All posts by mstevensphotography

A Success Story – Part 1

It’s time to tell this story.

Fellow travelers and friends Kate, Pam and I met Tayluma in  January 2015 in Trinidad, Cuba.

She returned my wave when we were passing by her house so we stopped and she invited us in. She proceeded to give us an earful.

Cubans can get in trouble for being too friendly with tourists, especially inviting them into their homes, so it was a shock when she unloaded on us.

She was upset and crying, but fighting for her children. ” I don’t care who knows. My children should not have to live like this.”

She showed us everything:

Leaking roof

A toilet and a hole in the ground for a bathroom.

Empty refrigerator

Electric bill in arrears

The two girls were sleeping in one bed, feet to feet, with clothes piled up to make the mattress long enough.

Kitchen that was not sanitary.

Bad Wiring

Storing water to “flush” the toilet.

The children were precious. Well behaved, quiet, and intelligent.

I shed tears as we walked away and vowed to try to help.

The next day we returned with a fellow traveler to translate for us.

I brought a bag of bread and cookies that I was able to sneak out of the hotel breakfast buffet.

We photographed and listen to her story:

Her husband moved them into this house to take care of his dying uncle. When the uncle passed, the husband left town and Tayluma was left alone with her two girls and the house.

The immediate concern was the electric bill and a roof that leaked for about half the length of the house.

The problem was that our tour was leaving the next day.

We left her with money for the electricity and food.

I was able to establish e-mail contact with Tayluma. It was a dial-up connection and not very reliable and she had to walk to the internet business, rent a computer one for one cuc/ hr. and learn how to use it. Finally she emailed me. It was her lifeline.

I got all her information and set her with up an AIS debit card account.  We were then able to transfer money to her. At least we could keep the lights on and food in the house.

Part two – We repair the roof.


Thanks Canon

My Cuban “daughter” Sussy asked me if I could help her. She needed photos of a new casa particular that she was working for. Sussy was taking care of on-line reservations for the owner and they had no photos after the restoration. The owner was paying, so of course I said yes, but Sussy was to keep the money.

Shortly there after I realized that I had just accepted a JOB and I had no computer and no software to work with.

These would be difficult exposures with a lot of light coming through windows and doors. What would I do?

After a lot of thought, I remembered that my Canon 6D had an automatic HDR mode. I could make three exposures of each subject and the camera would combine all three for a better image.

The problem was that I had never used this feature and I did not realize (for quite a while) that it only worked while shooting JPEG images. Once I had the camera set up, it was quick work to make some quality shots.

I got the owner to pose for a few portraits too. This helped Sussy with the sale.

Thanks Canon.




Libetsy is a precocious three-year old. She is the daughter of Yoel’s brother Tatico and his wife Aymara and live on the family farm outside of San Jose de Las Lajas.

On my last visit I brought for her an old trac phone. It does not function as a phone in Cuba, but it does hold music and games. Now she wouldn’t have to play with her father’s phone.

It also has a camera!

Didn’t she feel special taking photos of everyone!

She will steal your heart.


I’ve known this young man’s mother and family for four years. I’ve watched him grow from an out-of-control hellion  to a calmer and more well behaved boy. Perhaps it’s the Karate lessons he has been taking lately that have him more disciplined. For his 7th birthday I promised I would bring him a uniform. He was thrilled when I visited last month.

 note: The age of seven is when the Cuban government cuts off the children’s milk subsidy. Now his mother has to pay full price for a bag of powdered milk.


Where they live:


No Thanksgiving In Cuba

I received an email this Thanksgiving morning from a friend in Cuba.

“Buenos dias amigo.
Estoy muy contenta por usted ,sus colegas ,amigos ,familia y por todos los ciudadanos de su pais ,dios los bendiga a todos .
Aqui no tenemos estas oportunidades y esas tradiciones no existen ,eso aqui no se conoce .
Bueno me alegro mucho por usted que este bien y dibiertase y coma por mi y las niñas .
Ya quisieramos estar alli para comer los postres y el pavo relleno .
Un beso grande a todos los amigos .”

From Google translate:

“Good morning friend.
I am very happy for you, your colleagues, friends, family and for all the citizens of your country, God bless you all.
Here we do not have these opportunities and those traditions do not exist, that is not known here.
Well, I’m very happy for you to be well and talk and eat for me and the girls.
We would like to be there to eat the desserts and stuffed turkey.
A big kiss to all the friends.”


I am often overwhelmed with emotion when I realize how difficult it is for some Cubans to just provide basic food and shelter for themselves. It’s always something.

In August of this year there was a shortage of eggs. In October there was a shortage of sugar. Now there is a shortage of flour.

Sixty years after the revolution the country cannot even feed its own people.


Kids still play marbles in Havana.

When it started to rain I ducked into the restaurant La Algarabia on the corner of Neptuno and Escobar.  I sat at a table on the Escobar side and had an open view of the boys in action. I photographed while enjoying a great plate of Arroz Frito.

Here they are using a manhole cover as a goal, with the concentric rings used to keep score.

One marble rolled into the outer ring earns one marble from the boy taking the action. One marble in the second ring earns two. One in the center earns three.

They take turns “taking the action”.

Of course there is always an argument about something.

Santa Cruz Del Norte

Early one October morning, Romnis (Meet Romnis: and I traveled to Santa Cruz del Norte to explore and photograph.

Santa Cruz del Norte is a small fishing village on the North shore of Cuba about 50 km east of Havana. The first view was of the power plant just outside the town.

Our goal was to get into the marina and photograph the old wooden boats, but the guard was not in the mood to grant us access. Perhaps another day. We set out to explore the rest of the town.

This cozy little beach near the mouth of the river was not very inviting.

The trash problem exists everywhere.

(Down By The River –

Breakfast – Pan con tortilla, jamon, y queso.

People are busy, but as friendly as ever.

This man waved me over to watch the butchering of a pig. I didn’t stay long.

Some of the housing.

A definite Soviet influence.

It was recess when we passed the school.

Along the shoreline ….

more trash.

I imagine this was a sandy beach before hurricane Irma changed the landscape.

Abandoned discoteca. I suspect another casualty of Irma.

Well, not everyone was busy.

This man was selling his car.

…. and, the ever-present propaganda.