One amazing thing being in the Caribbean, is seeing the vibrant cultures of the African diaspora in one place. I spent 6 days in Havana, Cuba and loved seeing how a different part of the diaspora interacted and formed it’s culture. I kind of played a game in my head and tried to guess if a person was Black American, African, and Caribbean. Often times I would be so sure of myself and then two seconds later the person would be speaking Spanish! If there’s anything that’s certain, it’s that while we have lots of distinctive cultural differences, the only thing that separates us is a boat ride.
One distinctive attribute I came to notice was with hairstyles. I could often determine if someone was African American by their hair! When I walked through the streets of Havana, I saw people’s eyes glanced at my hair first and then to my face and smile. I received lots of compliments on my hair with widened eyes and excitement. I came to find out through an Afro Cuban Culture tour that as more African Americans were coming to Cuba as tourists, Cubans there became inspired to where their natural hair and become more accepting of their black features. The culture tour creator gave a little more history about hair and beauty in Cuba and shed light on the fact that it’s often more difficult to find products specifically for type 4 hair in Cuba and to manage their hair easily, lots of people relax their hair. Once tourism became open to Americans, they got more exposure to natural hair and the possibilities of styles through that.
African American hairstyles tend to be more intricate and vibrant as I noticed through the different hairstyles. Colored hair, extremely long braids, tapered cuts, geometrically shaped cuts and braiding patterns, gold cuffs, and big hair were key signs that African American hair styles had a flavor of it’s own. I never really thought about that but I smiled to myself at the creativity that we are known for.
With more information that I learned about hair in Cuba, I became more aware of the styles around me. I could see more afros trickled around the streets in Havana. I love that through travel, we as a diaspora can share and exchange our cultures with each other in a positive way.