Artists of Cuba & their ART Part 1

01
My blog returns to Cuba with focus on art & the artists that produce it. The on-the ground experience of seeing the work of artisans was motivation to connect my camera to my mind. If it catches my eye, attention or ears I explore a little deeper. If it makes me smile or triggers a memory, I want to share it. I hope you enjoy where my eyes take you. My credibility as a critic is thin so explore the links to add you own exposure.

02
Music wasn’t a motivator but… First was Herb Albert/The Lonely Bull. Then Santana’s Soul Sacrifice followed by Oye Coma Va by Tito Puente  & Latin tempos became a part of my life. Currently Manhattan Transfer/Soul Food To Go is my favorite driving song. Enjoyment of Latin tempos is a constant in my life. However, music is linear for the ear. I didn’t put effort into shots of musicians. To hear Afro Cuban Music, watch 3 Rivers to Cuba. Done by Chris Mason, her it explores multiple layers of Cuban musical culture.

03
The architectural & artisan work of the Spanish Colonial Empire has influence on artists today. From the pallet of colors to the intricate details I saw centuries old examples of design, detail & craftsmanship that made me pause.

04
My first night in Cienfuegos we went to Palacio del Valle. I was immediately struck by the blending of architectural influences. Built a century ago by a sugar merchant, the mansion is now a National Monument of Cultural Heritage run by the government.

05
This church window is more representative of maintenance & restoration of buildings in Cuba. Usually the dynamic image of stained glass windows is from an interior perspective. From the outside layers of history can be seen. Some ironwork is from colonial times while some is from current artisans.
06
Public Art, especially murals, provide character to communities. They also offer backdrops for street photography. The hue & fading of her pants matching the backdrop is worth a 2nd look.
07
This is not the iconic image from Abbey Road. A true Beatles fan would know they were walking the other direction & all 4 are in full stride. I didn’t catch that on-site because I was preoccupied with the numerous possibilities I could stage with this backdrop.

08
I did not see many statues in my wanderings. This bronze likeness of Cuban Hero Jose Marti reading to a young boy represents many important values of Cuban society.
09
I was initially attracted to Martha Jimenez’s paintings because of her subject matter of 3 women in diverse situations. I believe odd numbers work better in visuals arts. At her gallery/studio/classroom in Camaguey I discovered her talents included sculpting & engraving. Her primary subject is women. I noticed a few works with a sewing machine. The gallery director told me it represents women workers around the world.

11
I was drawn to the work of Jose D. Gutierrez by the unique texture to his sculpture. Examining the pieces closely I recognized I had never seen whatever he used to make these detailed works of art. I inquired about how they were made. I was told about creating a mold, where the craftsmanship is needed, & then forming goat-skin over it.
12
A few artists in Cuba are doing well financially selling to the rest of the world. But, like artists everywhere, Abel Garcia Leon must rely on other skills to live. His studio is in one room of his home & his barbershop is in an adjacent space. His great-great grandfather bought the barber chair in the 1880’s. He has sold his paintings in Europe, Canada & the US. His optimistic dream is to one day to have a showing in NYC.

13
In many shops I found the typical colors & themes of paintings targeted at the tourist. While these pieces may not have any deep artistic qualities they are a few steps above the price & quality of mass-produced souvenir trinkets.
14
Restrictions on expression after the ‘59 revolution & limited resources had a negative impact. However, art education & subsides increased the population of practicing artists. Some have demonstrated that art is freedom of the mind. Artist Georgeanys Trinidad
20
Learning the perspectives of artistically expression opens your soul to emotions of others & yourself. Teaching & mentoring preserves the past but also sows seeds for the future.
15
Let me reinforce the fact I have no credibility as an art critic. Part of my motivation for photography was to capture informal shots of people. Naturally portraits on canvas caught my eye. I observed that Cuban artists had a firm grasp on portraiture.
16
The number of artists in Camagüey was more than other places I visited. One evening I met Eduardo Rosalez Ruiz in his studio/gallery where the walls were covered with diverse examples of his work. With a typical warm welcoming he told me about his current projects as we shared a drink of rum & honey. Working with materials & subjects of indigenous Taino Cubans he hopes to bring awareness to historical roots.

