Monday, July 30, 2007

Day to day...

Cubans concern themselves with what to eat, where to get the food and how to pay for it. Each family gets a "libreta" --a ration book that allows each family a certain amount of items i.e. rice, beans, coffee, sugar...the libreta amount of food and staples tends to last an average of 10 days. So what does one do for the other 20 days?
A percentage of the population have $$ coming on from family abroad...but a greater percentage don't have that luxury and survive in a variety of ways. Some will steal items from their jobs to sell later...quite often I as a foreigner will encounter someone trying to sell me cigars...those cigars are usually taken by one working in a cigar factory...or they take pieces of tobacco and assemble them at may sell eggs at work and take one or two a day and this will feed their child breakfast on a regular basis.
Due to the aging water system, old plumbing in old buildings, many places don't have a consistent source of clean water...enterprising young men will take a 55 gallon drum..attach wheels to it and sell water in a neighborhood...of course for a couple of dollars. Then there are those that will sell their bodies to make ends meet...Cubans will find a way to make ends meet.
These women were standing in line one day outside of a store...but it's their mirrored stance one unaware of the other patiently waiting to ... wait.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Don't complain about doing the laundry...

There is a patio just outside the door to the very well known paladar in La Habana called "La Guarida" that has a wonderful view and one day after lunch...I looked down...

In a small round tin pot is a bar of soap...not sure what it is made of but it's very hard...on the right side of this image are two 50 gallon drums that hold water. Running water in La Habana is a rarity. I bet a manicurist does very well here...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Sometimes color gets the best of me and this image is all about color...and the word Volveran...this word meaning "return" refers to the 5 "heroes" or "spies" depending on your point of view that are in prison here in the States for spying.
What grabbed me about this moment was the color of the bowl that she is carrying in relation to the color on the metal gate...

Shoes and a shine...

Shoes we would normally toss or give to Goodwill are repaired/refurbished and sold to walk the streets of La Habana again. Cubans are meticulous dressers and very clean...their appearance is of the utmost importance and it's rare to see a shirt unpressed or a pair of dirty shoes.

The Marvel

Nine years ago I stood in front of this building in Habana Vieja... first the sign caught my eye and then observing the balcony, I noticed the old lady swaying in the window back and forth with the baby in her arms. She was aware that I was shooting and started to fix her hair as if prepping for a portrait. I kept waiting for both child and woman to be in a position to capture both...remember they were swaying. I wonder is she still alive today...the child fast approaching his tenth birthday...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Gracias Amelia

In the Cementario Colon in La Habana is a very popular grave of La Milagrosa (The Miraculous One). The story goes that when Amelia Goyri de la Hoz died in childbirth in 1901, she was buried with her stillborn daughter placed at her feet. When the tomb was opened a few years later, the baby was found in her arms. Amelia is now considered the protector of pregnant women and newborn children. Pilgrims paying homage must not turn their backs to the tomb upon leaving.

Surrounding the grave are many small "notes" on wood and marble...this one says it all:
"Thank You Amelia, For taking my children Osiel and Rosemary from this country"

Conversations with my wife...

My wife returned the other day from we began the conversations that we cannot have over the phone for concern that all conversations are listened to.
Being pregnant, she arranged to buy milk...not in the store...but from the source, a farmer with a cow, at the risk of losing the cow. He's required to sell the milk to the "state" who in turn sells it to the the past children seven and under were entitled to milk but even in the store there is no least in the Holguin Province of Cuba.

In the city of Holguin, the farmer's market that was near the stadium has's said that due to the higher taxes the State tried to impose on the farmer...they have gone with "el mercado negro" selling produce on the black market. The more the State tries to impose in the business and tax the farmers...the bigger the black market becomes.

This image was taken in La Habana at the mercado "Cuatro Caminos" I chose this image because in conversation...onions that were selling for a small bag of maybe 5-6 for 3 pesos are now selling for 3 pesos for one.
How does this system maintain food for 11 million people? Imaginate...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Patria o Muerte




Monday, July 16, 2007

El Caballero de los Platanos

Color or B/W? In 11 years of shooting in Cuba it has only been B/W...but I had trouble attaining the film that I had always used on these trips. So I decided to shoot digitally knowing that with a RAW 12mb file I could get great B/W out of it. So here's both versions...what do you think?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Innocence

Children always amaze me with their vision, honesty, ability to adapt and improvise. I have seen spinning "tops", kickboards made with wood and skate wheels, baseball played with the leg of a chair and a ball made of "I'm not sure" There are no toy stores in least nothing accesible and available to the average Cuban. So as I stroll through Cuba, I see kids everywhere playing, going to school, just being kids.

