Publisher’s Note: Let’s Come Together
I WAS JUST IN HAVANA, Cuba for a speaking engagement. After going through what was a relatively simple customs process, I stepped outside the airport to witness hundreds of people waiting for their loved ones. The warmth of the crowd’s interactions was moving: I watched as people squeezed each other’s faces, intensely embraced and had fits of conversation between kisses.
I quickly realized what I had heard was true; I was stepping into a fleeting moment in time. Currently in Cuba there are no credit cards, no Coca-Cola products and minimal access to internet, but multiple signs promising future five-star hotels allude to the changes on the horizon.
When I walked down the streets amid the incredible architecture, provocative art and political posters, I observed multiple generations of men playing cards and kids fighting each other with handmade swords.
One thing was strikingly different from the streets at home: No one was on a cell phone. Cuba’s future is uncertain. Many are predicting that change will come quickly as consumerism and looming political shifts set in. The rows of old cars on the streets represent a time when things were simpler—when the way we connected was different and perhaps more intimate. Not that it was all good then or that it’s all bad now, but it’s certain that we interact differently—more distantly— and many of us are left craving intimacy and human connection.
On my third day in Havana, I was invited into the private home of a couple who designs art books. They live there with both sets of parents and their three children. At one point, the wife’s grandmother lived with them, making it three generations under one roof. “It’s great to have my parents help raise my children. It gives them a richer experience growing up,” she said, describing the dynamics of the household. “I mean, it’s not always perfect. Sometimes it’s tense and we all retreat to our private spaces, but overall we just feel really lucky to be together.”
The trip to Cuba helped me think about how I spend my time and how I show up to the people I love. In a moment in our country’s history when people feel so far apart, perhaps we can look to Cuba to remember a time when things were slower, people were more present and we made an effort to come together.
Find more from the Let’s Come Together issue in our online issue, or at select locations around St. Louis. Once you take it all in, tell us what you think using #ALIVEtogether for the chance to be featured.