19

“I love Digital. I Hate Digital” has become a mantra of mine. I immediately gave this oil on canvas that title.

18

This piece by Lester Campa is my favorite not only because of style & subject but also because of the memory of Dr. Fidel Hernandez Figueroa proudly sharing it. If you go to this wonderful reservoir of talented artists plan on returning with some of their work.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.

Boxing

01

There is still more to come from Cuba but I didn’t want to get into a rut. I don’t follow boxing. However the challenge of photographing the sport motivated me to give it a try. I had worked for a few years with HBO Championship Boxing doing slo-mo replays & I saw the speed & the action intimately. When I look at iconic boxing shots I realize just how difficult the sport is to cover with a still camera. I contacted Wolfpack Boxing Club & asked if I could bring my camera to try capture a few images. The owner Jeff said sure.

02

The skills necessary for a boxer to step into a ring are as numerous as any sport. Split second hand-eye coordination, stamina, strength, agility, concentration & balance are all needed to attack you opponent while they attack you. Beyond the gloves & the roped off ring the sport has no other accessories. Their is no denying boxing is violent. However, it also involves strategy & judgment, which allude to the epithet of the “Sweet Science.”

03

In addition to physical training a boxer must have psychological confidence & tenacity, which fuels powerful reactions. Capturing the brief expression with the action is a tremendous challenge for any photographer. But when you get it it’s compelling.

04

At ringside you need different focal lengths to capture the action while shooting at a steep angle when boxers get close. Often action is blocked or so abrupt an angle that good images are almost impossible. For this shot at Wolfpack in Carnegie PA, I positioned myself with the background in mind. I then waited for the action to happen in front of it. Since this was training I was alongside the ropes & had flexibility where I could stand.

05

Real-time self-observation is an excellent drill to develop techniques of punches & combinations. The opponent is yourself, which allows you to observe what an adversary sees. This perspective is a tremendous motivating drill. In a studio lighting situation I’d enjoy the chance to explore old school shadow boxing where I control the shadows.

06

Frequently on HBO Boxing events I isolated a hand-held operator working from the corner of the ring. Gordie Sager was recognized as one of the best in this position. It was a pleasure to be responsible for replays of his work. He never gave up on framing for the best perspective. Slight adjustments he made in his position often resulted in surprising results because he knew where the action was going to go. Most memorably was his reaction when we didn’t get a single replay on the air. He said, “The other cameras had the best looks…tonight.” He understood the value of patience & persistence.

07

Close-ups are more dramatic, but the story of most sports is told in wide shots showing relationship & interaction. Real fans of boxing know that a head to toe 2 shot is the bread & butter of the sport. I can’t say I am knowledgeable enough to analyze individual boxers.   However, I am aware enough to recognize & respect determination.

Cuba Environment

01Since my primary subject for photography was people, my visit to Las Terrazas & Soroa was more of a drive by-look-see. Traveling back roads reminded me of the valleys & hills of Western PA’s Allegheny Mountains. Since 1985 when UNESCO declared Sierra del Rosario a Biosphere Reserve, this region has become a model of sustainability as well as a laboratory/classroom for environmental education.

02 I had a life moment with Dr. Figueroa, Director of the Biosphere.  When we walked into his office it was obvious who in my group was not Cuban. He got up out of his chair, walked over extending his hand & said Fidel. I shook his had & since he informally only used his 1st name I did the same replying Jay with a smirky smile. His eyes widened as he chuckled saying…Really! We both laughed understanding in Spanish a close sound to J is Che. This 2 shot may never be as iconic as photos of our historic namesakes. But, it is locked to a memory from my trip that will always bring a smile to my face.

