The True State Of Cuba, As Seen By A Camera Man On A Week Long Journey.

For the most part, Cuba is a poor country. Their sidewalks are cracked up in any place except the tourist places, and their people are generally poor as well. In some areas, people struggle to get food, are homeless, and in many situations as I’ve come to see, they struggle to even get water. The youth, on the outside anyways, seem quite happy regardless of their financial situations. They have a camaraderie that binds them together into a brotherhood, and baseball is only one of many aspects of their lives that bring them joy.

In the tourist places, where we found ourselves most of the time, it’s nothing like the rest of the country. Buildings are well maintained. Streets are attended to, crime is generally low, and there is lots of places with plenty of money, food, and water. Visitors to the country are treated very well in comparison to those who have lived there their entire lives

Think about that description for a moment. Do you believe “communism” did this to them? You wouldn’t be called crazy to think it had something to do with it. But then again, look for a moment at other places in the world with a similar setting. Do you know of any other place in the world where people struggle to find the necessities that is necessary to live a happy life? Do you know of a place on Earth that isn’t run on a communist structure, where people have difficulties obtaining basic things like food, water, or clothing to stay warm? Have you been to Detroit, where a community can be struggling to even survive a couple miles away from the finest hotels and restaurants?

Communism had a part in the way this country is at the moment… but it isn’t the exclusive culprit behind poverty. At this time, the government doesn’t have the resources, or the infrastructure, to even provide for it’s people even if it wanted to. There simply isn’t money there, much like many places throughout the United States. Want to build a road? A school? A church? Where does the money come from? Hospitals want to purchase medical equipment to help the sick and hurt. They have excellent physicians in Cuba, but lack the technological tools to provide better care. They have a lower mortality rate than America, less disease, and far less unnecessarily byproducts of an unhealthy lifestyle, like diabetes, hepatitis, and cancer. That being said, life isn’t really “better” or “worse” in Cuba than it is for some people in, say, Benton Harbor, Michigan. Same situations exist in our “free world,” and so the communist model cannot be exclusively to blame.

The people in Cuba are very friendly, and they took exceptional notice to my camera. Of course, law enforcement officials also took notice to me, but contrary to what I was told before, they didn’t actually seem to mind me being around them with a camera. I didn’t point it at them often, but I did manage to sneak in a few shots here and there. Cuba has a decent control over the people, but it appears to be more passive rather than aggressive. It’s almost as if the people fear the past will come back on them, reliving the days when the government used force to suppress their thoughts and feelings toward the country’s leaders. There were a few instances where the people would act very “hush hush” about something, when I could see absolutely no danger from speaking. It’s said that our tour guide would actually get into some trouble if people even heard me ask a certain question. It didn’t even matter if he answered it or not. Just me asking him directly would get him into trouble. I find that odd. I also didn’t see it happen, but then again, I’ve got no actual idea what life there is really like with the government. I’m a tourist. I’m totally ignorant on life in general there.

Even though I was there for a week, I still feel as though I had no idea what life is really like in the country. Everything I experienced felt spoon-fed, as if it was a predetermined path that didn’t account for any deviation. Only the moments that I spent with First Hand Aid seemed to show reality as it is. I spent only 4 hours with them… I wish it was 4 days. I feel there is a much better story there.

Of course, as I said above, the Cuban people took interest in my camera, and just like anybody in America, they would tend to smile and “show off” a bit when they were in front of it. Being in front of a tourists camera seemed to excite them. You may think this is a positive thing, but it isn’t. I don’t want them to “like” me being there. I want them to be totally indifferent about it. I wanted them to ignore me while I was there, and act like I didn’t even exist. The same goes with the baseball team and staff. I would have rather they simply acted indifferent to my presence while I was filming. I’d rather they continue their conversations, and continue eating, or continue to do whatever it is they were doing that caused me to want to point the camera at them in the first place. As soon as they change their behavior, or modify themselves because of the camera, not only is it no longer real, but it’s quite likely not nearly as interesting as when I pointed it at them in the first place.

Of course, it’s cool to talk to them, and learn more about them, and listen to what people have to say when I’m not shooting… but every time one of them looks at the camera, or does a goofy face or hand gesture… it becomes unusable footage. It’s a frustrating notion, but “reality” is more important to me, and to the film in general.

Author Note:

This post was started well over a year ago on January 23, 2012, after I had returned from Cuba for the first time. I had not yet traveled to the country for a second time yet. I just now discovered the draft, and I’ve decided to publish the thoughts expressed at that time today, even though my expressions would be slightly different today.

I recommend visiting the CUBA UPDATES section of this blog if you’d like more information and insight into the people, culture, and lifestyle of Cuba. I’m actively updating this section for as long as there is a story to tell, and you’d gain better insight there. I’m also publishing a journal that I kept while I was in Cuba, which takes into account thoughts and expressions mere hours after they were experienced. Video and photography will be included with those journal entries to help illustrate the text. Invite you to read something from there as well, beginning with the bottom, and working your way up if you like it. They are in reverse-chronological order, so the most recent entries are at the top. You can go to it with this button below. All of the journal entries will also flow to the Cuba Updates section as well, simply because it still pertains to Cuba. Thanks for reading.


Charlie Pryor

Charlie is a media producer, writer, and a traveler. He grew up in Michigan, all of his life and attended Grand Valley State University for a B.S. in Film and Video Production. He's married to a wonderful woman named Hang, and simply hopes to one day turn himself into a man that many will remember long after he's gone.

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