10 Striking Portraits Show Beach Life In Cuba

Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
This article was originally published on July 29, 2015.

Guanabo Beach is not the kind of beach you'll necessarily find in a tourist guidebook. Although beaches in Cuba are open to everybody — foreigners and nationals alike — there are certain sections of the 3,600 miles of coastline that are more frequented by Cubans, and Guanabo is one of the biggest and most popular of these. It is what we locally call “a beach for Cubans.”

Its proximity to Havana’s downtown allows the city's two million inhabitants easy access in the summer. Beach-going is a big part of Cuban culture — because it's accessible and free. Even during the worst years of the economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the struggle for survival left little room for leisure, the beach was one of the few "getaways" Cubans could still enjoy.

Guanabo is also renowned as a beach for families — a place where you go to be with nature and with your grandparents or your kids. The experience here is typically about relaxing, being yourself, and having a good time. Ahead, we spoke with 10 women who told us what they love about hitting the beach in the summer.

Editor's Note: Over the summer, we've spearheaded Take Back The Beach — a collection of work that includes a survey, videos, personal essays, and photo series from beaches across the world. We know women sometimes feel judged and self-conscious when wearing bathing suits, so TBTB encourages women to let go of that fear and head to the beach (or wherever) for their own enjoyment. We reject the idea that women's bodies — on the beach or elsewhere — exist purely for men to enjoy.

Because comments on this article were, in large part, not in line with this mission, we've decided to close the comments section. We wish the conversation could have been more respectful of these honest, fascinating women.

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Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
Ibania, 23

“I’m quite happy with my body, except for my stomach maybe, but I’m on a diet and I have managed to lose much of the weight I gained during my pregnancy.

“Here, people feel they have the right to give opinions about other people’s appearance, and my family and neighbors always have something to say about whether I'm fat or thin. Sometimes those comments make me sad.

“I like to improve my appearance, wearing fake eyelashes, nails, face and tongue piercings…and sunglasses. Sunglasses make me look cooler, and also if I see a guy I like, it’s easier to check him out without him realizing I’m staring.”
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Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
Camila, 29, Seamstress

“I’m not that comfortable with my body at the moment, because I’m slightly over my ideal weight. I work Monday to Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., so I have no time to go to the gym, as I’d like to. It’s not something that keeps me up at night — it’s not like I think I’m ugly — but I’d like to change that about me.

“I love the beach. For me, these trips start the night before, when I start getting ready: I choose what I’m going to wear, I wax… It involves a lot of preparation, because you want to look good.”
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Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
Yamilca, 41

“I gained a lot of weight during my pregnancy, and I’ve been wanting to start exercising ever since I gave birth, but I haven’t had the time, especially not after I went back to work.

“Right now, my big belly is a concern for me. I look fat. I didn’t know what to wear for this trip to the beach today, for example. I argued with myself: Should I wear shorts instead of a bathing suit? I ended up buying this one."

“I’d like to look different...but it’s not something that has affected the way I live my life; I continue to go out and do everything normally.”
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Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
Ana, 21, Cabaret Dancer

“The most attractive thing about me is the way I walk. As a dancer, I know how to move with style, how to walk rhythmically. I think I’m hot, and I like to show off.”
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Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
Emilsi, 28, Chemistry Teacher

“I’m very comfortable with my body. I enjoy working out, which I do almost every day, except on Sundays.

“I love my hair. It’s tied now because it’s uncomfortable to wear it down with all the wind and the sand here, but I always let it down when I'm not at the beach. I’m very proud of it. This is my natural color; I don’t dye it."
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Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
Gisselle, 29, Industrial Engineering Student

“When I was in high school, I used to be uncomfortable with my body because it did not fit the standard. Normally, women who are considered attractive here have big thighs and butts, and I’ve always been very skinny, so I didn’t have any of that."
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Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
Daylin, 30

“The one thing that can ruin my mood in terms of what I look like is not having my toenails done. Other than that, I’m very happy with my body. People tell me that I should work out to tighten my abs, but I don’t care.

“I’m very proud of my appearance, and that’s because I know exactly the kind of clothes that go with my type of body. Spandex shorts are a no-go for me, but I look good in jean shorts and short skirts."
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Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
Leidy, 22

“I’m not the kind of person who spends a lot of time in front of the mirror, but I hate it when my hair doesn’t look good. On days like those, I can’t go out to the street if I don’t do something about it first."
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Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
Liannet, 25, Former Taekwondo Junior Athlete

“I used to wear bikinis all the time to come to the beach, but now I’m a little ashamed of the stretch marks my pregnancy left on my belly, and I put on more clothes on top of the bikini to disguise that."
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Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
Liuva, 35

“For me, coming to the beach is more about having a good time, and I don’t worry too much about how I look. The beach is a good place to get together and spend time with people you love. I’m here today with my sisters and my grandmother.”
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Photographed by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images.
Yudisleydis, 23, Cigar Factory Worker

“What I like is dressing in matching colors, no matter if it’s to go to the beach or somewhere else. Also, the beach is the place where I get to show off my belly button ring while in my bikini. I’ve had it for five years now, and I love it.”
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