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Travel

A new photo book animates the faded but opulent beauty of Cuba, a lavish paradise still unattainable.

You hear about the vintage cars, the uber-nice people, the vibrant nightlife, the sultriness of it all. And of course, the menacing reality of a country still under an Orwellian rule by a backwards, near-dead dictator who once had a Utopian dream, now faded and paint-chipped like all those incredible edifices.

Cuba still beckons, to thrill-seekers and those who are tired of the same old jet-setting ports, where everything is prepared and pampered for a Yankee visit–even as Obama makes moves to loosen up the rules (with little such luck or drive).
What you don’t hear as much about is the enduring power structures still holding their own, not unlike New Orleans, both unsinkable. The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors (Rizzoli, $85)—written by Michael Connors and shot magnificently by Brent Winebrenner—provides a glorious glimpse inside the aesthetic wreckage of less populist appeal, and one more reason to head to Mexico or Canada to get thee passage.

We’re talking about significant Cuban palacios, mansions, and private homes that have been meticulously preserved, previously un-photographed, and inaccessible to visitors, as Rizzoli’s editors put it.

The Splendor of Cuba enters, often for the first time, the un-obvious structures, of Spanish Creole aristocracy of the colonial period, with its “Mudejar craftsmanship and baroque palacios, the sugarcane plantations (ingenios) and coffee plantations (cafetales), and classically inspired grand mansions.”

Forget Jamaica. Give Cuba time…you’ll see.

–S.G.

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