Shirts, no shirts
Shoes, no shoes
One shoe on and one shoe off.
It’s a hot and humid August evening in Centro Habana, but nothing matters to these boys when it comes to having fun playing fútbol.
They play across a narrow street in Centro Habana with open doorways serving as goals.
Balls bounce off walls and curbs, but the action doesn’t stop unless a pedestrian gets hit while sneaking past.
These are difficult times for the parents of Cuban school children.
Students are now allowed only one uniform at the subsidized price. Any additional uniforms must be purchased at the full price.
Also pens, pencils, and paper are no longer available for free in school. Parents must also purchase these items at full price.
Schools no longer provide snacks for the children. This is another financial burden for parents.
Some schools do not have adequate cleaning supplies or people to do the cleaning. Parents must supply what is needed and take turns donating their own labor.
Without air conditioning the oppressive heat is still present in September classrooms. Some teachers have to ask students for a one CUC donation to buy a single fan because the fan from last school year is always missing.
Books are always used and must be repaired at home before classes start.
As if things were not bad enough, many teachers are leaving the profession hoping to earn more money working for themselves.
A classroom in Trinidad, Cuba
Another classroom in Trinidad, Cuba.
Outdoor play area with the ever-present.
“Who Holds The Key” was a street shot taken in Centro Havana.
I stopped to look at the graphics painted on two huge metal garage doors when suddenly a leg appeared, then an arm, followed by the head of this young boy.
It was obvious that he was trying to slide out between the two chained doors. It was a tight squeeze. I was shooting the whole time and hoped to capture the entire escape act, but in the middle of a contortion he spotted me he spotted me and quickly retreated into the vacant lot.
Now I had to get him to trust me and come back to the gate. Once he realized that he was not in trouble, he relaxed enough for me to coax him back to the opening. I offered him a coin to come close enough for me to frame him and get a couple of images.
I kept this image for almost a year before I decided that it was worth the effort to process it for PPA competition. I have countless hours working to refine the composition, overlay textures on the background and the doors, also to dodge and burn select areas to maximize the impact.
When is the last time you saw children playing hopscotch? It is not uncommon in Havana. This timeless game is played the world over with many variations.
When it rains in Havana, like any other tropical location, it pours. Good things happen, though. The rain is channeled off roofs and washes the streets; helping to eliminate the smell of garbage, dog waste, and the stuff that oozes out of some buildings.
The rain also provides a chance for children to play and cool off.
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.
I heard the crying from several houses away.
As I neared, I spotted her sitting behind the railing on her steps. A little girl with giant tears streamed down her face. I immediately started to mock her sobs in a comforting, parental way. “What’s the matter?” “Why the crocodile tears?” “What are you sad about?”
Her mother appeared in the doorway. I flashed some gum to her, asking if it was alright for me to offer. Her mother smiled and nodded.
I turned my attention back to the sobbing little girl and I stuck out my hand with a piece of gum. The sobbing stopped. The little girl knew what to do with the treat. In a flash it was unwrapped and in her mouth. Quickly she was joined by her sister and they started posing for my camera.
It didn’t take long for the tears to dry and smiles to appear.