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Category Archives: Cuba

Fidel

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Fidel and Ceausescu

When traveling in Cuba you see few of Fidel’s pictures, except some dusted posters that somehow defy time or billboards that  encourage the technical development passed in front by horse drawn carriages. The pictures and slogans look to be the realm of the dead heroes, mostly dedicated to Che Guevara who is the symbol of “The Revolution”, their revolution of stale ideas and principles taken from history books covered in Caribbean mildew of the last 50 years ago. Che is the spirit and the romance, the courage and the boldness, the spirit of justice, all encompassed in the slogan  “Let’s be all like Che”. In comparison with the romantic, (and the extremely dogmatic and murderous) Che, Fidel was the incarnation of the bureaucracy of the revolution, the one who had to deliver the undeliverable, the one who had to make it happen but whose resilience and longevity in face of the isolation and numerous assassination attempts got accolades even from his enemies. However while you walk the streets of Havana or other cities of Cuba the failure of the revolutionary project is obvious in the mind of the people you encounter who are not shy to tell you want they think. I lived under a similar regime, during Ceausescu’s Romania, and I felt so close to these people and their life experience and I thought of gathering all their stories in a book. Here are several passages.

““What do you think? That we will do the same in Cuba like you did to Ceausescu in Romania?” My friend was startled. The official’s berating came out of the blue, nothing that she said calling for it; just because he heard that she was caring a Romanian passport. She was in a tour organized by Harvard in Cuba during an MBA program, just several years after the special period ended; time of starvation and suffering; time of forced changes and uncertainty. Many times I thought that the brief execution of the Romanian dictator gave chills on the spine to many like him. They shared a dream that they could not deliver and became a nightmare for all who lived it. But they were stubborn and did not want to change it. In their villas, closed circuit stores, vacation chalets, surrounded by their sycophants everything was fine; the social experiment was successful even if it may encounter some hurdles on the way. Yes, of course, people may suffer and die in the process but nothing ever could be done without sacrifices; always the others’ sacrifices.”
……
“The priest was sitting on the bench waiting to give benediction to children and adults before the mass. I went and sat near him on the bench and asked him a question about the relationship between the Catholic Church and Santeria…The discussion changed course and it took me completely by surprise.

“…Everybody is welcomed to the church and we expect the entire village to come. No matter what cult they practice, no matter that they are Marxists, atheistic, white, black, mulato, they all should congregate in the church because this is heart of their pueblo. This is of utmost importance to have people return to the church”.

But how the Communist state sees the church influence? Do they help in any way?

“Actually not only that they do not help but they boycott it as much as they can. They never ever helped. What happened in the last 50 years was barbaric. For 50 continuous years they erased from people’s mind any concept of moral values. For 50 years they brainwashed our children in believing their ideology, their discourses devoid of any worthy ideas. For 50 years they taught the children that 4 X 4 is 16 but they never talked about the value of a human being and what it represents for the society. This degraded the society and rips into its moral structure.”

“But father, the changes are inerrant. The society would change. A younger generation would take over and change things in a foreseeable future”

“We need a major change in the society but don’t be so optimistic about a new generation. The gerontocracy that rules Cuba is terrified of change. They know that a new generation would adapt to the new realities of the world and this is the reason that the ones promoted at higher levels are all old people, rooting from the same stale ideas of the failed revolution. To rule a society you always have to adapt your ideas and the Marxists never had new ideas. You watch TV and there are no ideas just empty slogans that don’t go anywhere.”

“How can you trust a society where the garbage man has the same salary as the doctor? How can make the doctor to study hard and become a very good doctor and help people if he is paid the same. Are the needs of the doctor and the garbage man the same? This is fantasy.”

“And Obama’s visit?”

“Why is your president coming here?; To play ball with the dictator? Hardly any changes would happen; the state will peddle the same platitudes afraid that any change would dis-empower the ruling class. When Gorbachev came here in the middle of Perestroika absolutely nothing happened. He came and went and Cuba did not change a bit. What Obama can do? “….

“But the people can help. They can come with ideas that put pressure and bring some change. Isn’t it?”

“Actually this may not happen, at least for the regular guys. The major problem in Cuba is that people are extremely poor. Their entire life is spent looking for food. For 50 years the Communists transformed a population in food foragers during crisis after crisis. You cannot have any ideas when you run around all day to get food to put on the table for your children. People are like under anesthesia thinking only from one day to another if they can get some money to eat. There are 50 years…”

This “50 years” mantra is like a national obsession. The same “50 years” trumpeted by the Communist as a major achievement I heard it repeated like a curse by so many regular people: ”There are 50 years and I lived all of them under this regime.” told me with chagrin one my hosts in Havana.”
…..
(Excerpts from the book “Between Ceausescu and Fidel” by FlyingMonk)

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Antonio Rodriguez Fuster’s mural depicting Fidel, Che and Camillo on the Granma yacht, Jaimanitas, Havana

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Posted by on November 26, 2016 in Blog, Cuba

 

Life in Cuba

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Havana, Cuba

We published a last album of frames from the last shoot in Cuba that tries to capture life as it happens on the streets of the many cities of the island. A life of contrasts, a joyful life of lacks and needs but more alive and present than many lives in the western world. US and Cuba are two faces of the same coins;

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Malecon, Havana, Cuba

if you come from New York you are used with the insane competition that makes the city sizzle. It’s such a natural state of things that you may not even notice it when you live in the Big Apple. As one friend pointed out, even the line ”work hard, play hard” points to the obsession that even when you play or relax you just have to win.

