It is no secret that Cuba, for many years a no-go destination for most Americans, is rife with propaganda. Much of it is anti-American, or anti-Capitalist, and an equal amount of it is pro-Castro, or pro-revolution. Throughout my travels to China, Russia, the Ukraine, and Syria, I have always found a certain kitschiness in images of Mother Russia, of the working man sowing fields “for the people,” of that great hammer-and-sickle, of the Fearless Leader. Even Mexico has its share of anti-colonial propaganda, from urban graffiti to the murals of Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Some of these images are impressive, artistically-speaking, while others make me laugh. The key, I think, is to take them with a considerable grain of salt.
Here is a gallery of Cuban propaganda as photographed by yours truly. They are in no way a reflection of my political beliefs; I don’t condone the violence that accompanied Cuba’s revolution.
Continue reading “Cuba Photo Gallery: The Propaganda”
I have not, historically speaking, been good at photographing people. From time to time, I’d notice a person during my travels who had that photogenic something that I knew needed to be captured, and – after getting their permission – I would try my best to photograph them, being cognizant of their time and any cultural sensitivities. I always made it a point to show them the picture afterwards, and frequently offered to email them a copy of the image.
The results were mixed, however. That gap-toothed Asian woman along the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall? I captured the smile but didn’t zoom in enough. The curious boy standing near the Istanbul tram that ran through Sultanahmet? He posed, soldier-like, but I forgot to crouch down to his level, and his head appeared the size of a giant pumpkin.
I have gotten better, however. I felt especially brave – and as curious as that young Turkish kid – while exploring Cuba, and snapped dozens upon dozens of pics of Cuban locals going about their business. Fishing, singing, selling, relaxing. The camera gods smiled upon me those three incredible weeks. Here are some of my favorite shots, along with any relevant commentary:
Continue reading “Cuba Photo Gallery: The People”
It has been less than 24 hours since my plane touched down in Knoxville, marking the end of an unforgettable, nearly six-week trip to Mexico and Cuba. I slept like a baby last night, and have spent much of this morning sorting my dirty laundry and uploading pics – thousands of them – to my computer. The trip itself had the usual ups and downs, with plenty more highs than lows, but lots of time for self-reflection. I thought about previous travels to Latin America and to places all across the globe. I thought about my old life in Mexico City, and about the possibility of settling down there again in the not-so-distant future. I thought about my mom, whom I miss terribly. I thought about my dad, who I know has had trouble sleeping and filling the void in his life left by my mom’s passing. Lastly, I thought about my own mortality.
So you could certainly call the trip “profound.” I know that many of my Loyal Readers are looking forward to seeing trip pics and hearing stories about what it was like to return to Mexico for the first time in two-and-a-half years, and about whether Cuba really is as colorful, as anti-Capitalist, as – dare I say “backwards” – as it is often portrayed in the West, particularly by the U.S. media. Those stories are coming; I have dozens to tell. But first, the completist in me wants to continue my monthly travel photo gallery series. The images below were uploaded prior to my recent trip, as a way of back-logging content for March.
Colonia del Sacramento – “Colonia” for short – is, for many travelers, the only part of Uruguay that they take the time to visit. Most of them, myself included, see the small colonial city on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, just upriver from where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean, as a day trip from Buenos Aires. It was March of 2011 when I woke up before daybreak in my Argentine hostel and stumbled, bleary-eyed, across the city to the Buquebus ferry terminal. Border formalities are handled before boarding, and I found myself with two more stamps in my passport. Less than 90 minutes (and two coffees) later, I was in Uruguay!
Continue reading “Photo Locale of the Month – March 2017”
Asia is the largest continent and home to 60% of the world’s population, according to UN estimates. If you visit worldometers.info, you can literally watch the population “uptick” by one person per second. Despite these statistics, however, I have spent less time in Asia than I have in most other regions of the world. This needs to change.
One Asian country that I have had the pleasure of visiting is Thailand. The country, a peaceful monarchy east of Myanmar and north of Malaysia, is famous for its warm waters and sandy beaches, often backed by towering cliffs. There is so much more to see, however. Elephant camps, jungle villages, steamy urban cities…and temples. Lots of temples. I was particularly taken by the Buddhist temples of Bangkok.
Continue reading “Photo Locale of the Month – February 2017”
León is the longtime liberal stronghold of Nicaragua, and the nation’s second-largest city. Founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, León, 11 miles from the Pacific Ocean, has for centuries battled with older Granada, on the western shores of Lake Nicaragua, for ruling supremacy. They took turns assuming the role of capital of Nicaragua for centuries, until neutral Managua, somewhere in between the two cities, took over the role permanently.
