What motivated me was the suspicion that Cuba was a place replete with scenes and images I envisioned being universal and timeless, and perfect for two fine arts series I have been working on for many years. Owing to the blockade, economic progress for the proud (many throughout the world would say victorious) nation has advanced imperceptibly in the past six decades.
Cuba, December 2021: “The Road to San Lazaro”
I had forgotten to count the streets but somehow intuited my way back the ten blocks to my apartment, but not before I squeezed off a couple more photos. One was of a woman sitting in a small portal of a door under a vast and antique façade in the golden and artificial street lights. When I saw her, I literally gasped, because the scene was so exciting to me, a great addition to my Walls/Spaces photo series.
Of course, determining the cost of anything here requires one to factor in all the hassles of waiting in lines and for items that are scarce or in effect nonexistent; the money of most non-Cubans and certainly of the average tourist is hassle-free.
“We were never rich. But at least before we had food. It wasn’t a big thing before to buy milk, which is also now very costly and requires the black market.”
An entire mall and not a cracker to be found!
Many recipients seemed confused, even skeptical, and when I gave one of my cameras to Paco to take a few photos, one youngster cynically quipped, “What are you doing, just taking pictures?”
“…many Cubans were arrested just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, gawking from a street corner. They would spend days or weeks languishing in prison…”
M𝑦 𝑏𝑎𝑐𝑘 𝑚𝑢𝑠𝑐𝑙𝑒𝑠 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑡 𝑡𝑜 𝑠𝑝𝑎𝑠𝑚 𝑓𝑟𝑜𝑚 𝑚𝑦 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑛𝑑𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑠𝑡𝑖𝑙𝑙 𝑤𝑖𝑡ℎ 𝑎𝑙𝑙 𝑡ℎ𝑒 𝑤𝑒𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡; 𝑏𝑢𝑡 𝐼 𝑛𝑒𝑒𝑑 𝑡𝑜 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑦 𝑜𝑛 𝑚𝑦 𝑓𝑒𝑒𝑡.
Further on the path, I noticed with concern a large brush fire and realized I would have to get around it. The grass crackled and hissed but the smoke was being blown away from me as I quickly moved past.
Officer Ramiro demanded I hand him my passport. He sternly informed me that I “must abide by the rules in my visa,” pointing a few times to the document I had taped inside. “As a tourist, there are things you just cannot do!”
Suddenly another woman emerged and angrily confronted me. She had one eye clouded over, was perhaps partly blind, but she demanded to see my camera and the photos. I held out my camera to display the most recent one of my wide-angle shots and she excoriated me, “This won’t do!”.
I saw what looked like the only decent shot, pulled out my smaller camera, and took one shot. Immediately the prior guard yelled at me, “Ay!!!” I pretended to not hear and briskly continued my circuitous path, not sure if or when a patrol car would pull up to me and I would be again interrogated for such an innocuous action.
The driver soon confided in me that he was former military intelligence officer. “I know about every U.S. military base,” he claimed, and recited the names of some. “But if anyone ever found out I was telling you this, I could go to jail!” I promised to keep his secret.
I was surprised to see individuals with their faces covered by the “nasobuco,” as the device is called there, even when riding horses in the countryside or in remote villages.