Tag Archives: people

Tobacco Farming – Orlando

We met Orlando quite by chance early one morning while we were photographing. After introductions he invited us back to his farm to photograph.

Now, Orlando is a businessman as well as a farmer. He caters to tourists, providing horseback rides, guide service, and tours of his farm. We all knew this, but he was such a nice guy and the photo-ops were great. Besides, it was only 8:00 am and the light was good. What photographer would want to go on a tour at noontime?

We walked back to his house and went inside.

We were offered coffee.

Orlando lit a small wood fire

Then got to work grinding some beans.

His mother, Marta, took over in the kitchen.

She put on quite a show smoking a cigar and boiling the water…..

…..and making the coffee.

The coffee was good!

Next, we had the cigar rolling demonstration.

One for me.

Of course we bought some cigars and even some guayabita rum.

 

Yo Voto Si

Sunday, February 24th, the people of Cuba ratified the new constitution.

It was  a slam dunk.

“Are you voting yes? I would ask my friends.

“Of course” was the standard answer that accompanied the astonished look that I received.

The whole campaign was preceded by months of propaganda. Signs, billboards, and community organizers all urged people to participate in discussions and share their concerns ….. before voting “yes”.

Most of those who did not favor the new constitution simply did not vote. There were scant few who voted “no”.  Why take the chance of being singled out for retribution?

Voting places were set up according to one’s municipality.

School children were in their uniforms and helped.

As I understood it, there was not a secret ballot and anyone could check the sheets to see how their neighbor voted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are The Entertainment

We were about half way from Havana to Vinales when our taxi driver slowed rapidly. I detected, almost instantly, the smell of coolant on hot metal. We had blown a hose.

Luckily, the hose had split right next to the clamp, so all that was necessary was to loosen the clamp, shorten the hose, and re-attach it.

Of course, we would then need to re-fill the radiator. That proved to be the hard part.

We donated all the drinking water we had in the car, but it was not enough.

We drove about a mile and stopped to ask this farmer where we could get water. He was grazing some cows and told us that there was water right under this bridge.

Our driver made two trips to the stream to fill the radiator.

The farmer enjoyed the show and had a good laugh.

He wore no shoes.

I asked him where his shoes were and he just motioned to the other side of the road. I hope he had some.

Can’t Live Without Water

Whenever I visit Havana, I always set aside one whole day to visit with this wonderful family on their farm.

They live about 45 km south of Havana, near San Jose de Las Lajas.

I’m treated like one of the family now.

I sit on the porch, relax in the quiet, breathe the fresh air, converse, and reflect on how fortunate I am have these beautiful people as my friends.

 

I pass out gifts that I have brought: vitamins, poligrip, zantac, Kool-aid, underwater flashlight for the brother that spear fishes, crankshaft and piston for the motor on the bicycle, towels and soap, coffee, clothes for the two children and of course chupa chups.

I make a new list of things that I will try to bring next time: cold medicine, aspirin, and more vitamins for the children, sneakers and socks for the women, movies in Spanish,  bandaids, neosporin, a knee brace, duct tape, cell phone ….. The list goes on and on.

The women always come up with something deliciously prepared. Congri, salad, and some kind of meat. I bring the Rum, cola, orange soda and, lately, chocolate from the U.S. for dessert.

The children usually want me to read to them. I read “The Cat in the Hat” (in English and Espanol). I read the English and Melany reads the Spanish, but I always tell her that next time she will read the English.

The water on the farm comes from a well via a hand pump. This water is needed for cooking, drinking, washing clothes, bathing, and flushing the toilet.

Lately, the old well pump has been breaking down regularly. It’s an American made pump, so it’s old. The casting is cracked and broken. The parts below ground have been welded and re-welded. Everything is wired together. Just last week the pump broke for the last time.  A similar pump is impossible to obtain new and any used pump that might be found would surely have issues.

The neighbors have been donating water, but it’s 1/2 kilometer away and must be hauled  in a horse-drawn cart.

The wife of the youngest brother on this farm finally e-mailed me and told me of their troubles (apparently the men were too proud to ask for help). Sometimes it takes a woman to get things done!

I was able to transfer enough money for them to purchase a submersible pump. (although the search is still on for a suitable size, I am assured that water will be flowing by the end of the week).

Again I wish to thank my small group of friends for their generous financial support and trust in me. These are all friends who appreciate the difficult task of survival in utter poverty.

Thank you Rob, Victoria, Louise, Kate, Susan, Pamela, Tracy, and Faye.

Check out the series:

Living Off The land

https://wp.me/p4fUlX-HH

 

One Afternoon

A typical walk for me starts without a destination and without an agenda. At the first intersection, I decide almost subconsciously, which way to turn. I might see some interesting activity in one direction. Or, I might realize that I haven’t walked a certain street in a while. Of course, if I encounter a street that I think I haven’t been on before, I’ll choose that option.

When I’m in the right mood, I like to walk very slowly, stopping often to watch and see what is happening around me. I wonder where people are going, what they are doing, what they are buying, and what they are talking about. I want to know where they live and how they live.

Sometimes I feel badly for them, but often times I am impressed with their openness and honest good nature. People always ask about one’s family.

I make eye contact with people, hoping for a smile, a nod, a wave, or a few words.

I’m never disappointed.

These images were all made in one typical afternoon in Havana.

 

 

 

 

 

A New Smile

Recently, I visited a couple of the most eastern provinces of Cuba.

While staying in a very nice casa particular, I noticed the cleaning lady had very bad teeth. She was talkative, but she was very self conscious and would always cover her mouth. I learned that she was only 30 years old and had two children. I eventually asked her why she did not have dental work done for free by the state. Her answer was most enlightening.

She told me that, yes, she could have the work done, but there were no good dentists in the city (one of the largest in the east). The few good dentists were working on there own and charging much more than the average Cuban could afford. The good dentists had access, through the black market, to newer instruments and anesthesia that were not available from the state doctors. Dental work with no anesthesia? That would certainly prevent me from having any work done in my mouth.

About a month after I returned to the U.S. I received an e-mail from this cleaning lady. I had encouraged her to seek out a dentist and get an evaluation. She was told that her best option was to have all her teeth removed and be fitted with a complete set of dentures. She never asked for any money, but the price seemed quite reasonable to me, so I offered.

She was nervous and scared, but thrilled to have the opportunity to smile again.

The entire extraction process took over two weeks and was done in stages because the dentist had to search out and purchase anesthesia and pain medicine for the extraction sessions.

Dentures were made, again by a private technician and not by the state. Eventually this woman got her new teeth and her smile back.

I have to thank my small group of friends for their generous finacial support and trust in me. These are all friends who have been to Cuba, seen the poverty, and have helped before.

Thank you Victoria, Louise, Kate, Susan, Pamela, Tracy, Faye, and yes, even Roberto.

 

Cell phone images e-mailed to me: