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Originally published Friday, March 22, 2013 at 10:01 AM

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Cuba: A dizzying blend all around

The U.S. government still strictly controls Americans' access, mostly by permitting only registered cultural/educational tours.

NWTraveler editor

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A LITTLE PIG gets a breath of fresh air, at least for a while, in a bike cart as its owner pedals through the back streets of Guantánamo, Cuba.

The Cuban city is best known for the nearby U.S. Navy base of Guantánamo Bay with its notorious prison for terrorist suspects. But the city is a thickly populated, hardscrabble home to about 250,000 people who, in the face of the tottering Cuban economy, find ingenious ways to make a living — like ferrying a pig home, where it will be fattened up for the food market.

As U.S.-Cuban relations slowly thaw, more American tourists are heading to Cuba, although the U.S. government, which has an economic embargo against the Caribbean island nation, still strictly controls Americans' access, mostly by permitting only registered cultural/educational tours.

Those who do get to Cuba will find a dizzying blend of decaying colonial buildings and rickety old American cars, hot sun and gleaming beaches, economic poverty and cultural wealth.

And, perhaps, a pig in a bike cart.

Kristin R. Jackson is The Seattle Times' NWTraveler editor. Contact her at kjackson@seattletimes.com.

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