Cuba is emerging from over 50 years of isolation, opening its doors to the US. As the two nations recently reestablished diplomatic relations, tourists can now visit the island without breaking the law, thanks to the removal of travel restrictions. To mark President Obama’s visit to the country, New York Times has published a fascinating photo essay which paints the portrait of a nation in a slow yet unstoppable transformation. Seen through these powerful images, Cuba is defined by contrasts. Destruction and decay are balanced by warmth and a lively spirit. On the streets of Havana, retro cars in vibrant colors create a surreal feeling of looking back in time. The countryside reveals overgrown vegetation in picturesque and lush landscapes. Buildings with facades that are almost in ruin hide colorfully decorated and proudly maintained apartments. The past is celebrated and very much alive, yet the people look towards the future, preparing for the change that is awaited with optimism. Tourism has been a major source of revenue for the country ever since the 90s, but with the US tourists now allowed to visit legally, it is expected to grow significantly. Visitors will find both open doors and open hearts here, as the Cuban spirit preserves a remarkable openness which has been lost in many parts of the Western world. Photography by the New York Times.