The Plaza in Santa Clara

A few of us were feeling full after dinner. It wasn’t that we ate too much, but the fresh evening air seemed the wiser choice for dessert.

We were in Santa Clara, the heart of Cuba, about a 3-hour drive from Havana. The night air was still, especially compared to last night’s breezy walk in La Habana.

We decided that we were going to explore photography on the plaza. It was only two blocks from the hotel. Each of us had a camera of some sort, but inside we knew that we just wanted to see what people were doing.

I was surprised to see so many locals out on Tuesday night. I’m not sure why, because I don’t really know what Cubans do on Tuesdays. I’m usually at home.

They were sitting on park benches conversing with one another, gathering in the music clubs that lined the square, or kissing and holding hands like lovers who had just found one another and weren’t quite ready to part ways.

I counted at least three groups of teenagers on the plaza. They were talking and laughing as teenagers do, with their private jokes that often go undeciphered by adults. One had a guitar and played accompaniment to others singing.

The odd thing was, not one person was texting on a phone. In fact, I didn’t see any electronic devices. Their hands were used for gestures, not typing.

We talked among ourselves in the group, comparing notes to make sure that we were all seeing the same thing. And we came to a single conclusion. Something special was happening here.

We circled the square one more time, then headed back to the hotel. None of our phones were working in Santa Clara, so we were either chatting with one other, or stayed quiet with our thoughts.

I was thinking about those kids. I felt protective, as if they were my own boys. What they had there, on that comfortable night in Santa Clara, was beautiful.

And I feared that someday soon

it may be lost.