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Compositions of Change [Cuba]

I grew up in a Colombian household in the middle of Nashville suburbia. While our neighbors were discussing sweet tea and baseball, my family’s dinnertime conversations often focused around Latin politics, history and culture. Because of this, I was keenly aware from a very young age of Cuba’s great ascent in the 19th and early 20th century to its abrupt fall in 1959.

Needless to say, Cuba, in particular Havana, has always fascinated me. It seemed an obvious choice for my thesis. After a number of ‘please’ and ‘thank yous’, I was able to receive government permission to travel to Havana for four weeks this summer. Through my research, I was prepared to find that Havana’s once opulent infrastructure would still give a hint or two of its former prerevolutionary greatness. Its greatness is still there, although its condition is in a terribly dilapidated state.

My thesis research is focused in the El Vedado neighborhood, just a few kilometers west of Havana’s infamous Old City. This neighborhood, once dominated by the Cuban wealthy and the American mafia, is equivalent to walking in a historical time warp. My days consisted of photographing, video recording, documenting the infrastructure, sketching ideas, interviewing residents and local architects, playing soccer with the neighborhood kids and absorbing as much as I could of the neighborhood’s character – both past, present and hopeful future. (I also ate a lot of Cuban food. A lot.)

I would like to thank the John Morse Graduate Fellowship Endowment for International Travel for providing funds to make this travel possible. I would also like to thank Tracey Norris and John Banks at UW-Tacoma’s Travel office for all their work in facilitating my travel license for legal travel to Cuba.

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