Food is scarce in Cuba. It’s a function of Communism, central planning, and collectivization. The food that is available is not visually appealing. Fruits and vegetables are small, bruised, and appear to be unripe. They would never sell in the United States. Meat does appear fresh, but loses its appeal when seen hanging unwrapped and fly covered in the heat of the Cuban day. If the Cubans can afford food, they are happy to have whatever is available.
Some Cubans are able to sell a few food items out of their homes or from push carts.
Rice and grain are sold in bulk.
The rice must be picked over and cleaned.
Fresh pork with butcher in the background.
Her name is Regla (don’t forget to roll that “R”). Her husband is Thomas and their daughter is Caroline. They live in Trinidad, Cuba on the edge of the city, away from the tourist areas, away from the fresh paint being applied for the upcoming 500th anniversary of the city. Like most Cubans, they are dirt poor.
Regla speaks some English which is an asset in this tourist destination. She supplements her government allowance by working for a restaurant near the city center. She approaches tourists and attempts to steer them to a meal at La Cieba, for which she receives a commission. With her engaging personality she is easy to communicate with.
I know her from my previous trip to Trinidad in 2013. We had a jovial and boisterous conversation then. One member of our group made the remark about Caroline … “What a beautiful girl”. Without missing a beat Regla responded “like her mama”. We all laughed and repeated the phrase over and over again.
On this past trip I went to find Regla to give her some photos and give Caroline some gifts. When I found her and showed her the photos I said “just like her mama”. Her face lit up and we both laughed. I was amazed that she remembered our 2013 conversation and she was amazed that I remembered it as well.
It was another special moment.
A walk through the flea market in Trinidad led us to a very personable young Cuban selling a variety of wooden items. I was not interested in buying anything, but I did want to photograph him. He was quite a salesman, showed us a variety of items very quickly and smiled the whole time. He showed us a nice little wooden box that opened with a trick. Once I saw this I was now very interested. He ended up us selling three boxes, but not before we haggled a bit about the price.
I’m happy that he is not working at my local auto dealership.
Feigning interest and sizing up the buyers.
That’s my best price.
One morning in Havana I went alone to the roof of our hotel, the Parque Central. I’d been on this roof on this trip and on my previous trip to Cuba. I knew where the vantage points were. I had made panoramas from this roof before. I wasn’t overly excited about the opportunity because I doubted that I could improve on last years panoramas. What I had forgotten was what I tell people myself … “outdoors the light is different every day and every minute of every day”. When I got to the roof and saw the light, I knew I could make an image or two that I would be pleased with.
The first image was made looking east before the sun was over the horizon. The air had been still, hazy, and smoggy the evening before and it had not changed over night.
This is a six image stitched panorama with each image consisting of three different exposures. It would easily print about four feet long.
The second image was made looking west well after the sun was up, but because of the thin overcast and haze the light was very soft and warm.
This is an eight image stitched panorama. Again, each image consists of three different exposures. It would make a print over five feet in length.
In the quite mornings of Trinidad, Cuba the breadman makes his rounds. There are actually several breadmen. They walk, push home-made carts, or ride bicycles. Their routes criss-cross the narrow cobblestone streets. Their freshly baked breads are different and their calls are unique, but it usually includes one key phrase: “El Pan”. As clear as a bell you can hear them coming:
“Pan … aaayyyy … paaaannnnn!”
They take one finger, quickly slash it across their throat, and make a clicking sound. The sound is hard to describe, but the meaning is all too clear. Especially when it’s the answer to the question: “where’s your friend ?”
I went looking for two gentlemen I met in 2013. They used to hang out near Plaza Mayor in Trinidad, Cuba, smoking cigars, posing for tourists, and laughing at all the money they would earn. Armed with some 4×6 prints I had taken of them, it wasn’t difficult to get directions to where I could find them. It was difficult the first time I got “the slash”. I was graphically told that one of them had died only a few weeks ago. But, which one ?
When I found the gentleman, (thanks to Kate’s good eye) he was sitting with some hombres drinking rum and listening to four musicians playing for the tourists. Introductions were easy using the photos I had brought. He was happy to have the photos and told us he was going to give them to the man’s family. He assured us the family would be very grateful. I accepted the offer of a drink of straight rum. It was as if the moment had transformed into a wake. We were celebrating the memories of a dead friend.
I saw my friend another time before I left Trinidad. He was sitting in a familiar spot with only his dog. He was still smiling. Maybe it was the rum.
I think everyone likes to see the old American cars in Cuba. They’re fun to photograph and they stir memories in those of us old enough to remember when our grandfather drove a Crown Victoria or any other classic.
As an old shade tree mechanic myself, I can appreciate the constant effort to keep these cars running. The Cubans are resourceful and inventive when it comes to their transportation. After all, there are no “Pep Boys”, “Autozone”, or “Napa” stores on the island. Many gasoline engines have been replaced with four-cylinder diesel engines of Russian origin. I can only imagine the complications of getting all the clutches, transmissions, and associated running gear cobbled together, not to mention the wiring. I’d love to get on the ground and look under some of these old vehicles, but the streets and roads are filthy and damp with all kinds of oozings out of even older buildings. (but that’s another story).
Paseo de Marti – La Habana (Del Prado)
Paseo de Marti – La Habana (Del Prado)
Always Something to Fix
An On-Going Project
“You Need a New ….”