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.
“You went to Cuba in August? ”
” Was it hot?”
” How hot was it? ”
These are usually the first three questions I get.
Yes, I went to Cuba in August. When it wasn’t hot, it was hotter. I really don’t know what the temperature was. Partly because it’s measured in degrees Celsius there and partly because I didn’t want to know. It won’t kill you. People live there.
Some of the secrets to beating the heat:
Sit in the shade …. duh!
Sit in the shade and read.
Sit in the shade and sleep. (even if you are a security guard)
Lie in the shade.
Lie in the shade and sleep.
Stay inside (shade) and watch the tourists.
Stay inside (shade) and drink.
Have a shaved ice drink. (in the shade)
Go for a ride. (no shade)
Wait for it to rain.
Or ….. my favorite, go out after dark.
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.