Cubans living in Havana maked the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution on
New Year's Day, with little to celebrate but looking forward to the future.
In Central Havana festive music blared from
crumbling colonial-era homes. The aroma of roasted pig and rice and beans filled
the air. Most Cubans can't afford to drink at bars and clubs, so from their
homes, they passed around bottles of rum, vodka and beer, filling their glasses
and dancing. Cubans celebrated the New Year, hugging each other, kissing each
other, and like most around the world, hoping for a better year.
asked about the government's 50th anniversary celebration on New Year's Day,
most Cubans are afraid to speak to reporters for fear of arrest. Privately,
however, some call the revolution a disaster. Publicly, they say they support
Apart from occasional celebratory posters and flags
hanging from Havana store windows and buildings, there was not much hoopla on
this 50th anniversary. President Raul Castro lead the main celebration in the
eastern city of Santiago, but officials were said to have toned down its plans
for an ambitious celebration after three hurricanes this year caused billions of
dollars in damage.
On New Year's Day, children run and play in the
Alejandro, a resident of Havana watches them. Like many
Cubans, he feel hopeful after former President Fidel Castro stepped down and his
brother Raul took over in February of 2008.
"We are hoping and
counting on things getting better", he said.
Since taking power from
his ailing brother, President Raul Castro has allowed Cubans to buy DVD players,
computers and kitchen appliances. However, under his rule acquiring construction
materials on the black market, the only means for Cubans to repair their homes,
has become extremely difficult, suddenly halting work on many buildings in
Artist and professional photographer Stephen
Humphreys, who has visited the island nation more than 30 times, says the fact
that former President Fidel Castro was able to overturn Fulgencio
government on New Year's Day is seen as a fateful alignment of the stars.
"For the Cubans it seemed like a very important and prophetic day because
January 1 is important for many reasons," he said. "Obviously, the first day of
the year. But also the day of the saints, an important day in the Santeria
religion which has a big influence here in Cuba."
What's good for
these people is a hope that the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Barack
Obama will lead to more frequent visits to their Cuban family members in the
U-S. They talk about looking forward to change, and the opening of their own
economy and political system.