The past year has been an eventful one in the fraught recent history of the United States and Cuba.
In March, seven months after the U.S. reopened its long-shuttered embassy in Havana, Barack Obama became the first U.S. president in 88 years to visit the Caribbean nation. American hoteliers are preparing to put their names on Cuban lodgings. Legal tourism from the U.S. has spiked amid relaxed travel rules, and U.S. airlines are expected to start direct, scheduled service to Havana this fall. Cruise ships have made direct crossings from Florida already.
Amid all this, photographer Glenn Asakawa (Jour’86) has traveled to Cuba twice, photographing a nation and a people on the cusp of potentially transformative change. His arresting work (see slide show above) captures the life and spirit of the island and its people as they are, largely unaffected — for better and worse — by all that may soon come.
“Their colorful art and unique sense of fashion were a photographer’s dream,” said Asakawa, a member of the Rocky Mountain News photography staff that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 and CU Boulder’s chief photographer since 2008. “It was delightful capturing moments of bonding between generations, especially in Havana’s limited public Wi-Fi areas. Everywhere I was greeted with warm smiles and a friendliness not often seen at home.”
The relationship between the U.S. and Communist Cuba remains complex, and the direction and pace of change will hinge on political developments in both nations.
But with the door now ajar for Americans, Asakawa plans to keep going back: He’s got three more trips on the books already.
Photos by Glenn Asakawa