Where They Live – Eriberto

Eriberto is 56 years old and works as a laborer. He earns the equivalent of about 14 USD/ month.

Eriberto and his wife live¬† in a space created by dividing Regla’s space horizontally and making two rooms out of one. To enter Eriberto’s home one has to climb stairs that look more like a ship’s ladder. The trick is to enter on your knees because the doorway is only one meter high. In fact, one has to start crawling even before reaching the top of the stairs.

The stairs.

Eriberto makes it look easy. It’s not.


The doorway.


The ceiling height is only about six feet.

Here one can see the top half of what used to be a huge window.

Well worn flooring.


Antique Singer.


Where They Live – Tanya and Michel

Tanya is 45 years old. She and Michel live next to Regla. Neither has a job. The only work in old Havana is in the tourist industry and one needs connections to get hired.


Michel lugs drinking water to the third floor for Tanya and some of their neighbors.

Their Kitchen area.


Some of their possessions.

A table and a bed.

Cheap cigarettes and cheap rum help pass the days.


Where They Live – Regla

Regla is 83 years old and lives alone.

The same broken and dirty marble staircase leads to her home a few doors away from Ondina.

Regla greets me at the door.

She lives in one room with no running water. The large blue barrel is filled with a hose at night when people pump water from the street. The water is used to bathe and to flush the toilet.

The kitchen does have a gas burner to cook on, but Regla has to pay the gas bill every month.

Everything she owns is in this one room.

One thing most cannot do without is a fan to keep the stagnant, sweltering air moving.

Where They Live – Ondina

This will be a series about where Cubans live. Not the well off. Not the hotel employees or the tourist taxi drivers. Not the waiters or waitresses in government restaurants.  Not the ruling class.
This will be about the average poor Cuban in the capital city of the island nation.

I seek out the poor because generally I find them more open and receptive and more willing to spend time with a stranger. Probably because they have nothing else to do; no job, no black-market business to run, nowhere to collect discarded bottles and cans, or no good location to sell shots of strong Cuban coffee in the late night or
early morning.

I also seek out the poor because they exemplify the failures of a repressive, dictatorial, state-run economy better than the ruling class government employees. Those who are able to cheat the system live better lives in better homes and in better neighborhoods. Remember, this is socialism where everyone is equal and no one is supposed to own more than the next person.

This series is also follow-up to a post titled “One Block Away”.

Find it here: http://wp.me/p4fUlX-is

The poor live in large marbled stair-cased buildings that were once hotels, nightclubs, restaurants or casinos.
Now the marble is broken and dirty. The roofs leak and any plumbing that still works is ancient. The once spacious rooms are cobbled into many compartments. Each filled with a lifetime of belongings, they are now called home.
With the predominant tall ceilings, rooms are often divided horizontally also.

In three buildings I was able to convince some of the occupants to let me photograph where they live.

I only had one woman decline.

This is “Where They Live”


A typical large building now divided up into living spaces.


Ondina is 92 years old and lives alone in a room on the third floor of her building.

Greeting me at the door. Note the seat where she sometimes sits.

One room with a bed, a table, and a refrigerator.

There is a bathroom, but no running water.

Note the drinking water stored in the large jugs. Neighbors help her by refilling the jugs and carrying them to the third floor.

There is also a loft/bedroom that is unoccupied.


Fun with balloons


Simple things can provide genuine enjoyment and funny moments.
Bring some balloons and make a big deal out of blowing them up. You know, the old Tom Sawyer and the fence white-washing scene. (You tell them they cannot possibly blow up these balloons and they will tell you that they can.) Soon you’ll have a crowd of children and some adults wanting to get in on the fun.


Easy start with his hat on.

Soon realizes the difficulty and loses his hat.

Expressions are priceless.

Confidence. “I got this”

The hat goes back on.

Husband and wife

Their son actually has an easier time.