustration and pride.

A place that has been frozen in time and forbidden to most Americans for over half a century, yet continues to have an allure that is undeniable.

Cuba’s turbulent past and centuries of struggle for independence and freedom has certainly left its mark. It is a complicated country that is difficult to understand unless you see it for yourself. A month later, I still have confused feelings about Castro, the Cuban Revolution and America’s tenuous, enduring involvement in Cuba’s internal affairs.  But one thing I don’t have mixed feelings about is Cuba itself: Her vibrant culture, her warm-hearted, welcoming people and her beautiful albeit often decaying buildings. All in all, Cuba is extraordinary and I’m finding her hard to forget.

Plaza de la Catedral Old Havana

Plaza de la Catedral in Old Havana.

The best way to understand Cuba, perhaps, is by simply taking a walk down a street in Havana. The sounds of salsa and the rhythm of son, the peeling paint on once grand mansions, the taste of mojitos and rum, the enduring, persevering faces among the Cubans themselves. All of this is a testament of Cuba’s tumultuous past and Cubans will to survive.

It was the people of Cuba that captivated me the most. Their generosity, ability to laugh at their hardships and their friendly, kind way made me feel right at home and wishing I spoke better Spanish.

Old Havana

Woman in Havana

The sensational old mansions and buildings of a once decadent Havana which are most in various states of decay.  Although restoration has been in progress, it is at a snail’s pace due to lack of funds.

A row of once gorgeous homes in Old Havana
A row of once gorgeous homes in Old Havana

Renovation in Old Havana

Taking a break from work renovating a historic mansion in OId Havana. 

Homes in Old Havana

Worker in Havana

Revolutionary propaganda can be seen everywhere in Cuba even after fifty years. There are billboards, posters and of course all tons of books on Castro and the Revolution.

Shop in Havana

Plaza des Armes Havana

Plaza des Armas

What I found is that simple scenes from the street explain it all: The progress and lack of progress in Cuba. The broken down pre-Revolution American cars, the sudden appearance of entrepreneurs selling art on the street, the musicians trying to make a dime, the mojitos and finally the Cuban pride.

Vintage American cars in Cuba

Selling art in Old Havana

Street Musicians in Havana

Mojitos in Havana

Vintage American cars in Cuba

I hope to someday return to Cuba freely, without the US-government imposed travel restrictions. What a shame that after fifty years Cuba still remains off-limits. I’m certain Cubans would welcome us with open arms and perhaps the much needed tourist dollars would help them live an easier life.


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About Nicole Melancon

Nicole is a stay-at-home mom who also happens to be an avid writer and traveler. She studied French and International Relations at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, lived in France, and has wandered to over 30 countries. She resides in Minneapolis, MN with her husband and two young children. / Nicole currently writes three blogs:, and and is a frequent contributor to


13 Responses to “Stepping Back in Time: The Streets of Havana. {Photos}”

  1. Greg says:

    Beautiful photos! When I visited Havana (and Matanzas, and Playa Coral, and Veradero) there was no shortage of tourists or tourist dollars. What most of us here in the US may not realize is that the rest of the world travels there freely, even if we can't. Like any other Caribbean island, there are beautiful beaches and resorts, and like any other Caribbean island, surrounding those is lots of poverty. There's also a lot of ingenuity and entrepreneurism happening, despite and because of a lack of resources. The 'faded grandeur' adds to the magic. Politics aside, there are wonderful people and culture to discover in Cuba.

    • thirdeyemom says:

      Thanks for your comment Greg. That is what has inspired me to write these articles. When I told friends I was going to Cuba there was a lot of confusion and questioning. I agree the the people and culture are wonderful and it is sad that there is such a lack of freedom still.

    • atenea says:

      The thing is, Greg, that most of you there in the US barely realize there is something tangible behind the wording "the rest of the world". Sad, but true. Kudos on US citizens that travel the world with a sincere sense of openess. Unfortunately, there aren't many, at least not enough.

