“Whether it’s Obama, Bin Laden, an alien, but this has to change because we can’t take it any longer.”

"I'm a physical education teacher and I have to ask my students for money to pay for balls because the school won't give them to me."

“Pick any person here in Cuba, ask them ‘Besides your job, you do something else?’ They will say ‘yes.’ If not, they can’t live. It’s impossible.”

“When I was 12 I had an accident on a motorcycle, I spent that period of my childhood in the hospital. They say this piece I have right here is worth millions in the world. But I didn’t pay anything. I said ‘thanks’ and that was it. And at a hospital where I had all food. Transportation and everything was free. I live in Santiago and the flight from there to here was free. The hospital paid for it.”

“My mom sent me a message saying the pig had piglets and I was like ‘hallelujah.’ She had nine piglets and those sell at 20 Cuban pesos each. That helps me and along with what I make at the airport I can just make it.”

"Cuban men are sweet, attentive, and spicy. We like Cuban men." "They leave and we go after them."

“Cuba’s revolution had two fundamental promises: health and education. And that was thoroughly accomplished. That is something everyone here has.”

“It’s not the system the United States wishes Cuba had but here we are and no one will change that. They want to change Cubans’ minds and make us pro imperialism, pro capitalism, that’s what they do. They take, transform, and then throw you in the trash.” “In Puerto Rico you have certain autonomy, but in definite terms, when you analyze it, they have the last say. In the end, they rule. And in our government, the people rule, people are taken into account."

“I love Cuba. I love my commander. I love Fidel and Raul. I am truly a Fidelist. I wish those two could last forever.”

“One bad thing here is food rationing. For example, with the quota, they give you seven pounds of rice for a month. They give you a pound of oil for a month. Here you can’t buy food freely. You can find it outside but it’s very expensive. That’s one thing I would like to see change here. That you could buy as much as you want.”

“I’ve walked with my daughter looking, every time I saw an elderly lady or an elderly man, ‘Ma’am good morning, do you need someone to take care of you at home? I’m at your service.’ If I could find a house where I could work, with my good behavior, and the effort I put into my work, and love, maybe I could earn that the people I work for, that they could tell me ‘you’ve earned it, you can live here.’ But even if they don’t say those words, I’d be earning money and supporting my daughter."

“I’m afraid to take my daughter to get a blood test because the nutrition I can give her is awful. A little bit of rice, some egg, when I can, because there are moments that I have to tell her ‘sweetie, this little bit of bread and this soda.’ And he goes to the bathroom with his wallet. He doesn’t even feel compelled to say ‘mom, here so my sister can eat.’”

“You will find a good man who loves you. Tall, big, and good-looking for you.”

“I don’t like school. Because look, I don’t behave well, I admit my mistakes. But teachers hit you and I don’t like that.” “I like school because of the girls.”

“Things are not getting any better here.”

“With an average salary of 250 pesos you lived and bought the food you needed, and you had additional money to save to go on vacation for a week, 10 days, to a hotel. The country took care of its food, its primary resources, and its development through the trade we had with the socialist countries. But when that socialist coalition fell, we didn’t have anyone to do business with and no one sold us anything.”

"I feel magic, great power, and a sense of pride that people enjoy what I do."

“This is a very dangerous job and that’s why I have my clientele and I’ve paid my price. My price is I’ve burned myself.”

"Journalism doesn’t get you very far here. Journalism is very censored here. So you can’t live well off of it. Here you can live very well off of independent businesses. I work at a restaurant to pay for these expenses: the image prints, the equipment, the lenses. I’m planning on opening a gallery in the future. When? I’d be lying if I told you because I can’t leave the road to find the way. But this is my life."

“The problem Venezuela has, that Cuba doesn’t, is unsafety. I’ve had to risk my life. I’ve been stabbed and they’ve tried to steal my camera. But here you feel the peace.”

“Trump is the ugly old guy. You could tell he’s bad.” “But his face has nothing to do with him being good or bad.” “I like Obama. Between Hillary Clinton and Trump, which one do you think is better?”

“We Cubans don’t get our hopes up. Many things have to change here. Let’s not talk about that. I don’t like talking about those things. I have to swallow the candy even if it’s sour.”

“I’ve only been in love once. I did things for that girl that I wouldn’t do for anyone else. On her birthday I spent $100. I took her all over Havana. And then she left to go with another guy at night. I knew she would go with him and I did it anyway. I’m not after her anymore but I’m always going to like her.”

“We don’t understand each other. My girlfriend is very jealous. If I’m walking down the street and a girl looks at me, she gets mad. Right now you’re interviewing me and she will think that I’m hitting on you. It’s not untrue, but you know. She met me like this. I tell her ‘you either take me for who I am or you don’t.’”

Cuba after Castro and Obama. What's next?

Cubans give us a picture of the island's politics, economy, and culture 
through their personal stories.

by America Arias

Cuba and the United States are entering an uncharted new phase in foreign-relations.

What happens next will be historic for both countries.


Cuba’s long-term leader, Fidel Castro did not live to see 2017. His death in December kicked off a transition in Havana that many political experts believe will shift the country away from communism. However, it’s unclear which political path the country will follow once Raul Castro steps down from power in 2018.


Meanwhile, the United States is also undergoing its own transition under a new commander-in-chief. The future ties between Havana and Washington are uncertain under Donald Trump’s presidency. Despite President Obama’s efforts to thaw relations between the two former rivals, progress may stall.


In one of his final acts as president, Mr. Obama ordered a major change toward Cuban immigrants. He removed the “Wet foot, dry foot policy” that granted a pathway to permanent residence to any Cuban who managed to reach American soil without a Visa. The Castros had long argued that the policy encouraged Cubans to make the dangerous trip to Florida. Now many Cubans in limbo are hoping Trump may overturn the decision.


Mr. Trump has said he doesn’t agree with the United States softening its stance on Cuba. While President Obama adopted policies to normalize relations and facilitate business dealings between the two countries, Trump seems to shy away from developing that newfound relationship.


In fact, President Trump criticized Obama when he made history by becoming the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba in nearly 50 years. Before leaving office, President Obama relaxed travel restrictions and outlawed buying and transporting Cuban goods into the United States.


In Cuba, residents are aware of the developments, but most of them are skeptical that there will be any significant change after nearly 60 years of communist rule. They acknowledge that any change in the island will come incredibly slow. It’s the lifestyle Cubans have grown accustomed to, like waiting in line for an internet card, for the supermarket to open, or for the wired money from their Florida relatives to arrive.


Fast or slow, some Cubans say any change will be good. Poverty is still widespread, and many are just hopeful to make more money than what they currently make. In 2015, the official average monthly salary was 687 Cuban pesos, or $25 a month, according to the Cuban government. 

American companies are moving fast to invest in the island. Airbnb, for example, has allowed Cubans to make additional income by renting out their spare rooms. U.S. airlines are also jumping in with cheap flights to the island.

Economically, it seems like Cuba is opening up. What remains to be seen is how it will change politically in the next few years. And whether President Trump will be instrumental in facilitating that political transition, or take a hands-off approach. Either way, Cubans are charting their own future, and it’s full of changes, challenges and choices.