CUBA: Havana's Smile

Regardless of poverty, ubiquitous propaganda, scarcity or hypocrisy Havana continues to smile. Not a sly smirk or rueful grin but a broad, welcoming smile. One that welcomes you into its home, shares its simple meals and lures you to dance to its infectious rhythms.

Walking the streets is a cultural excursion, from the ornate buildings of a former prosperous nation passing the bullet-ridden walls of revolution to the rubble of a stalled Communist state. Yet it is impossible to not be struck by the beauty of this city suspended in time. 

Creaking old cars held together by paint that sputter down pot-holed avenues. Images of Che invoked on countless walls; men playing dominos by the roadside. Almost clichés of a city that you hardly believe still exists.

The city raises endless questions, none of which, even if hotly debated, can be easily answered. People continually remind you of the failings of the revolution and the difficulties they endure under the regime. But it is precisely these factors that have preserved Havana, enveloped it in a hazy, tainted nostalgia.

Finally change is under way, I hope it brings prosperity but does not tarnish that smile.

PHOTO + TEXT: JULIEN CAPMEIL  Julien Capmeil is an Australian born photographer living in New York. His work has appeared in many publications worldwide including Vogue, GQ and Conde Nast Traveler.

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