03

Prior to the ’59 Revolution 11% of Cuba was covered in forest. European settlers cleared trees for cattle grazing & coffee plantations. The assault on the land was ferocious. Photo courtesy Sierra del Rosario Reserva de la Biosfera archive.

04

Thanks to the work of peasants, who in the process of replanting the forest, also built what some call “Castro’s Eden.” Since the 70’s over 8 million trees have been planted increasing the forested Cuban land to 28%. This is an amazing success of Reforestation in just 4 decades considering the work was done with the most basic tools. In the middle of this is Las Terrazzos. A small community & very is different from the colonial founded cities where I spent the majority of my time. It is a “tab of butter in a sea of grits” as some of the Chapel Hill Boys would say. Eco-tourism directly accounts for over 250 jobs providing a much-improved standard of living.

07b

Dr. Fidel Hernandez Figueroa has worked here since 1983. As a young boy he wanted to live in the mountains. At the University he studied to be a Forest Engineer. He got his Masters as an Ecologist then a PhD in Forest Science. I think it is safe to say that he made his dream come true. After he laughed when I asked him what he enjoys doing when he isn’t working, he told me he always is working but still enjoys studying & tries to learn at least 1 new thing every night before he goes to bed.

07c

His accomplishments & attitude are fueled by passion & hope for the future. Fidel told me even if the pay is low he is spiritually wealthy. He insisted on showing me the portrait done by local artist Lester Campa. Since Fidel & I are close in age, the blending of two iconic personalities from our youth made it a serendipitous connection.

07aIn the forests around Las Terrazass the diversity of birds & plants, many of which are endemic, is an example of how repair can be made to nature. It also demonstrates how quality of life can be improved with a balanced approach to tourism & the environment. If I ever go back to Cuba this is a place I will get to know better. My translation of Sierra del Rosario is… Mountains of Hope.

05

I’m vastly under-qualified to describe the tropical floral I saw Cuba other than to say it was diversely beautiful. For a much more detailed information please link to a blog by Emily Kalnicky Diretor of Science Education & Jordyn Melino Exhibit Coordinator from Phipps Conservatory.

06

Sustainability & organic farming in Cuba evolved out of necessity. After the collapse of the USSR the supply of chemical pesticides & fertilizer disappeared. The rationing of food & other hardships impacted the entire population in what Cubans refer to as the “Special Period”. Weeding by hand was added to the list of manual chores needed to survive.

07

The Vinales Valley on the western end of the mountain range is a UNESCO jewel, & a showcase of how 25 plus years of experience has made Cuba a model for Agricultural Sustainability. The mogotes, described as upside down bowls of ice cream, are unique topographical features that help define this place. They gave me a feeling of being small similar to how Yosemite made me feel. Some of the best tobacco in the world is grown in this fertile province. Even though most other parts of Cuba I drove thru were parched, this valley was lush. Hiking, horseback riding and biking are very common activities for visitors that allow you to get an intimate perspective of the natural environment.

07ab

Nationally, clean energy production is on the rise but without the most technologically advanced tools. There are 300 cooperatives focusing on pig production. Some are also processing bio-mass fuel gas. Residual material from the fermenting of pig poop is used for fertilizing. Getting the most out of available resources is part of the Cuban Culture. This region provides an example of the benefits of sustainable environmental practices.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.

Cuban Cigars

01.1

The iconic status of Cigars motivated me to visit the tobacco farm of the Cameo family. Sergio was a wonderful host. I was amazed at the young man’s maturity. Generous with his time, he shared his knowledge & a few laughs…but no family secrets. Inside a drying houses the reflected morning sun fueled my attempts to capture some interesting images. This portrait is one of my top 3 favorite shots from my trip.

02

Respecting & honoring family are subjects I experienced with other Cubans I came in contact with. While Sergio was giving a tour of his home I wasn’t surprised to hear praise for his father but also respect for his grandparents. He proudly told me about his ancestors that had emigrated from Spain in the mid 1800’s. His family has farmed the land the entire time. This father & son portrait has an interesting generational flip-flop. Benito has on the ball cap & his son wears the traditional headgear.

