From the moment I stepped foot in this city, I felt I had time traveled to a past life of mine. But one day in early December, in the matter of five minutes, while walking those same streets with an outsider, everything changed.
My sophomore year in college, I was granted the opportunity to work with the Office of Historians taking photos of the buildings in Old Havana for a restoration project. Everyday from sunrise to sunset was spent documenting every story of structures that were standing exactly how they had always been. I had never seen light bounce off the walls of any other city quite the way it did in Old Havana. By the end of my trip, I started to recognize a missing piece to my puzzle, the desire to be still, my nomadic spirit had found a place to call home.
A year after graduation, and while on a year journey throughout Central and South America, I returned and was sitting next to a friendly American girl from Colorado on my plane. The girl had no plans, no accommodations, no idea the loopholes one has to jump through as an American when traveling in Cuba so I decided to take her under my wing and show her around.
On her last night, I took her to The International Jazz Festival, one of the most important musical events of the year. The last performer of the night went on stage and announced that his friend Gabriel Garcia Marquez was in the audience and my heart skipped a beat. I waited for the song to finish and made my way to the literature legend and told him what exactly his work had meant to me. It was one of the highlights of my life.
While walking back to my apartment with her, a man on the corner said something under his breath but I did not receive his message as a warning. Walking beside someone who looked like an outsider had made me an outsider and the man following us was waiting for the perfect moment to mug us. In the one dark section of the street; he started to pull at my camera bag. The girl just watched it happen in a state of shock. I, on the other hand fought him and while many find that irresponsible, it wasn’t about the material possession, I would have gladly handed the camera over. He took something far more important that night, he robbed me of my memories, of an artistic journey I had been on for months but he also stole the comfort I had in calling Havana home, for the first time walking those streets, I felt like an outsider.