Franco is quite a character. Always moving and always talking, he calls himself an importer. His store, where he sells religious articles, can be found on Calle Gervasio in Centro Havana.
Franco also has for sale many antiques that he has accumulated over the years.
A long hallway, exposed to the sky, leads to his apartment.
Well equipped kitchen.
Franco and his daughter.
Yosef is a 34-year-old tattoo artist from Centro Habana
His apartment is built on the roof of a three-story building. He lives better than most because he has a skill that is in demand.
A skinny stairway begins the trek to his apartment.
On the roof.
A typical bachelor’s habitat.
I met Juan Carlos when I noticed him sitting next to a welder and, being a welder in my previous life, I tried to make conversation. Fortunately Juan Carlos’ English was better than my Spanish. He was waiting for someone to pick him up and take him to a job.
Juan Carlos fabricates doors, windows, and railings. What I would call ornamental iron work. In Havana many people have bars on windows and outer doors with padlocks for security. https://wp.me/p4fUlX-w1
Juan Carlos has become a good friend of mine over the last two years. He has let me photograph his apartment, taken me to meet his 92 year-old grandmother, let me photograph from the roof of his building, and introduced me to many people in his neighborhood.
Last year I purchased an electric grinder for him on the black market. Now he doesn’t have to borrow (rent) one when he has a job to do.
A modest, but clean and efficient kitchen.
A comfortable living area.
Stairway to a loft where his daughter and grandson sleep.
He keeps the welder in his bedroom.
Stories and photos of a dozen others in this series can be found here: https://wp.me/p4fUlX-AT
One Saturday in Havana I noticed a young girl awkwardly wielding a broom. She saw me with my camera and smiled. Soon another girl appeared, also with a broom, then another, and then a young boy. When the father emerged with a broom, I realized it was cleaning day in his house and …. everyone sweeps.
Oswal lives in the neighborhood where I always stay in Havana. When I see him on the street, he always tries to speak with me in English. One day his mother and father invited me into their home. The father spoke some English and wanted his son to learn. I emphasized how important it will be for Oswal’s future. In eight or ten years when he is looking for work, one of the many new hotels in Havana might hire him if he speaks another language. A restaurant or hotel job would give Oswal the opportunity to earn tips in the highly coveted tourist money. ( CUCs)
In October I brought a Spanish/English dictionary and told Oswal to practice and that I would check on him when I visited again.
Before I left for home, I received a nice message from his mother thanking me for encouraging her son to study:
“Hola Marco. Estoy muy agradecida por que gracias a usted Oswal se a interesado por el english.”
(“Hi Mark. I am very grateful that thanks to you Oswal was interested in the english language.”)
When I returned two months later I presented Oswal with a study guide.
I’ll visit whenever I get back to Havana and try to encourage him more. He’s young, and girls and cell phones will distract him, but at least he now has the opportunity to better himself.
I had the opportunity to once again visit the farm of the family of Yoel.
I was, of course anxious to see how the new chainsaw was working out for them. Yoel says that the work is almost fun now and saves him many hours of swinging an ax. Yuniel, the brother of Yoel is now more eager to help too.
When I return next I will bring another chain and a spare spark plug.
It starts easily.
Even Yuniel like to work with it.
Yoel starts a soup by searing the meat.
Home-made salsa added.
Starting the vegetables.
Final slow cooking over a charcoal fire.
A swing made from an old hose.
Libetsy with her grandfather’s hat.
When I travel to Cuba now, I like to go where few tourists go. In Trinidad, one area I prefer is what I call … up on the hill.
Up on the hill there are no paved roads, no quaint cobblestone streets, and few areas that don’t slope toward easier walking.
But, the people up here are just as nice and the photos are everywhere.