Lonely Planet Writer

New museum exhibit shows off vintage travel ads enticing Americans to visit Cuba

For the first time in decades, the US has loosened travel restrictions that kept its citizens from visiting Cuba. But before the two nations suffered strained relations, Americans tourists travelled to the Caribbean island to enjoy “rum, rumba, and a glamorous nightlife”, according to the Wolfsonian-FIU museum.

Brochure, Come to Cuba: The Loveliest Land That Human Eyes Have Ever Seen, c. 1950 Conrado Walter Massaguer (Cuban, 1889–1965), illustrator Cuban National Tourist Commission, publisher
Brochure, Come to Cuba: The Loveliest Land That Human Eyes Have Ever Seen, c. 1950
Conrado Walter Massaguer (Cuban, 1889–1965), illustrator
Cuban National Tourist Commission, publisher
Image by The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Vicki Gold Levi Collection

Rare photographs, advertisements and posters from pre-1959 Cuba will be on display at the Wolfsonian-Florida International University museum starting on 6 May.

Book, Cuba, Ideal Vacation Land: Tour Guide, 1951–52 Cuban Tourist Commission, publisher Offset lithograph
Book, Cuba, Ideal Vacation Land: Tour Guide, 1951–52
Cuban Tourist Commission, publisher
Offset lithograph
Image by The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Vicki Gold Levi Collection

The exhibit, entitled Promising Paradise: Cuban Allure, American Seduction, “explores how Americans and Cubans shaped perceptions of one another through print media, film, and music in the early to mid-20th century”.

Menu, Sans Souci Restaurant Garden, Havana, c. 1950 Ucar, Garcia y Cia, Havana, Cuba, publisher Offset lithograph
Menu, Sans Souci Restaurant Garden, Havana, c. 1950
Ucar, Garcia y Cia, Havana, Cuba, publisher
Offset lithograph
Image by The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Vicki Gold Levi Collection

America has recently relaxed its limitations on travel to Cuba, which have been in place since the 1960s.

Program, Showtime at Tropicana, c. 1955 Offset lithograph
Program, Showtime at Tropicana, c. 1955
Offset lithograph
Image by The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Vicki Gold Levi Collection

The exhibit will focus on products of the tourist trade from a time before the travel ban, such as brochures and posters. According to the Wolfsonian, the travel materials framed Cuba as “an escape for wealthy Americans from the bounds of Prohibition, Depression-era economic woes, and wartime rationing”. Many of the images also speak to historic issues of race and gender in representing ideas of the tropics, according to the museum.

Poster, Holiday in Havana, c. 1949 National Screen Service Corporation, publisher Offset lithograph
Poster, Holiday in Havana, c. 1949
National Screen Service Corporation, publisher
Offset lithograph
Image by The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Vicki Gold Levi Collection

Many of the images are on display to the public for the first time.