      • thirdeyemom says:

        So true. I wish more Americans traveled to off the beaten paths. That is where you learn the most about life, other cultures and yourself. Most my friends think I'm crazy for the places I go to but for me, going to places like Honduras and remote Nepal have been the most rewarding of all, especially when I've volunteered and done home stays with the local community.

  2. Lorra says:

    I love Havana, I love Cuba. Beautiful dignified lovely people and country.

  3. Mari says:

    As a Cuban in America whose parents were arrested, jailed and tortured I read these articles with mixed feelings. The Revolution assinated in cold blood many people. Most were public executions with the bodies left for days as to remind the public what happens when one disagrees with the government. Some dissenters are still in prison after 50 years. El Che did start with a great idea, but ended up being just another assassin. Cienfuegos, another of the orchestrator of the Revolution, disappeared under mysterious circumstance after also killing many because they disagreed with him. And, of course, we are left with Fidel Castro, a human beings with no human feelings at all. He has denied his own son passage to Spain. Should we be able to travel to Cuba freely? I believe so. Will I return? Only to dance on Castro's grave.

    • thirdeyemom says:

      Thanks for your comment Mari! I've been reading an excellent book called "Bacardi and Cuba's Long Fight for Freedom". (Great book if you haven't read it). It begins around the time Columbus came and wrecked havoc, continues through the 400 bloody years of Spanish Colonial Rule, the puppet Dictators and Batista, Castro and the present. Yes, indeed it a very long history and so many dictators and people did so much wrong for Cuba. Thanks for sharing your powerful story. I hope one day Cuba can be free as it is a beautiful country and it is sad that there is so much pain.

    • atenea says:

      All revolutions do the same, Mari. Can you name one that didn't arrest, jail and torture? I didn't think so. Why do you demand the Cuban to be any different? How many people are starving and kill themselves in what we like to see as "the free world"? Just look at Spain, the US, Greece… so much "freedom" and so much real pain while the 1% is dancing on our graves.

  4. Linda V. Lewis says:

    Your article and photos are inspiring me to write one based on my recent trip to Cuba focusing on the present–which includes free education + health care, no guns not even pistols–thus no murders– and a flourishing of organic gardens everywhere–on roof tops, in patios, back yards, + formerly unused plots of land. Stay tuned!

    • thirdeyemom says:

      Thanks Linda! I would LOVE to hear about organic gardening in Cuba. Our Cuban tour guide is working on his masters in how he can utilize edible flowers in Cuba and introduce them into the restaurants. Sounds like a great topic. Please let me know when it is up!

  5. Mari says:

    Yes Linda, indeed organic gardens flourish, there is no other food. Of course no guns, Communist dictators generally do not allow them. There are murders. There are committed by the government's militia. Cuba's government is as terrible as North Korea's. The difference is Cuba's geography is a slice of tropical paradise. So sad.

    • thirdeyemom says:

      Thanks for all your comments Mari. It was really interesting to see how the tour was presented to us in Cuba. To go there we had to do a people-to-people tour and of course it was to all the wonderful things about Cuba: Music, culture, arts, medical care, education, etc. We also went to the Bay of Pigs museum which was actually interested to see all the propaganda. I'm going to write a post about that on my blog. The entire drive to Trinidad was filled with revolutionary propaganda which was interesting as the pictures and mentions of the revolution 50 years ago are still everywhere today. I'm sure our tour guide had to hold his tongue on what he could say bad about the government. I found that in China too where they can't even say that some of the massacres happen. They lie about it.
      As for Cuba, we did go to a market and got to see the ration cards and how most Cubans eat. This was real and not good. We also talked a lot about the low salaries but no much was said bad about Castro. I'm sure our guide couldn't say anything or he would lose his job! I feel it is so sad for the Cubans there though. They are trapped and I know they want change.

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