Has Cuba changed?
That's what many of my friends asked when they learned I went back to Cuba, for a second visit, as 2015 wrapped up.
My answer is "Everything, and nothing."
Since my first photo workshop, led by Peter Turnley in 2012, the US has decided to 'normalize relations' with the Communist island, so close to Miami. Expectations of hope and change are high among business people and many Americans believe that Starbucks will soon be on every street corner, Havana hotels will feature Heavenly beds, and a Shake Shack will be opening soon.
Ain't gonna happen. The US embargo preventing business deals like those which are exploding in Tehran right now. Only an Act of Congress can withdraw it. It is fantasy to expect the Cuban economy to expand and prosper soon.
What (also) hasn't changed is the warmth of the Cuban people.
As a street photographer, I am more likely to train my lens on a taxi driver or a family picnicking than I am a statue or a sunset. With a bit of Spanish study, I found that "Buenos Dias" and a smile will get many a conversation started. The residents of Old Havana, living in buildings that quite truly are falling down around the ears, are eager to talk with Americans and welcome you into their homes.