But the León of today is different than the Leon of the 16th century. Modern León, in fact, sits 20 miles east of León Viejo (Old León), destroyed by an earthquake less than 100 years after its founding, and subsequently buried under layers of volcanic ash by nearby Momotombo, the still-active volcano that sits across another lake, Lago de Managua, from the ruins.
Continue reading “Photo Locale of the Month – January 2017”
Nuremberg, Germany recently celebrated its 950th birthday. (Eat that, Dubai!) My love affair with the Franconian capital and home of sausages, lebkuchen (holiday gingerbread cookies) and Nazi War Crime trials began when I was still a child. My father spent three years of his life (“The best three years,” he sometimes claimed) in the U.S. Army, stationed on a base just a short train/bus ride from Nuremberg.
Although my dad’s Army time was during the height of the Cold War and his station was less than 60 miles from the border with Communist Czechoslovakia, his time in the Army went without incident, the Cuban Missile Crisis call to arms notwithstanding. My dad raved, throughout my childhood, about how much he loved Germany, the German people, and medieval Nuremberg in particular.
Continue reading “Photo Locale of the Month – December 2016”
There is nothing quite like the Christmas markets of Europe around this time of year. Cities like Chicago, with its Daley Plaza Christkindlesmarkt, do a fair job recreating the atmosphere, but the surrounding skyscrapers don’t quite carry the same ambiance as the centuries-old brick homes and cobblestone squares of Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, and elsewhere in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Below is a series of pictures taken from my visits to various European Christmas markets during my travels. Bundle up, sip some mulled wine, and enjoy!
Continue reading “Christmas Markets of Europe”
Delhi, India. The capital of the fastest-growing nation on earth has a treasure trove of culinary and cultural treasures. According to Wikipedia, the population of Delhi is 10 million, based on 2001 census data. According to Indiatoday.in and Thehindu.com, however, NCT (National Capital Territory, aka Delhi) is home to 25 million inhabitants, making it the world’s second largest city.
Whichever figure you choose, Delhi is huge. I had the pleasure of visiting the city in 2011, and found it to be a sprawling, captivating hodgepodge of rich and poor, opulence and squalor. Old Delhi, in particular, is a place to be experienced in person. The photos below only hint at its enchanting mix of chaos and charm.
Continue reading “Photo Locale of the Month – November 2016”
November has, thus far, been rife with disappointment. On a personal level, I have slowly been making peace with my mother’s passing, less than two months ago, while weathering a relationship break-up that felt like a sucker punch. Regarding the former, it took several weeks to even register the fact that my mom was gone. As for the latter, I’ve been trying to assess what I must have done wrong, but am slowly coming to the conclusion that I will never know for sure. All I can say is that I haven’t been sleeping well.
On the world stage – and for the second occurrence in my lifetime – the better candidate for the United States Presidency won the popular vote but lost the election. And the other day, I logged onto social media to learn that one of my favorite mood poets, Leonard Cohen, had passed away at age 82.
At times like these, I tend towards the melancholy. I spent much of yesterday doing some archiving and came across a few blog posts from 2013. I realized that it was Election Day, 2012, when I moved to Mexico City and established gringopotpourri.com. My blog has changed a lot over the years. For one thing, the writing is better now than it was then. Darker, perhaps, but also better. The regionality of the content has also shifted from being mostly Mexico-focused to being largely Tennessee-focused.
To “celebrate” my blog’s four-year anniversary, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite posts for you, along with comments on how those posts either came to be or how they hold up today. And as always: Thanks for reading!
Continue reading “Onward and Upward: Four Years of Blogging”
China. Legendary setting for the adventures of Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, and other larger-than-life historical figures. This “Far East” country, at press time the most populous in the world, is the starting point for the Silk Road, watercourse for the Yangtze River, site of the Great Wall and of vertiginous karst hills that doubled as Wookiee land in the Star Wars films, and location of what is currently the largest city in the world (Shanghai).
China features more points of touristic interest than perhaps any other place on earth. Most travelers make it to Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, and Hong Kong. Fewer, though, make it to Shanxi Province. Datong, an industrial city of 3.3 million people, is the gateway to Inner Mongolia. It is an overnight train ride (or one-hour flight) from Beijing. The city’s western outskirts are home to one of the country’s most remarkable sites: the Yunggang Caves.
Continue reading “Photo Locale of the Month – October 2016”