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Local Photographer Checks Out Cuba

By Staff | Mar 30, 2016

Photos by Jack Chang Jack Chang checks out a copy of the Wetzel Chronicle while touring Cuba.

It’s safe to say that for most of us, Cuba is not one of the places we think of visiting. The name brings to mind other words – communism, Castro, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

For New Martinsville resident Jack Chang, the destination sparked a different sort of interest. For Chang, a visit to Cuba meant a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness a historical change.

The United States is slowly beginning to lift previously placed restrictions off of Cuba, restrictions that date back to tense times in the 1960s between the two countries.

Chang expects to see changes result from the lessoning restrictions.

“I wanted to see the change before the Americans get there,” Chang said. “Right now they are finally opening the enterprise.”

Taxis travel a busy roadway in Cuba. (Photo by Jack Chang)

To some Americans, the Cuban life might seem a bit bleak right now, but for Chang, there are lessons to be learned.

For instance, don’t take the basic necessities for granted.

Chang explained that the average salary is $20 a month. If one practices as a doctor or lawyer, they might see a salary of $30 a month.

Some Cubans hold two or three different jobs just to make ends meet.

Chang said we could all learn something from this, however.

A produce market in Cuba. (Photo by Jack Chang)

“People take everything for granted (in America),” he said.

Chang explained how even the basic necessities, such as toiletries, can be difficult to come by in Cuba. And furthermore, Cubans have to create some items on their own. “They have no Lowes and no Ace Hardware. They have to make items from scrap, like MacGyver,” Chang said.

“I was on a bicycle taxi and the driver just pulled off and found some scrap metal to fix the bicycle,” he further explained.

Also, “There is a shoe repairman at every corner. People walk a lot, and shoes are not cheap. There is a guy that will fix the shoes, as they wear off,” Chang said.

Despite the struggles that daily life may bring, the people were happy with what they have,” Chang said.

“I talked to the locals and they say the main thing is family. Family is the big thing.”

“Kids don’t have Internet or phone. People connect face to face,” he said, explaining that people can access stations to pay $2 for 30 minutes of WiFi.

Money “is not really an issue.”

Being in a communist country in which relations with the United States have been strained, one would think Chang might have been nervous. However, according to Chang, the situation was quite the opposite.

“The Cubans are very good to tourists,” he noted, adding that up until recently the government was not allowed to touch or talk to tourists. However, “there is no danger whatsoever.”

Chang said there are severe punishments for those who may harm tourists. In fact, an individual can be sentenced to five to seven years in prison for stealing.

People are bringing “so much stuff” into Cuba now, noted Chang.

“They pay extra money to have stuff brought in, and stuff is coming in from the United States now. A year from now, we might see a lot of different changes,” he added.

“Most of the people I talk to want to do business with United States. They see all the benefits,” he said.