Part One –
Forty-five minutes south of Havana, on the outskirts of San Jose, a family of four generations survives on this farm by doing for themselves.
I was introduced to Yoel by a mutual Cuban friend. He was gracious enough to allow me and my fellow photographer friend, Robert Ortiz to spend a day with his family.
From the paved road, it is about a 300 meter walk to the first building. This is where Yoel’s grandfather lives. He raises a few pigs and keeps bees. We were fortunate enough to have him open a few hives and collect some honey for us.
Where the hives are kept.
He pried the cover off with an old knife.
Inside the hive.
These bees do not sting. In fact, they hardly bothered us at all.
They poke holes in the waxy formations and the honey flows out.
After collecting honey from three hives, there was enough to fill a wine bottle.
All that’s left to do is to filter the honey and clean up the bucket.
In part two we move up the hill to where the rest of the family lives.
Yunai is 40 years old and has no job. She shares a space on the second floor with her mother and father. Her parents sleep in a loft above the main room. They have a bathroom with shower, but again, no running water. Water is pumped at night into a storage barrel in the kitchen. This water is used to flush the toilet and to bathe. Drinking water must be hauled up the stairs in large jugs.
Once beautiful marble stairs lead to the second floor.
A long corridor to her home.
The main room showing the stairway to the loft.
A doorway to the outside balcony provides light and fresh air.
I got caught peering down this long dark corridor from the sidewalk. He was sitting across the narrow street trying to sell some clothes. All he said was “come with me” or some such Spanish phrase. I followed him down the corridor until it opened up into a courtyard. He pointed to one of the doors at the top of the two sets of stairs and said “my house”. He wanted to show me where he lived, although we did not enter his dwelling. I also saw where his neighbors lived below and beside him, behind the maze of walls and doors that defined their own living space.
I never got his name.
Sonia is 55 and lives alone next to Bube on the second floor of a once beautiful building.
A court yard open to the sky.
Concrete walls and cheap ceiling tiles
Kitchen area with bathroom to the side
Bube is 40 years old and lives with her husband. They have one daughter. All three sleep in one bedroom. They cook with gas and have a bathroom, but no running water.
In Centro Habana, well off the path for most tourists, Yulaime lives with her husband and three children on the ground floor of a seven story building. This floor has no windows, is all concrete, and has high ceilings. It appears as if it were at one time a parking area. To reach her home requires a long walk down a dark corridor past the doors of where several other families live.
Yulaime’s husband does not work. She earns a few pesos by selling shots of very strong, hot coffee and loose cigarettes late at night.
There are miles of streets in Havana with buildings that were once beautiful hotels, casinos, night clubs, and restaurants. Now they are crumbling, gutted out, moldy living spaces. Partitions or walls have been added to divide and then divide again huge rooms into tiny apartments.