03

I was struck at the size, strength & vibrant color of the tobacco plants. They are cultivated from a seed the size of a pinhead. I learned the first leaves are cut for cigars. The second sets of leaves are for cigarettes. After tobacco leaves are harvested they begin a lengthy process before being rolled into cigars. Some leaves can be aged for 5 years.

04

First there is the curing where the leaves turn from green to yellow to orange & finally brown. The next steps are aging & fermentation. I was told different blends of spices, honey & rum are common seasonings. I began to understand the correlation cigars have with wine & craft beer. Recipes, aging & timing all are critical to the final product. Like cuttings from vineyards other farmers value the seeds of tobacco plants. The process is a blend of science, generational expertise & mother natures.

05

In hindsight, I’d have been smart to  grab the tripod from the trunk. The sunlight coming thru the door bouncing off of the reddish dirt gave a wonderful quality to the light. Mixed with the aroma of drying tobacco the radiance of the room seemed to have a taste to it. The textures on the leaves was both subtle & dramatic. The limited spectrum of colors was a rich blend of earth tones. My eyes saw things I couldn’t capture with the camera. If I go back, I will have my tripod & do low ISO/f 16/long exposures. Speaking of equipment, the most manageable package of gear was the 7D/18-135 & an OTS bag with 28, 40 & 100mm lenses.  The 400mm stayed in my room.   The 2nd camera around my neck was of little value. Twice I wished I had my 10-22mm I left in Pittsburgh.

06

Part of Sergio’s plans for the future is to continue to learn from his father. He understands the importance of his family’s reputation & recognizes he must gain more experience & work hard. The Camejo name has been respected as farmers in the Valley for over a century & a half. The leaves from their farm are recognized for consistent high quality. Rolled cigars are a significant export in the Cuban economy. The government purchases 90% of the leaves at a price set by the government. Sergio believes the possibility of changing relations with the US means more people will be interested in Cuban Tobacco making the future bright for his family’s farm.

07

The quality of the final cigar begins with using his fingers to judge the dryness of each leaf. The tools he needed were basic. He had a board across his lap & a machete on his belt, to trim the ends. Once he rolls specific leafs into the layers of the cigar it is wrapped tight using a large unblemished leaf. He then smells the final product, examines the overall rolling before he lights it & tastes it. He also inspects the ash. Four of his 5 senses are used to ensure the high standard his product is recognized for. Consistency & quality go hand in hand in the world of cigars.

08

Cockfighting is legal in Cuba but betting, like most gambling, was shut down by after the 1959 Revolution. Although Sergio is only 20 years old his confident poise is evident as he proudly displays his champion fighting rooster. Before we took this picture he took the time to groom/massage his champion. He explained the entire training, diet, conditioning & recovery process. It was a bit like the routine of boxers. As I was listening & taking photos I had my only Hemingway Moment while I was in Cuba.

09

The concept of family extends to all that work alongside each other. Workers on the farm bridge the history of families with the Camejo’s which not only is a sign of loyalty but also respect & honesty. I’ve always had high regard for farmers. Working close to the land is tough, dirty, honest work. I learned a lot about cigars & discovered coffee with rum is Patriota & rum with coffee Carajillo. Details can be important. It was a beautiful morning on the farm.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.

Cuban Churches

01

In homage to the Christian celebration of Easter & the Resurrection this post contains images I took at Churches in Cuba & share what I learned about Catholicism in this communist country. I am not Catholic nor do I regularly attend the Protestant church I belong to. However I consider myself a spiritual person respecting the moral guidance of a higher power.  “Do unto others…” is the best guidance I’ve learned.

02

To say religion in Cuba history has twists & turns is an understatement. Spaniards colonized the island in alliance with the Pope & shared in the bounty. The Slave Trade, a cornerstone of Cuban economics, became a moral issue the Vatican could no longer condone. Most priests assigned to Cuban churches were from Spain & associated with the monarchy & the elite ruling class. Revolutionaries in the late 1800’s proclaimed the church was not the voice of the common people. Skip ahead to 1959 & the Castro brothers, who had gone to a Jesuit high school, understood nationalism & religion are contradictory. In Communist countries state atheism is promoted.

