Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Today Danny, Shirley, Lisa and I took a classic convertible to Cojimar, a quiet fishing village about 20 minutes outside of Havana. Here Ernest Hemingway berthed his legendary sportfishing boat, the Pilar and wrote his tale, The Old Man and the Sea. The waterfront is lined with weather-beaten cottages. El Torreon, a small fortress, guards the cove’s entrance. Fishing boats bring fresh catch for sale at a tiny marina. We had a great lunch at La Terraza and listened to a local band.
Back in Havana, Lisa and I walked to Taller Experimental de Gráfica near Plaza Cathedral. Since 1962, Taller has been a workshop for artists to learn the lithography process. Their lithographs are offered for sale. I bought a Santeria print of a medicine woman protecting the universe. Then we went to the Museo de la Revolución (Museum of the Revolution). The museum is housed in what was the Presidential Palace of all Cuban presidents from Mario Garcia Menocal to Fulgencio Batista. It became the Museum of the Revolution during the years following the Cuban revolution. Tonight we gathered for the Final Image Presentation at Fototeca de Cuba of the best photographs made during the week. Following the presentation, the closing group dinner was at La Imprenta, a short walk away. The food was very disappointing.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Today we went on an excursion southeast of Havana into the Cuban countryside. We stopped in several small towns including Santa Maria del Rosario, Cotorro, Cuatro Caminos (Four Roads), and San Jose. It was nice to get outside of Havana and see what the smaller towns were like. We people grinding sugarcane, fixing lighters, and repairing shoes. On one of the houses I noticed an interesting plaque of an eye and tongue. It’s best not talk too much and watch what you say. There was a church in many of the towns although religion doesn’t seem to be important since the communists took over. I found it odd to be in a Latin country without the strong influence of the Catholic Church. We stopped for lunch at a roadside, outdoor café. The food was terrible.
Dinner tonight was fantastic. We ate at La Guardia, a paladar. The “paladar” system allows a Cuban family to open a small restaurant in one of the rooms in their home, and provides some of the best food in Cuba. La Guarida is one of the most famous paladars in Havana. It was also the setting for the Oscar nominated Cuban movie “Fresa y Chocolate.” La Guarida (meaning the Shelter of the Hideout) is located on the third floor of an aged apartment building in Centro Havana. As we climbed to the third floor we saw washed “disposable” diapers hanging on the clothesline to dry. We rode to the restaurant in an old, classic American convertible. The Cubans call these cars “National Treasures.”
Sunday, January 29, 2012
This morning we went to the Cemetery Colon named for Christopher Columbus. Today was a day to commemorate Amelia “La Milagrosa,” the Miraculous Woman. Amelia Goyre de Adot died in 1903 at age 23 during childbirth. She was buried with her dead child at her feet. The legend says that when the grave was opened some years later the child was nestled in his mother’s arms. Cubans come to the grave three times a year to ask “La Milagrosa” to make their wishes come true. People filed around the grave. They brought flowers, said prayers, touched the statue, and tapped the gravestone with the bronze knocker. It was a very emotional scene. Notice the policeman in the background photographing the crowd. It began raining lightly. I was glad to have a shower cap to protect my camera. Thanks Uncle Sandy for the tip. It came in handy. So did my fanny pack. As I was climbing over a wrought iron fence I caught my pants and ripped a huge hole on the seat of my pants. I quickly moved my fanny pack from front to back to cover the rip.
In the early afternoon I had my one-to-one critique with Eddie to review some of my images of Cuba. Afterwards I went with Eduardo and a couple of others to further explore Cuban homes. We were invited into an older woman’s home. She was lying in her bed and asked if we had any medicine. Apparently it is hard to get basic medicine like Advil, aspirin, etc. We saw a photo of her lying in the same bed when she was a young woman. The kitchen was in the corner of the room. It was a very eerie scene. Lisa and I had a very good dinner at El Templete on the waterfront in Habana Vieja. It’s well known for seafood. Then we went back to the hotel for a Photo Salon. The Cuban photographers from Foteca had their prints for sale.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
After breakfast we had a photo critique with our group. We each showed our best six images. This afternoon we went to a Cuban National baseball game. Baseball is very popular in Cuba and the favorite team is the Industriales. We didn’t see them but we saw the Matanzas play another team.
The best part was riding to and from the game in classic old American convertible cars circa mid 1950s. It was a blast!! After the game, we had mojitos on the hotel’s rooftop terrace. It’s a beautiful spot with a lovely pool. We had a delicious dinner tonight at La Terraza, a rooftop restaurant nearby. It was the first really good meal I’ve had in Cuba. I had grilled red snapper. Finally, a restaurant I can recommend to Fred and Emily. After dinner we were serenaded at our table. It was a very fun evening.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Dawn patrol. We walked to El Capitolio (National Capitol Building). It was the seat of government in Cuba until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Its design and name recall the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. After breakfast, we strolled the Colon neighborhood and saw lots of interesting street scenes. Making portraits of people along the way enhanced our cultural exchange. Late in the morning we went to a flamenco dance rehearsal. The students practiced very hard and showed much intensity. Little time for lunch. Thank goodness for power bars.
This afternoon’s focus was on Cubans at home. Our small group was invited into one family’s house to document their home life. Hector, the man of the house, lived there with four other people. The conditions were very poor. It was speculated that water dripped into a bucket and was used to flush the toilet, which was filthy. The mattress on the bed was disintegrating. The decay was unbelievable. The people in the house had a sadness about them.
We walked back to the hotel along the Prado, which was alive with people. It was Friday evening. Kids were skating boarding, music was playing, and people were dancing and just hanging out. It was so nice to see such vibrancy. It’s amazing that in a country with so much poverty people seem to be enjoying themselves.
After dinner we took a pedicab to Fototeca located in Plaza Vieja. Fototeca put on an outdoor slideshow in honor of Jose Marti Day. Inside Fototeca there was a photography exhibit of naked men with pigs. Very bizarre. The pedicab ride was a real hoot. You can only imagine how many bumps and potholes we went over.