Walking into parts of Havana, Cuba is like time traveling in three distinct eras.
Aligned along cobblestone streets are neoclassical buildings hinting an old Spain when Moors dominated politics and education. The architecture of ornate eaves and chiseled balconies lend to a baroque style of gaudy and dopeness rolled into puro cigars.
While you take in the majestic aura of Old Havana, a pristine 1950s Chevrolet passes by nodding to the production of long-lasting classic cars from the manufacturing lines of Detroit.
Cuba is an interactive car museum filled with Oldsmobiles, Buicks, Fords and Chevy automobiles that flooded the streets five decades ago indicating the last time the island thrived in international trade.
Once you round a corner, any corner, you are bombarded with the pulse of the island—music. From salsa to Afro-Cuban jazz to Orisha folkloricos, the sounds of the rich musical history thumb through the streets and local clubs day and night.
But Cuba’s dreamy old world is far from magical. Years of economic embargoes have stunted its development. Although a resourceful island that produced a medical industry outperforming American hospitals, the strain of limited commercial trade evidences itself in the everyday barters of living.
Americans often think of Cuba as this taboo, this red light district with decades-long travel restrictions that intrigue the imagination to visit. However, traveling there is far from romantic as travelers must deal with island realities faced by its citizens.
Nonetheless, Cuba is one of the last vestiges of a revolutionary spirit of a people who refused to bend to Western powers that must be understood and experienced.