This photograph was taken on my usual walk along the "Malecon" (the fabled stretch of road that curves along the coast in La Habana) It's like they were just waiting there with this painting in the background. But what really captures my thoughts is the children represent a cross section of race in Cuban society.

"El manisero" The Peanut Vendor

Maní, maní, maní…
Si te quieres por el pico divertir,
Cómprame un cucuruchito de maní.
El manisero se va, el manisero se va.
Me voy, te digo que me voy…

The arrangement of El Manisero by a Jewish emigrant to Cuba, Moisés Simmons [1] was recorded by a popular Cuban singer Rita Montaner in Havana in 1928. In 1930 the adaptation of Montaner’s version was recorded in New York by Don Azpiazu and his Havana Casino orchestra, sung by Antonio Machín[2]. It was featured in the Hollywood film The Cuban Love Song (1931) and quickly picked by a dozen other orchestras in the United States and Europe. The song was a top hit on the record in 1931. (Compilments of Wikipedia)

This image was taken in Holguin, a city located in Eastern Cuba. The metal box in front of him keeps the peanuts, wrapped in paper shaped like a cone, warm. There's a smaller circular container below the main box. This is the source of the heat. He just sat there and allowed me to photograph him...I bought several of these and they are quite good...especially the last one that always seems to get stuck on the very bottom of the cone.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy July 4th!

After two days in a Cuban strip search…and 4 separate interrogations (more later) it’s a very good July 4th…value your freedom and pray for those in the world that are not free!

Happy Anniversary?

If I were to visit this produce market today it would not look like this.

This market existed in Barrio Chino in Central Havana. Quietly I entered this market, camera by my side, just observing, sensing the image. I love faces, and in all the books in regards to Cuba…I see faces but there of a happy people holding a lobster, sunning at the beach, just living in a paradise that in all reality does not exist for the Cuban people.

I have no idea how many pesos she had on her but I sense that she was trying to stretch them to buy what would feed her family the longest. Her shirt…St.Tropez…Montecarlo... places she’ll never experience…purchased at a government store selling donated clothing meant to be given to the Cubans.

The sign in the background used repeatedly with each anniversary of the “revolution” erased and written in with the appropriate number…like a beaten wife that contemplates the day it will all end…stills say: I love you...
Oh...the market still exist...newer stalls made of metal...and higher taxes.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Ojitos inocente

As is my custom, I walk the streets of La Habana slowly, looking forward, back...up and down. One day I entered an apartment building observing, listening quietly. I climbed the center stairs and this is what I saw...innocent eyes...I got one shot off and she was gone. I could hear her crying and next thing she pops out on the hip of her madre...

Vamos a jugar domino!

Walk the streets of Cuba late in the afternoon and you will eventually run into a game of dominoes. So many times I would encounter a game, document the experience and be disappointed with the results...but with this image I knew that it captured the game that I had so many times witnessed.

Walking in Regla, a town across the bay from La Habana, I came across another "juego" and lamented in my head the perfect image that would express the game. A little voice inside my head told me to look up and there was this little "viejita" looking down on the game and me. I expressed an interest to see the game from her balcony and she invited me up.

What you see is what I saw...un juego de domino!

An island…

This image so represents Cuba to me. The rowboat is surrounded by water…there is but one fish in the front and it’s a kingfish(Fidel)…in the back of the boat are many small fish (the Cuban people)…the men fishing are looking back towards the light(the promise of what the Revolution meant to so many Cubans in 1959)…the past… as they drift into the darkness ( the disillusion of what is) and an unknown future.

Ofelia is Cuba!

I see pride, dignity and perseverance in spite of the difficulties of living in Cuba.

Ofelia gets up every morning, dresses, has her café cubano and some bread. As she leaves her home, a wooden shack on the rooftop of a six story walkup, she locks her door with a chain and padlock and walks down the steps to the street. On her way to either Cathedral Square or Plaza de Armas, she will secure a flower to decorate her headdress.

When I met Ofelia she was sitting outside of La Bodeguita del Medio on Calle Empedrado. This is one of the most famous Cuban restaurants in the world. In this tiny space, with hardly enough room to move, the walls are covered with the signatures of luminaries like Nat King Cole, Brigitte Bardot and Errol Flynn, just to name a few.

As I attempted to photograph her, her fingered wagged in front of her face and declared “take picture…one dollar” I agreed and took several images to which she commented “one picture…one dollar”. I had to laugh and gave her a dollar. This picture was taken in July of 1996, I visited her this past January 2007, she was getting ready for the cameras…

* A side note: In my many conversations with her…she would often preface her statement with the word “imaginate” translated “imagine it”. This always stuck with me as I tried to “imagine” what life was like, how the Cuban people managed to “resolver’ their day to day issues.