We're Not in Kansas Anymore

Friday, May 8, 2009
An eye-opening account from KMBC Channel 9 in Kansas City:
Cuba Not Improving, Says Local Traveler
Photographer Believes Cubans Losing Hope For Change

A Kansas man has just returned from a trip to Cuba, weeks after the Obama Administration approved unlimited travel and money transfers for Americans with relatives there.

Richard Gwin, senior staff photographer for the Lawrence Journal-World, spoke with KMBC's Maria Antonia about what he found in Cuba.

Gwin took many pictures and videos in Havana's Revolution Square, but he said that these don't reveal the whole story.

"One day a year, it's like a party," Gwin said. "Everyone comes out and parties, and they march, and it's over with. The next day it's the same rhetoric." 

Over 17 years of travel, Gwin has taken many images of Cuba's people. But now he said that something is missing from the faces he photographs. "Now you find people who think there's no hope even with the talk of change. Even if you ask about Obama, and they've all heard what Obama has offered to the Cuban government."

Gwin's pictures show empty dollar stores where Cubans who have European, Canadian or American currency can shop. He reported that Raul Castro's government is exerting more control in the streets than his brother, with no end in sight.

Congressional Black Caucus members, including Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, traveled to Cuba last month and had a much rosier view of the state of affairs in Cuba.  Gwin knows that his view is the opposite of these reports, but he replied, "Did they go to the inner city?  You don't get a taste of their lives, the flair of these people."

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