Amer­i­can Travel Log

On Cuba - - CONTENTS - By (Por) Alain L. Gu­tiér­rez

In the sum­mer of 2016, af­ter 16 years, I re­turned to the United States. This time I was able to travel through seven states, take many pic­tures and un­der­stand a bit more the U.S. cul­ture. I de­cided that the best thing to show my friends and fol­low­ers on the so­cial net­works would be a travel log with my photos and im­pres­sions dur­ing my trip. In these pages I pub­lish some of the photos I shared around those days and that emerged from my Amer­i­can ad­ven­ture.

En el ve­r­ano, de­spués de 16 años, re­gresé a los Es­ta­dos Unidos. Esta vez pude vi­a­jar por si­ete es­ta­dos, tomar muchas fo­tografías y en­ten­der un poco más la cul­tura norteam­er­i­cana. De­cidí que lo mejor para mostrar a mis ami­gos y seguidores en las re­des so­ciales sería la bitá­cora de mi aven­tura. En es­tas pági­nas pub­lico al­gu­nas de las im­pre­siones e imá­genes que com­partí con el­los por esos días.


Hu­mid and hot. That was the first im­pact I got from this city. In my opin­ion the city moves in slow mo­tion, a big dif­fer­ence from the north, but mu­sic is ev­ery­where. From the Sec­ond Line Bands, the jazz groups, sin­gle mu­si­cians or im­pro­vised artists, it’s im­pos­si­ble to get away from mu­sic here. In any corner you can find some­body singing, danc­ing or per­form­ing, most of them in­cred­i­bly good. New Orleans be­longed to the Span­ish Crown a long time ago and still keeps the spirit and ar­chi­tec­ture of Spain and France, so it is be­com­ing my boot camp be­fore reach­ing Mi­ami and later Cuba. It’s the last piece of au­then­tic Amer­i­can cul­ture be­fore my reen­counter with the Cuban one.


These two guys were va­p­ing on Michi­gan Avenue and I looked at them twice. The im­age of these two was very at­trac­tive for me. I couldn’t avoid aim­ing my cam­era. Just a few words and they ac­cepted be­ing pho­tographed. Some blocks ahead two big black guys with amaz­ing mo­tor­cy­cles pose for me too. The peo­ple from the “Windy city” are friendly. “It’s the Mid­west,” said my friend. I like this city! Shikaakwa, “stinky onion” in the Na­tive Amer­i­can Mi­ami-Illi­nois lan­guage, doesn’t stink, it’s spec­tac­u­lar.


More than 100 ice cream fla­vors and com­bi­na­tions. That’s too much for a per­son like me. Op­tions have been the main shock­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me on this trip. Com­ing from a coun­try where to select is not a use­ful verb, try­ing to fig­ure out what I re­ally need or what is good or not messes up my head. That’s one of the mar­ket econ­omy’s es­sen­tial pil­lars that catch my eye ev­ery­where.


Al­most three weeks ago, when I came to Wash­ing­ton, these were the first two home­less peo­ple I saw. They’re still hang­ing around in the same place, Con­sti­tu­tion Avenue, for weeks. I didn’t ask them why they lead that life but the fact is they’ve set­tled just in front of the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion as an ironic re­minder of how low we can fall in life.


Iron­i­cally, one of my last New York photos should be one of the first ones. I’m not a pioneer but I was on the brink of a new ex­pe­ri­ence in an ur­ban jun­gle. This man with his old cam­era usu­ally sits out­side B&H, one of the big­gest pho­tog­ra­phy stores of the world. His pres­ence there is a big con­trast be­tween the new times and the be­gin­ning of pho­tog­ra­phy.


At the Memo­rial of the vet­er­ans of Viet­nam Nancy copy with coal the name of her dead friend. He had 25 years when died. His air­plane af­ter a first pass for bomb re­turned to pho­to­graph the dam­age. In that mo­ment it was shot down. Nancy vis­i­bly moved cries the death of her friend. Her son, al­ready re­tired from the army, com­pleted mis­sions in sev­eral con­flict. The wars only bring suf­fer­ing for the fam­i­lies and honors for the pol­i­tics.


I’m liv­ing an in­ter­est­ing mo­ment in the USA. Two pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates: “the bad and the worst,” that’s what peo­ple tell me around here. Mean­while, in my ex­pe­ri­ence as a visitor, some peo­ple are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a kind of po­lit­i­cal awak­en­ing through Bernie San­ders’ pro­posal. The revo­lu­tion is such that young peo­ple are the pro­tag­o­nists. All this is new to me but at the same time it is en­rich­ing and re­in­forc­ing my po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion. In some way we’re liv­ing a new revo­lu­tion in Cuba too. I hope for good.


For me food is al­ways an ad­ven­ture and I’m liv­ing a nice one here. The United States is a na­tion of im­mi­grants so food is an in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence. All the time I was here I had tried In­dian, Ir­ish, Thai, Chi­nese, Viet­namese, Mex­i­can, home­made and the clas­sic Amer­i­can pizza and hot dog. The pizza above is a tra­di­tional Chicago pizza, deep dish pizza, thick and crusty, yummy. Chicago’s peo­ple are proud of their food. The first ad­vice be­fore com­ing here is about its food. “One of the best in the coun­try.” True, I could live it in first per­son. An­other cu­ri­ous fact is that here they con­sider it al­most an of­fense to add ketchup to the hot dogs they eat with rel­ish.


My last post in the USA is what my cousin posts in her In­sta­gram account about our fam­ily meet­ing. “The last time he saw me I was about 4 years old. Yes­ter­day I saw him af­ter what I be­lieve have been 10 years, and it feels like I’ve known him a life­time. He has such a calm­ing voice and kind heart that re­ally at­tracts peo­ple. And yes­ter­day he brought a group of fam­ily mem­bers, who hadn’t talked to each other for years, to­gether as a fam­ily and that re­ally touched me. I never re­ally think about these things, but lit­tle ges­tures like these are just so nice to have around. And hon­estly I had the best time see­ing my fam­ily to­gether. Imma miss you primo! Hope you can come back soon!”

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