Watch: Cuba Postcard: 'Expect the Unexpected'

Dec 25, 2015

The easing of travel restrictions to Cuba could unleash a torrent of 'Yanqui' tourists, something that has the potential to transform a poor island that is rich in history, architecture and natural beauty.

WUSF's Steve Newborn visited Cuba with Sarasota-based Sea to Shore Alliance before the United States embassy reopened. He takes us on a tour of Old Havana and sees what is being done to prepare for a possible influx of newcomers.

Click HERE to watch a soundslide of that trip.

Havana beckons like a grand dame, the belle of the ball way past her prime.

"We have to take back the history that was falling down," says Raul, our tour guide, as we walk through Old Havana.

The old city boasts cathedrals dating from the 1500's. Our guide blames the decay on the "special period," right after the Soviet Union collapsed, when Cuba lost its major benefactor. He says they're betting on tourism to pay for renovations that are slowly remaking this crumbling capital.

"It's one of the reasons that buildings are being rebuilt, and that's one of the things we're doing right now. So you're going to see many buildings in Old Havana in bad shape, because they're going to be fixed again," he says. "Many of these buildings are lived in by people, many of them have fallen down but their facade stay, because the office of the historian wants to keep it for in the future to make something else. So I'm sorry if you don't like that things are the same in Havana, but some people say it's part of it's richness, no, to have old things and new things together."

Take a trip with us back in time...
Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News