03

With the collapse of the USSR in the 90’s, economic hardships & social changes edged the  government to evolve & declared the nation secular. In ’98 Pope John Paul II visited Cuba followed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. In 2015 Pope Francis made a huge step in moral diplomacy attempting to resolve the divide between Cuba & neighboring United States. Along with Catholicism are dogmas from Afro-Cuban religions that have been preserved & evolved. I did not experience any of those traditions.

03a

Having survived this turmoil between church & state I found magnificent Catholic Churches in the cities I visited. Usually they were built near colonial designed plazas, which served as a commons in developing towns. From a rooftop in Camaguey I saw the steeples of 7 grand churches. The architecture influence is diverse & the physical conditions vary greatly. But, most structures have been cared for despite withered congregations. Architectural photography isn’t a genre I have much experience or success with. Nonetheless many of these spaces are free of poles & wires to spoil the frame. It’s a rare opportunity to have numerous options to photograph a building.

04

I spoke with Father Marco at his parish in Camaguay. He is from Mexico’s International Mercy Congregation. Shortly after his ordination in 2012 he came to Cuba. His multi-faceted perspectives were insightful. We discussed the contrasting ways of the people as well as their deep roots to the church. He remembers being embraced when he arrived & believes Cubans hospitality & respect for manners are what make them so friendly.

05

After his 10am Saturday Mass we discussed the continual changes people are experiencing. He feels a trait many Cubans poses is the ability to adapt & they are somewhat open minded about reforms that are coming. In his brief time in Cuba he has seen the government try & do more for people in rural areas. And he has had access to prisons, health institutions & even universities. Father Marco believes these are big steps & opportunities to spread the message that with belief in God all things are possible.

06

His love of the Cuban people includes their more casual attire when attending church compared to his native Mexico. He also noted that they hug & kiss instead of just shaking hands like he experienced growing up. Religious life is much more flexible. Father Marco also spoke of how the resilience of the Cuban people was integral in conquering hardships. In some ways I believe Father Marco’s mission to make people happy is made easier because cheerful is part of their being.

07

A natural role for any religious leader is preparing followers for what lies ahead. I asked him what his dreams were for the Cuban people. He had three. #1 The government system will realize that people can make more of their own decisions. #2 people who are close to the economic needs & problems should come up with solutions. #3 an emerging need for more religious/human values, which have eroded since the 90’s with more attention to money. He also hopes Cubans abroad do not abandon their history.

07a

I developed ideas similar to what Father Marco’s dreams are as I was doing research for this trip. I’m not smart enough to understand the best path to make those ideas a reality or if even if I have a deep enough understanding of the problems. What I did observe is that in a society where much rebuilding is needed, churches have a solid foundation & have been maintained suggesting a religious culture with respect for history. In facing the unknowns of the future knowing where you came from has value.

07ab

The future has many contrasting forces Cubans will need to navigate. Since I was totally off the grid during my trip I observed technology nipping at interpersonal interactions along generational lines. I hope they survive the flood of information from the Internet. Emerging changes in Cuban society could lead to self-centered perspectives. My prayers for our neighbors are to not abandon the values that allowed them to collectively survive. Dreams are based on unique blend of our past, personal motivations & hope for the future. I wish for Cuban people the ability to make good decisions.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.

Serendipitous Motivation

08

I’m taking a pause from posting about Cuba. At the end of last year I went to see the work of Xzya Cruz Bacani being displayed at the Manchester Craftsman Guild & to listen to her lecture. The subject of her images Modern Slavery resonated with the deep-down photojournalist in me. Her work & the perspective she provided were haunting.

09

However, that night I stumbled on influence from a different direction that literally caught my eye & turned my neck. In earlier posts I’ve mentioned how architecture & woodworking grab my eye. Entering the Manchester Craftsman Guild  an alcove with a wooden accent built into a brick semicircle did just that. In one glance I saw customized shelves, entryway, utility, separation & focus blended into one compact area. If I ever tried to describe a union of form & function this would be a strong example. The synergy of structure, materials & openness was as harmonious as anything I have seen.

10

Ms Gubser, the executive assistant at MCG, noticed my wide-open eyes. She told me about the woodworker & invited me to look at more of the craftsman’s work in the boardroom.

13

After seeing more finely crafted pieces, in a wonderful serendipitous moment, she introduced me to the artist who had also come to the lecture.

11

Meeting Tadao Arimoto & discussing his work was delightful. After humbly listening to my praise of his work he invited me to his workshop. This was an inspirational encounter I never saw coming. Since my wood-shop was closed for the winter I was excited to get some sawdust on my shoes.

01

Tadao came to Pittsburgh in 1976. His path to the medium of wood to fashion his designs began 4 years earlier in his native Japan. He had studied at the International Design Institute in Kyoto. As a young man, he felt the career path as an industrial designer was uninspiring. Then he saw a wooden bench in a storeroom window that “made his heart pop out.” He found out it was created by Shigeru Ueki a respected abstract sculptor who worked with wood. Tadao contacted him & Shigeru befriended him.

02

Collaboration can be a powerful motivator. Shigeru, had been a founder of the respected Modern Art Discussion Group with other Japanese artists. He gave inspiration to a young Tadao to learn the craft of sculpting wood & exposed him to other artistic perspectives. Today Tadao is still influenced by sculpture but also is aware of the long perspective of nature & the wood he works with. The life span of a tree is extended in the art he creates. For over 40 years, his hands have molded a 2nd life into the wood he uses. One of the joys of his work is that every week he learns something new.

03

His design process for custom work begins with understanding the place it will occupy & then making multiple hand sketches of his concepts & ideas. Then CAD drawings are presented to the client giving a perspective that is easier to visualize. With approval & consensus of the final design, Tadao then creates another hand drawing he will use as a guide while crafting the piece.

04

He describes some of his work as Visually Quiet. A blend of sketch artist, craftsman & sculptor, his minds eye is focused on the functional & the aesthetic environment his work will occupy. The soft conflict of his description resonates in his work. Looking at examples of his finished pieces on his website it is easy to see the blend of purpose with beauty.

05

Of particular interest to me was the shop environment filled with sawdust creating an orange earth tone hue. I wanted to capture the interaction of the tools, wood, hands & the designer. These images show a glimpse of his personal culmination of inspiration & craft.

06

Tadao takes his design & creates a second life-cycle of the tree the wood came from. In sculpting his forms he infuses his ideas onto the grain of the lumber with his touch, & experience. His hands respect the longevity of the medium they work with.

12

Often imperfections become an accent adding character to the narrative.

07

The work-space of a craftsman can tell you a lot about the artisan. A woodworking shop is a constant shifting balance of space for working & keeping tools close. Raw wood was leaning against the walls. Shelves were piled with hardwoods. Work-in-progress was sitting beside hefty machinery. I was enveloped by the ordered chaos & a diversity of tools. The dominant feature in the shop however was Tadao’s resonating smile.

A Freelancer in Cuba

01

I was a Freelancer for 37 years so I have an affinity for individuals independent from traditional work places. In Cuba the source of employment for almost everything has been the state. As government regulations have relaxed, some have been motivated to seize the opportunity to become independent entrepreneurs. A classic style taxi is easily one of the most recognizable independent businesses. Cuba is primarily a cash economy. To ordinary Cubans getting a loan to start a business or even a mortgage to buy a home isn’t possible. Therefore, many are attracted to opportunities associated with the tourist trade that require little or no upfront investment.

