The first time I read the word "Cuba" was in the giant black headline glaring from the newspaper on my family's porch. It introduced me to the concept of utter annihilation and defined Cuba as the location from which the annihilation would arrive.
This was the first terror I knew that was not something in a book that I could simply set aside when it got too scary. And though the "Cuban Missile Crisis" in time was surpassed as the scariest thing I knew, it remains a thread in my emotional fabric.
So when travel restrictions for Americans eased in 2015 and I had the opportunity to visit Havana as part of an artist tour, it seemed important to gain some first-hand – though brief and heavily controlled – view of what I'd only ever heard of from sources with strong and competing agendas.
The disintegrating beauty of Havana's grand European architecture spoke of the Cuba that was once the "Pearl of the Caribbean" while the broad deprivation of its people made an existential necessity of creativity and reuse. I returned most of all with a deeper respect for the resiliency of the human spirit.