President Obama is expected to announce a normalization of relations with Cuba this afternoon.
This is a huge deal, since the two countries have had virtually no trade or travel relations since the 1959 revolution that put Fidel Castro in power.
Havana, Cuba’s capital city, is a complete and utter mystery to most people — especially Americans.
But the fact of the matter is that Havana is a beautiful hub full of welcoming people.
Before World War II, Havana was seen as 'the rich man's playground,' the biggest sugar producer, and an escape from prohibition.
When Fidel Castro and Che Guevara marched into Cuba in 1959, the communist revolution turned the country upside down. Here a man reads 'Granma,' the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, where the year reads 'año de la revolución 53' (fifty-third year of the revolution).
Habana Vieja, or Old Havana, is the oldest part of the city, and today is central to tourists. Unlike other areas of the city, the buildings are restored and the streets cleaned.
Meanwhile, buildings collapse almost daily into the streets in other areas of the city because there isn't enough money for renovations.
At the Plaza de Armas, in Habana Vieja, people can shop at a daily second-hand book market for 'possibly every book about the revolution.'
The Catedral de la Habana is a landmark in the city, built sometime between 1748 and 1777. But until Pope John Paul II visited Cuba during Castro's regime, religion was generally looked down upon.
Havana was once home to famous Western authors like Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene. The Hotel Sevilla, where Greene wrote, still stands today.
Most Cubans survive on the equivalent of about US $20 a month, but some can earn extra income from tourists' tips. Here, a man offers services at an eye glass repair stand.
Habaneros can get their monthly ration of staples, with a limited quantity per person, at bodegas like this one. The typical ration includes a few pounds of sugar, a pound of grains, some sort of protein, some cooking oil, a dozen eggs, and maybe a few bread rolls. Everything else has to be bought.
Produce and meat are sold at agros, at prices set by the state. The meat is mostly pork, and while it's usually too expensive for most Cubans, they can buy the fat for about 13 pesos, or US$0.49, a pound.
Fresh produce is hard to come by and expensive. For example, one eggplant costs about US$0.40. Many Cubans spend a good chunk of their monthly income on fruits, vegetables, and meats.
For a quick snack, you can always stop at a fried 'croqueta' seller stand. Street food in Havana is typically less than $1.50, but even that is too much for some.
El Malecón is the wall dividing the city from the water. Musicians play, and people walk with their families and pets, taking in the salty air.
Yellow taxis line up outside Parque Central, a square featuring a monument to the independent leader José Martí, and bordering el Gran Teatro, which is home to the Cuban National Ballet. In the background you can see the Capitolio building.
The Capitolio was modelled after the United States' own Capitol building in Washington, DC, only the one in Havana is much bigger.
The Capitolio is surrounded by a mix of residential and non-residential buildings. These crumbling apartments where Habaneros hang laundry stand opposite the Capitolio.
Havana is a city stuck in time. Classic old American cars from the 1950s and '60s still dot the streets, getting Habaneros from point A to point B.
These old cars are especially popular among tourists, who like to cruise in old cars like this 1951 Chevrolet Convertible.
The little yellow 'coco taxis' are small, offering seating for two. They're noisy, but make for convenient travel, as they cost less than regular taxis.
Rickshaws are also a common means of transportation. Here a man fixes the tire of a 'Bicitaxi' while a couple of dachshunds keep him company.
Habaneros think of having a purebred dog as a symbol of wealth, but Cubans in general love pets. This older woman talks to her pet rooster.
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