How Tourism Is Changing Cuba, In Photos

Photographer Erin Lee Holland pairs her photos from a recent trip with those of an unknown Cuban photographer from the 60s and 70s.

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Sep 5 2016, 4:00am

Cuba in the 70s, as captured by an unknown Cuban photographer

Last year, a record number of people traveled to Cuba—more than three million tourists, according to the official figures. Now, the whole world is watching to see just exactly how mass tourism will affect the notoriously sheltered island.

There are few other places on earth with such a tumultuous history like Cuba's. The country was colonized by the Spaniards, attacked by the real pirates of the Caribbean, and later embattled in revolution, cold war, mass exodus, an economic crisis, and decades of isolation.

President Obama visited Cuba in March of this year, after two years of secret talks and the announcement that the two countries were planning to restore diplomatic relations. Cubans were pleased that the two nations could finally move past half a century of suspicion and bitterness. And for American citizens, it means the opportunity to explore the time-warpedwonders of this communist nation before its charm of vintage cars, dilapidated architecture, cigar smokers, and colorful dancers is replaced by chain hotels, shopping centers, and Starbucks.

On a trip to Cienfuegos, Cuba two years ago, I bought a set of old slide photographs, taken by a Cuban man during the 60s and 70s. The unknown man's photos, paired with mine from the recent trip, are startlingly similar. Although the two sets of photographs were taken a half-century apart, they are proof that not a lot has changed. In the meantime, increased tourism to the island will definitely bring in money and entrepreneurism which could possibly fuel a slow, subtle revolution to Cuba. The world is waiting to see.

See more of Erin Lee Holland's photography here.

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