"Six Days in Havana"
The hands on the clock move slower in Havana.
While the rest of the world developed over the last several decades, Cuba has remained, as the old cliché goes, a land frozen in time. Hauntingly beautiful in many ways, the ghosts of the past whisper at every corner with each crumbling building façade and rusted vintage car. Narrow streets are paved with cobblestone, and women hang their laundry from balconies. Sounds from a not-so-distant golden-age play on a radio while cigar smoke billows over a table where a group of men play dominos. Havana is as visually striking as you could ever imagine.
Although Cuba has advanced significantly since the days of the Cold War, to many who live there, it hasn’t changed enough. For tourists, [extremely limited] access to basic amenities comes as an inconvenience; for Cuba’s citizens, that limited access is their daily reality. It is a reminder of a suppressed life in which even thinking differently is considered a punishable crime.
If you have done any traveling outside of the developed world, you quickly come to the realization of just how spoiled we are as Americans. Here, the trivialities of social media are a real concern to a generation of self-aggrandizing artists. In Cuba, the people struggle to escape the stranglehold that old politics has on their potential as a whole. Decades of heavy-handed government and broken promises have crippled the island nation with a severe lack of opportunity. While recent reforms have loosened regulations on entrepreneurship, a majority of Cuba's citizens still depend on meager wages from state-ran businesses. Rations for basic food items serve as a drop in a bucket for a people anxious to create a more prosperous future for themselves.
Yet, the people still thrive. Their hustle is charismatic and hospitable – a testament to the Latino culture. From day one, we were welcomed with open arms. Ernesto, a local taxi driver, gave us an impromptu tour through the Callejón de Hamel and a chance to get our cigar shopping done early. On day two, Raúl, a groundskeeper at the Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón, was kind enough to show us around some of the more well-known tombs. He explained their backstories with incredible detail – some beautiful, some just plain outlandish. Take the tomb of La Milagrosa, or “The Miraculous One,” as an example. The site is dedicated to Amelia Goyri de la Hoz who died in 1901 while giving birth. Her stillborn child, was placed by her feet when they were buried. Legend has it that when their bodies were disinterred, the child had moved from her feet and into her arms. She is considered a saint by many. For anyone visiting Havana, its “City of the Dead” is not to be missed, and a site that one could spend all day exploring.
The people, like the city itself, have been battered by time. And still, their beauty and their will to overcome is undeniable. Our time with Alberto, a trainer at the Gimnasio de Boxeo Rafael Trejo, and his young students was a highlight of our week-long stay. The children trained with a toughness that only develops from being raised around harsh conditions. However, when posing for portraits, their eyes still exuded an innocence that quickly reminded me that they were not yet men. “Some of the world’s best boxers are Cuban” was something we heard multiple times in Havana.
Fitting for a country whose fight for freedom is long from over.
We found these kids playing fútbol at an abandoned sports complex right off the Malecón. It was right around the end of the school day, so the complex was filled with young people.
This was one of the first photos I captured in Havana. I caught this gentleman taking a phone call in his car a few block away from our BnB. Immediately, you notice the colors and the architecture that Havana is so famously known for. This photo would really set the tone for how I photographed Havana.
"Gimnasio de Boxeo Rafael Tejo"
This boxing gym on the south side of Old Havana was on my list of locations I wanted to visit while in Cuba. It was our first evening when we ended up getting lost and happened to stumble upon the famous gym. These two boxers went back and forth for a few rounds; it was like watching two bulls. When shooting sports, you tend to overdo it, searching for the best angle and shot. I took a ton of photos in a short span, but this photo, in particular, I found to be really interesting. You can see how the two boxers are studying each other, looking for that opening to make contact.
"Sunset in Old Havana"
This was our first sunset in Cuba. We fell in love with the glow shining over the top of all of the old buildings. With every block that we passed, came a different beautiful tapestry of people, light, and history. These photos really don't do Havana and its people justice.
"Students of the Sweet Science"