Two weeks in Havana and it has been difficult to get the measure of this place. The shop fronts are plain, window displays are barren or non existant. There is no advertising media to speak of, no photoshopped billboards, no shiny open all night flourescence. Who works privately? Who works for the state? Is it ok to make a profit? How can you afford iphones when a 1990s cordless phone is €80 and you earn €150 a month? How do you work out the upkeep of a €50,000 classic car? My questions and observations are met with a response of, “Cuba is Cuba” and shrug. Locals are nationalistic but reluctant to give anything away. They bombard you with questions about where you come from and guess your nationality as you pass. They seem to love anything from the USA and are delighted that the Obamas and the Rolling Stones came to visit.
In Cuba, the people are devastatingly beautiful; coffee or cinnamon coloured skin, their chocolate, green or hazel eyes are utterly striking. The men are beefy and dominant, dripping in machismo. Cat calling is rife and you’d want a thick skin. The women dress in tight clothes, and are all long lean limbs, jutting collar bones with masses of thick wavy hair. They walk tall, intimidatingly, and are utterly nonplussed by your existence. They ooze sex and a Havana night club is one of the most effortlessly sensual places I have ever set foot. The children ignore foreigners for most part, too busy playing barefoot in the streets until all hours of the night. People sit outside their homes and talk, or gather in the plazas or on the malecon (pier) at night. Virtually no smart phones are in sight.
There’s a distracting facade of shiny classic cars, the rustic charm of the colonial architecture, the delapidating buildings, the intoxicating mix of fast, sexy, salsa and rum. Beneath the art, colours, Che Guevara iconography and sun drenched narrow streets, I remain none the wiser to the inner workings of Cuba. Best I can do is take it at surface level and capture its unique and novel complexity on camera.