Life in Cuba

Life in Cuba

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U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Havana on Sunday for a historic visit that seals a rapprochement he and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed in December 2014 after 18 months of secret negotiations.

Since then, Havana has changed noticeably. The number of U.S. visitors soared 77 percent in 2015, swarming hotels and restaurants that have been booked to capacity.

. Havana, CUBA. Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini

After more than half a century of antagonism between the two countries, Obama has redefined relations with Cuba in the last 15 months, and Cuba is changing. But its leaders are wary of moving too quickly.

. Havana, Cuba. Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

Obama has issued sweeping regulations to promote even more U.S. travel and trade to Cuba. It was the fifth time he has used executive powers to boost ties with Cuba, sidestepping the Republican-controlled Congress which has refused to lift a 54-year-old economic embargo against the island.

Cuba's government has yet to fully reciprocate. Cuba did agree to roaming deals with U.S. telecommunications operators and restoring scheduled commercial airline service, two deals that bring more revenue to the government.

. Havana, Cuba. Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

Many traits of communism remain. Political dissent is repressed, commercial property cannot be bought and sold and the government still controls imports and exports.

There is no wholesale market for most private enterprises, forcing shopkeepers to buy inventory at state retail prices or resort to trickery or the black market.

. Havana, CUBA. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado

"Cuba has already changed, but needs more," said Niuris Higueras, owner of the Atelier restaurant, one of the trendiest spots in Havana's dining scene. She said business grew 50 percent over the past year.

"We need to link up with the U.S. market," Higueras said. "There needs to be more access to U.S. products here in Cuba. We need Home Depot, a Walmart, a Costco. A Restaurant Depot would be fabulous."

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Slideshow

A Cuban flag is seen on the roof of a 1952 Ford truck.
. Havana, Cuba. Reuters/Enrique de la Osa

A Cuban flag is seen on the roof of a 1952 Ford truck.

Newlyweds ride in a vintage car on the seafront El Malecon.
. Havana, Cuba. Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

Newlyweds ride in a vintage car on the seafront El Malecon.

Vintage cars drive along a street.
. Havana, Cuba. Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

Vintage cars drive along a street.

Women standing on balconies chat.
. Havana, CUBA. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado

Women standing on balconies chat.

Cubans play chess on a street.
. Havana, Cuba. Reuters/Enrique de la Osa

Cubans play chess on a street.

Musician Frilal Ortiz carries a double bass in downtown Havana.
. Havana, CUBA. Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini

Musician Frilal Ortiz carries a double bass in downtown Havana.

Tania Seijido and her 11-year-old daughter Shania Vazquez chat with relatives living overseas.
. Regla, CUBA. Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini

Tania Seijido and her 11-year-old daughter Shania Vazquez chat with relatives living overseas.

A man gestures inside a restaurant.
. Havana, CUBA. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado

A man gestures inside a restaurant.

People stand in line to buy freshly baked bread.
. Havana, Cuba. Reuters/Claudia Daut

People stand in line to buy freshly baked bread.

A foreign visitor walks on a street.
. Havana, Cuba. Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

A foreign visitor walks on a street.