02a

Throughout the world a barbershop is a universal small business. In Vinales, Yissel Ramos opened her shop 1 week before I visited to get my hair trimmed down. At 34, she is a single parent living with her mother, sister & her niece. At the gate outside her 2 chair shop was a sign BarberiaYissel.com.  I asked her about using the Internet & her response was “I don’t have time to stand around in the park on my phone. I have to work.” Access to the Internet in homes is almost non-existent. Plazas with WiFi hot-spots were easy to find. I just looked for people staring into their phones. Since I was totally off the grid my attention was to the people & the place via my viewfinder.

02

Yissel’s work ethic is a trait I witnessed in many Cubans I met. With the ink fresh on her Self-Employed Workers-License, & no shortage of self confidence, I believe she will have a good chance of realizing her dream to visit the Eiffel Tower. The part of her job she enjoys most is helping people change the way they look. That may be a metaphor for her country.

03

In Las Terrazas along the shore of Lake San Juan the unpretentious house with tropical orange shutters caught my eye. Built on a small bluff beside the winding road it has a serene perspective of the natural environment. Louis Borrego Linares is the brother of Polo Montañez who at 40 carved a place for himself into the rich legacy of Cuban poet songwriters. Tragically, Polo of the Mountains died in a car crash only 3 years after his music captured the hearts of his people. Louis recognized an opportunity & turned his brothers home into a Graceland type of museum where the music lives on. It is supported thru sales of memorabilia, CD’s & tips. In a country with many museums & a rich cultural history this may be the 1st commercial enterprise dedicated to a cultural iconic hero.

04

On a long road trip my guide asked to stop so he could order a ham. Ricardo, our driver, knew where to pull over on an open stretch of highway. There were no signs indicating anything special. Obviously not a spot for commerce with tourists, I was hesitant to push for details like his name. Word of mouth & reputation powered this farmers roadside market. His face was perfect for portraiture with the beard, hair & mustache framing the lower 2/3 of his face & the hat accenting the top of his head. The matching color & texture of his eyebrows reinforce his dark eyes. On our return, Lidier picked up 2 hams. I asked why 2? He told me 1 was a surprise gift for his mother who I would meet when we got to Camaguey.

05

Anything with wheels can become a taxi with the potential to be a good Freelance gig. Pedal taxis are required to be registered & licensed. Cars are inspected. Since Cuba has zero taxes the owner/operator has no paperwork & keeps all income. Most of the ridership I saw was made up of tourists. However it wasn’t unusual to see locals in vehicles holding 4 or more. I wouldn’t be shocked, or offended, if locals paid less.

06

When not being used as a taxi, this car serves as an outlet for fresh food. Without looking hard you can find bikes or carts with racks filled with onions, potatoes, rice, beans, garlic & other fresh goods. Along the side of the highway people stand holding cheese or have their arms draped with the latest harvest. Produce seemed to be the main Cuban to Cuban independent business ventures not intended for tourists.

07

Street vendors with their assorted offerings had become commonplace until I saw this guy. I’m not sure how large the market is but since this enterprising individual was the only vendor I saw with a live turkey he might have a monopoly. Even though there is no tax on any business transaction, barter is common & black market exists. I was told in a bar how fueling stations attendants would short fill a request of a government vehicle by a few liters & then sell it to someone at a discounted price. Just like some I worked with that loved to “stick it to the man”, Cubans find ways to bend the rules to their advantage.

07a

Ingenuity can be inspired by a lack of resources. A successful Freelancer needs to understand that at times you just make it up as you go. A Cuban mechanic fixing a car must deal with the challenges of no spare parts on the shelves, few of the proper tools needed to do the job & no maintenance manuals. Somehow they get it done. Based upon my conversations & observations with workers in Cuba, I’d be honored to work alongside them. I have no doubt they could teach me a thing or two. A cultural exchange I would enjoy doing is introducing Cubans to G-tape.

The content of these postings are based upon my observations, conversations with my guide, interviews with people interpreted by my guide & interactions I had with people I met. Any mistakes are entirely mine with no intention to mislead.