Community Project

“This is a rough neighborhood”

“You shouldn’t be here with a camera”

“Be careful around here”

These are some of the warnings I got from the friendly Cubans I passed while exploring the neighborhood near the Havana train station.

This particular morning I had my Cuban photographer friend Luis Diaz with me. He seemed concerned with our safety, so I made an effort to be extra observant. We continued to explore and happened upon a street where there was a community effort to beautify the neighborhood.

I’m happy that we were not scared off.










Mucha Construcción

I’m often asked: Is it changing?

Hell yeah!

In Habana Vieja and Centro Habana there are many ongoing construction projects, including building new hotels and refurbishing or rebuilding old hotels.

For the past year there has been a concerted effort to upgrade the electric service by removing the wires from sidewalks and them placing underground. Also the water lines are being replaced with new plastic pipe.





As a side note: There is no water pressure in the homes as we know it. The water is supplied to the streets by the government. The people then have to pump the water to cisterns or plastic tanks on the roofs of their buildings. From here it is gravity fed to kitchens and baths in people’s apartments.

Of course the haphazard trench digging down the middle of heavily used streets creates problems. Garbage cannot be collected and people have  nowhere to safely walk.




I did find some children who were having a good time though. They were playing in some fresh, clean sand used to bury the lines.




A Body In The Kelp

I heard the sirens and saw the crowd gathering. Several police and fire vehicles arrived and were followed by unmarked government cars. I walked quickly along the Malecón toward the action. As I approached, I realized that officials were not in any particular hurry. I wiggled my way up to the seawall and soon discovered that there was a body washed up on the rocks. As I observed the authorities drag the body out to rendezvous with a patrol boat, I noticed how quiet and somber the crowd was. This festive horde of rum drinkers and dancers stood by with real concern on their faces.
What were they thinking? I imagined that they were wondering if the poor dead man drown while trying to escape from the island. Perhaps he was washed overboard from some make-shift raft. Perhaps he was shot by a military patrol.
I think it was a stark reminder to all about where and how they are forced to live.









Window Seat

I’m always watching. Watching people. Watching traffic. Watching life go by. That’s why I prefer a window seat when I fly, ride, or sit for a quick lunch; as I was in this case.

While I waited for my sandwich this poor woman on the sidewalk came up and touched my arm. She wanted money for food. Lots of people need money for food in Havana. I politely said no several times, but she wouldn’t leave. She kept pleading to me with her eyes. Of course, I gave in.

Kilometro Zero is one of my new favorite lunch stops in Havana. Good food, good prices, and if you are lucky, a window seat.



Getting Caught

Sometimes the shot jumps out at you and you have to react quickly. You compose and shoot without conversation because you know it won’t last. After a burst of 3, 4, or 5 shots you look at your camera to see if you can refine the image. It’s then that you realize that you got caught. Caught in the act of capturing someone’s daily life.  Most of the time they put up with it. Sometimes they flash you a smile or a Cuban two-fingered salute.  Once in a while they yell, wave you off, demand money, or simply disappear. In those cases, I’ll try to make amends with small talk, gifts, or a CUC.

I love photographing in Havana. I get away with a lot.

_84A0402a_b_c_fused copy

The approach.

_84A0406a copy

Caught – the wave off.

_84A0408a_b_c_d_fused copy

After appeasement.

_84A2665 copy


_84A2666 copy

Caught, but ……..

_84A2667 copy

a smile.

_MG_0684 copy

Caught – Cuban with a big knife.

_MG_0685 copy

…. and a smile,

_MG_0687 copy

so I approach …. (he’s still smiling)

_MG_0547 copy

Caught – two-fingered salute.

_MG_9297 copy

Caught – with a handful.

A Visit to a Cuban Hospital


My landlady and friend Barbara Rosales was suffering from abdominal pain for days. Finally, her husband took her to the hospital where she was admitted for appendicitis. Unfortunately her appendix had already burst and she had to spend five days in the hospital after the surgery. On the third day I was invited to visit with her husband and son. I wanted photos, but I was sure that my camera would not be allowed into the building so I borrowed a cell phone. Because I read a lot, I was not surprised by what I saw. The building itself was in dis-repair, although it appeared as if work was in progress. After a very long wait for the elevator we arrived at the recovery ward, three rooms lined with beds. Initial impressions: old, understaffed, dirty, nurses not in uniform, and of course no privacy. This was definitely not the much vaunted model of socialist free healthcare that most are led to believe exists throughout the country.

To be fair, this was a very small neighborhood hospital, but I was assured that most hospitals for Cubans are similar and some are worse.

IMG_20160723_151546 copy

Drinking water in used soda bottles.

IMG_20160723_151634 copy

Nurse’s station

IMG_20160723_151732 copy

Guests wander everywhere.

IMG_20160723_151814 copy

Ward 1

IMG_20160723_152023 copy

Another ward through the doorway.

IMG_20160723_152536 copy

Barbara’s son helping her to move.

IMG_20160723_152729 copy

Barbara’s husband trying to make her more comfortable.

IMG_20160723_153211 copy

The next bed. Note the pillow.

IMG_20160723_153936_5CS copy

The floor was filthy.

IMG_20160723_154140 copy

Barbara’s husband looking for an outlet with power inside the nurse’s station.

IMG_20160723_154319 copy

IMG_20160723_154520 copy

2nd floor area open to the sky.


IMG_20160723_154559 copy

2nd floor hallway

IMG_20160723_154649 copy

Two elevators (only one worked)

IMG_20160723_154729 copy

2nd floor area open to the sky

IMG_20160723_155059 copy

The stairway.

IMG_20160723_155447 copy

Outside in the entrance way.

IMG_20160723_155503 copy

Outside the entrance.

Hitching A Ride

I like to observe people.

Often times what they do and how they do it can be entertaining.

For Cubans, hailing a cab is more like hitching a ride in the U.S. The taxis have routes that they drive all day long, So if one stops, you first have to ask if it’s going past where you want to go.
Instead of putting out a thumb, the favored method seems to be variations of finger waving.


_84A4181 copy

One Finger Up. (optimist )

_84A4241 copy

One finger down. (tired )

_84A4244 copy

One finger hidden. ( gift offering ? )

_84A4205 copy

Two fingers horizontal. ( confident )

_84A4211 copy

The peace sign.

_84A4216.TIFa copy

Four fingers horizontal. ( testing one’s nerves )

_84A4231 copy

Four fingers vertical. ( the lazy method )

_84A4175 copy

Two and Two. ( not easy, obviously a pro )

_84A4235 copy


Cuba 2014