Cuba's Last Moments In The Past Captured In Superb Photo Series

Cuba is today one of the world's last remaining pieces of the 20th century. Following the normalisation of its diplomatic relations with the US, the Caribbean island will soon be swallowed by capitalism, like the rest of the world.

Photographer Mehdi Bouabbane went there to capture the kingdom of Fidel Castro's final moments of melancholy. In 18 gripping snaps, the Algerian traveler tells the fragile story of an island at a turning point, still hesitating between keeping its identity and  moving towards economic improvement.

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

"As soon as I landed in Habana, I wanted to go wander by the Malecón, the famous street-long boardwalk by the Atlantic. It's there that you can feel the city's pulse. You meet young guys drinking beers, and musicians, like this trumpeter who came to practise his scales."

 

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

" The next day I went to wander in the streets, admiring the still numerous 1950s American cars, real gems left by the Americans when they left the island."

 

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

"During the 90s, after the Soviet Empire fell, many Cubans tried to sell those cars - their average cost being around $80 000 - to rich Western collectors, but Fidel Castro never allowed them to leave the country and went as far as making them a national heritage. That was criticised but today they're a charming element for adventurers in a quest for nostalgia. Sometimes they're also used as taxis."

 

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

"El Che is everywhere on the island. He's still respected for his engagement in the socialist revolution, even though he wasn't even Cuban. Here, on Plaza de la Revolucion, his face dawns the walls of the Home Office with one of his most iconic lines: 'Hasta la Victoria Siempre'."

 

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

"For a very long time, the Cuban authorities restricted religious and catholic practices. However, this is not the case anymore, since 1998 and Pope John Paul II's visit, followed by Pope Francis's trip last year which helped a lot." 

 

 

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

"Cuba's known for being one of the greatest cigar producers on the planet. The tobacco used to produce Cohibas, Montecristos and Roméo & Julietas is cultivated here, in the Viñales valley, in the west of Havana."

 

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

"Cuba remains a rural country, which leads you to encounter true Cuban cowboys. Horse-riding remains the most convenient way to travel through tobacco plantations."

 

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

"After days travelling accross the country, I ended up in Trinidad, a city founded in 1541 by Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar. The town is gorgeous, with its coloured houses and paved streets. It has an unequalled charm that you won't find in any other city in Cuba."

 

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

"A few miles from Trinidad, in the middle of the Valley de los Ingenios (or Valley of the Sugar Mills) is the town of Iznaga, famous for its tower. A beautiful monument but one that was once used to watch over the plantations' slaves. Iznaga is also known for its fine craftsmanship, particularly its weaving."

 

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

"Salsa still occupies a key place in the Cubans' lives. In every town, you can find some "casas de la musica": state music centres in which local bands come to play. Here, in a small place in Trinidad retired folks continue to intoxicate themselves with the colourful rhythms."  

 

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

"Cuba is one of the only Latin America countries in which football isn't king. Here, what people are crazy about is baseball. How ironic. It's a perfect illustration of the contradictions reigning in the country: the United States are despised, but we play their sport."

 

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

(Photo: Mehdi Bouabbane)

 

"I took this picture on Christmas Day in Cayo Santa Maria, an island off Cuba's north-central coast in the Jardines del Rey archipelago. The island is only made of all-inclusives, rammed with Canadian tourists flowing to the spot to forget the cold that reigns in their country."

 

Read More - > Compelling stills remind us how Cuba isn't just a tourist paradise

By Thomas Andrei, publish on 28/01/2016