Miami Living Magazine

Ashley Haas

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Cuban Kindness Words and photography by Michael Chinnici In my just released book Vanishing Cuba, you won’t find Cuban kindness vanishing anytime soon in Cuba. That’s because Cubans possess this innate sense of affection, gentleness, patience, humanity, and goodwill that’s been ingrained for centuries. Some say it comes from their ancestry. A blend of Cuba’s native Ciboney and Taino people, Afro-Cubans– descendant’s of African slaves, and the Spanish, who, besides exhibiting a brutal and ruthless past as conquers of the America’s, are known today for their gentle and kind personas. After Christopher Columbus landed in Baracoa, Cuba, in 1492, to claim it for Spain, he later wrote, “[The indigenous people] show the most singular loving behavior… and are gentle and always laughing.” Those are very powerful words that resonate with our modern-day experiences with the Cuban people. Of course, we must not forget that Cubans have lived in relative isolation under communism for the last sixty years, with limited exposure to the modern world. Perhaps a curse, or maybe a blessing in disguise. As much as I like and embrace modernization and technological advancements, I can see the advantages of remaining simple and not influenced or pressured by living in modern-day society. I witness this simple life in many of the developing countries I visit. As I think back to my experiences and look through my photographs from my 24 trips to Cuba, I am constantly reminded of the kindness that has been shown to me by so many Cubans I’ve come to know, love, and call my friends. But if you know anything about Cuba, it’s no secret that Cubans are known for their kindness and gracious hospitality. Before the 1959 Revolution, Havana was a haven for the rich and famous, partly seduced by the beautiful people of Cuba. As I wrote in my book’s preface; Falling in love with Cuba, “Two days in Havana, and I had already fallen in love with Cuba and the Cuban people. Any fears or concerns I had evaporated into this beautiful and welcoming culture. Cubanos (as they are called) welcomed me with open arms. We smiled and laughed as we joked about our two countries and their political differences. Many voiced their articulate opinions with an impressive degree of educational background. Their warmth and hospitality were so refreshing and endearing. Their embrace was addicting. I found myself making friends at every corner I turned. And never did I feel a sense of animosity or that I was being judged. Just pure admiration, respect, love, and a genuine desire that my experience in Cuba be nothing short of wonderful!” Several times I said to myself, “Here I am, carrying camera equipment equal to ten years of their income, and yet I never experience any sense of resentment, anger, envy, or jealousy. My country is responsible for much of the poverty they experience, yet they embrace me, smile, and hug me. How can people be so understanding and welcoming? They live their lives with a glass that’s half empty, yet they see it as half full.”

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