Havana is home to many contradictions. When I first visited in 2010, I arrived to see family and explore my Cuban roots. Like many Americans, I imagined the capital city would be full of old cars, broken buildings and downtrodden people.
All of those things exist in Havana, but there is much more to the island than poverty and time capsules. Appearances can been deceiving and Cuba’s constant change is perhaps most evident in its fashion. In Havana, unlike in Brooklyn, no one steps out for coffee in their pajamas. Being primped and pressed is important at all times. Men often wear tight-fitting shirts, along with jeans or capri pants. Most are always clean shaven and their hair is always neatly groomed. Women tend to favor short skirts and spandex in the Havana heat, and everywhere you look, someone sparkles with gold: earrings, necklaces, teeth. Looking good “is just as important as eating,” says Kiriam Gutierrez, a transgender stage performer whose income depends on her appearance.