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Checking the internet on Parc Fe de valle, Havana, Cuba

This competitive hysteria is completely unknown in Cuba where everybody chills under the watchful eyes of the Communist Party. The dance and music or just sitting and watching the street is the norm and work is happening only as a chore when you really need something to eat and not as a way of living as Americans do. So sit back and relax, have a mojito and be carried away by the flow. When you return and see how New York runs non-stop, you may reconsider your life….

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El Rincon, Havana, Cuba

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2016 in Blog, Cuba

 

Cuban cigars

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Vinales, Cuba

We published an albums of frames from the shoot in the western province of Cuba , Pinar del Rio.The most picturesque area of the province is Vinales , with plenty of tobacco plantations, still in full operation, a state monopoly now, that waits to be able to be exported to the American markets when the embargo will end. The campesinos work the same hard labor but now they do it for the communists.

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2016 in Blog, Cuba

 

Around Havana

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Havana’s Capitolio in permanent renovation

We posted an album of frames from the shoot we did this spring in Havana. The city is alive and is a magnet with its streets full of live, music and dance. But if you leave the center populated now by more and more tourists you can discover a world of enchantment in its suburbs. Take a colectivo and end up in any neighborhood of Havana and you’ll find how life really goes in the Cuban capital.

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Fusterlandia, Havana, Cuba

Fusterlandia is a project developed by a famous Cuban artist Jose Fuster, who created chromatic designs on the gates of the streets around the place he inhabits. A sort of Gaudi meeting Picasso, his work is spell-bounding in its complexity and eye catching combinations.

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Sidewalk line to enter Copellia ice cream parlor, Havana

Taxi colectivo, a sort of “Lyft” before Silicon Valley was even invented, go in all the neighborhoods, so hail a 1957 Chevy and jump with the locals and end up in Hemingway’s Villa or in San Lazaro Sanctuary or around Marina Hemigway or in Playa del Este. And in so many other places….

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Blog, Cuba

 

Baracoa, Cuba

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Yumuri Canyon, Baracoa, Cuba

We posted an albums of frames from the last shoot on Cuba’s most eastern point that is Baracoa, another 5 hours by bus from Santiago. A town that for sure has such an insignificant architecture that you may skip it easily if you follow the book. However Baracoa is by far the most charming place in Cuba, a place where most of the travelers plan to stay a day or two but end up staying at least a week. The relaxed atmosphere, the friendly small town center and the plethora of trips around the town through villages and national parks crisscrossed by 27 rivers, make Baracoa the place not to be missed in any foray of the island. A stroll of its unassuming by absolutely charming Malecon by night is maybe the most peaceful experience you may have in Cuba.

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Baracoa’s Malecon

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Blog, Cuba

 

Santiago de Cuba

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Calle Jose Antonio Saco, Santiago de Cuba

We posted an album of frames from the shoot we did in February-March in Santiago de Cuba. It was the first shoot we did in Oriente, the famous rebellious province of Cuba in an atmosphere imbibed with music and traditional dances. It takes many hours by riding a Chinese bus to get there from Havana if you are adamant in avoiding to fly the Russian planes. there, you’ll find a city with an even more relaxed atmosphere than on the western side of the island where an extensive band gathered in weekends in Parque Cespedes, the main square of the town, playing classical music.
Just a ride outside the city is the most important religious sanctuary of the country dedicated to the patron saint of the island, Caridad de Cobre and another short ride from there the impeccably restored fortress that opposed pirates for centuries, Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca raises its impressive walls from the blue waters of the ocean.

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Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, Santiago de Cuba

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Blog, Cuba

 

Between two beaches: From Playa Larga to Matanza

We uploaded an album of frames from the shoot we did in Playa Larga and Matanza in Cuba.

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Playa Larga

Playa Larga’s location is on the southern side of the island, close to the infamous Playa Giron, known better as the Bay of Pigs, the place of the failed American invasion of Cuba in 1961. Now all these beaches are resorts, only the remindings of the old events are in a local historical museum, still in renovation. Playa Larga is a laid back place with restaurants on the beach and old colorful fishermen boats floating in the bay. It’s a far cry from the northern Caribbean resorts of Varadero and Cayo Coco and this is what gives Playa Larga an unforgettable charm, a place that the coming development may soon change. For now is just a village by the ocean with palm trees on the beach, small terraces where you can sip a mojito and small houses where you can stay overnight.

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Parque de la Libertad, Matanza

From Playa Larga I was able to hop a bus, the only one stopping in the day, and stopped in Matanza, a city full of culture that is nicknamed the Athens of Cuba by the large number of scholars who lived there. In spite of its derelict buildings the architecture of the center part of the town is impressive. It has the largest old pharmacy in Cuba, converted in Museo de Pharmacia, la Botica Triolet caring the name of the French pharmacist who established a chain of these stores in Cuba.

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Varadero

Close by from Matanza is Varadero. We shot there the past year and we were not impressed at all. Just a strip of hotels and resorts, huge and impersonal, like anywhere else in the world, with nothing of Cuba in them, that end up in a gigantic and completely empty marina waiting for the American yachts to come. The disappointment was at its highest and if I did not rent the room for the night I would have left the place after 3 hours.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2016 in Blog, Cuba