Cuba is worth a visit, photographer urges

Oisis Jones

Cuba has always been on many travelers’ bucket list. The colorful houses, beautiful architecture and the classic cars driving around Havana are enticing. With the U.S. easing travel restrictions, Byron Motley hopes many will make that trip.

The photographer presented his new book, “Embracing Cuba,” on March 9 at City College. It showcases his experiences on the island from nearly a decade ago and along with reflections of his yearly visits since then.

“Embracing Cuba” includes about 200 pictures and eight essays. It’s a photographic journey of the island that includes photos of architecture, music, dance, art, the classic cars, politics and, of course, the people of the island.

Motley’s photography has been published by Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News and the Advocate.

Motley is also multi-talented African American artist from Los Angeles. He’s a singer who has performed with the legendary Natalie Cole, Celine Dione, among others. And he’s also a filmmaker who is currently working on a documentary about the Negro League.

In his talk, Motley said he was inspired to visit the island nation after his parents had a wonderful trip there before the Communist take-over and before the U.S. imposed a trade embargo in 1962, which banned Americans from traveling there.

He thought he would never be able to visit Cuba. But in 2005 he realized there were other ways to get to the island, such as flying from Canada, Mexico or Panama City, and he made his way there.

Cuba immediately felt like home.

“I distinctly remember hearing a voice in my head saying, ‘Welcome Home.'”

Motley said he found a country very different then how everyone projected it to be. He believed it was dangerous from the stories and warnings he had heard.

He found the complete opposite.

“People were so warm and so welcoming,” he said. And that’s what he wanted to show in his book, he stressed.

His favorite memories of Cuba include just relaxing on the Malecón, or boardwalk, in Havana, and being welcomed everywhere.

He said that if he heard music playing somewheere or noticed someone having a party at a house, he could just walk in and start dancing with them. No one cared who he was and that is what he loves about the place.

The book is being published at a time when the U.S. has started to ease busines and travel restrictions to Cuba since the two nations agreed to restore ties 15 months ago. President Obama visited the nation for two days this month, the first such visit by an American president since 1928.

Motley hopes that if more Americans do visit Cuba, they are respectful of the nation and its culture because “it’s a sovereign state and it deserves that.”

Motely urged his listeners to discover the island nation.

“So if you open yourself up to discovery, to engagement with people, to being non-judgmental, and being respectful of a unique and different culture, you will have an adventure you couldn’t have anywhere else.”

More information about Byron Motley can be bound on his website, byronmotley.com.