Wednesday, April 13, 2016

In search of special

When I travel, I look for what differentiates a place from other places, what is the combination of traits that makes it unique? Are there a combination of traits that make it unique? Sometimes the answer is not really. Cuba is not one of those places. Cuba is wonderfully unique. I really wish I could speak to people here about Communism, and their take on it, but my Spanish is nowhere hear good enough to engage in political discourse unless it's to assure people Donald Trump won't become the president, and English is definitely not commonly spoken here except in the service industry, which is small. I am going to try to ask my Casa Particulares owner tonight more about this.

Cuba is really, really hot. They tell me it's winter now. It's in the 90's each day with humidity that probably doesn't even register on the scale it's so high. Baracoa has been less humid and even pleasant at times, but not the other areas I have been to. This heat I think is what drives people to leave their doors and windows open at night, which creates this level of intimacy where you walk down the street and feel as if you are a part of each home. These homes are small, and don't have entrance ways, their front doors open right into their living space, so you are literally a foot away from being inside someone's living room - the open door right in front of you. The scene is nearly always the same - a TV that's on, a number of chairs, often a sofa and/or overstuffed chair as well, and people in what often seems to be their underclothes sitting around, motionless, watching. It's as if the street is their entrance way or hallway. The aesthetic is so reminiscent of the 50's. I want so badly to photograph these vignettes. To produce a series of open door living shots. But, it doesn't feel right to do so without asking, and asking would 1. be awkward and stressful and 2. either result in a no, or something that looks more like a portrait because they would then be too self-conscious and posed. I would need to actually spend time with the family to get the kind of shot I want, and that's not going to happen on this trip. But, I don't feel badly photographing if there's no one in the room, that doesn't feel like a violation to me, so I have grabbed a couple of shots here and there of momentarily unpopulated living spaces. I've never been in a place before where people are just so un-self-conscious about their intimate living situations, doors and windows opened to anyone to look into. This is the most special aspect of Cuba to me. There are others, to be sure, but this is the most surprising. If I couldn't afford more than a fan and it was 95 degrees in my house, no question I too would open my door to the breeze and cooler air. But, I would definitely be conscious of what I was wearing, and how I was acting, and because our living spaces are laid out differently, and generally are larger, I wouldn't be sitting three feet from the open door living my life. It's the combination that I find to be such a treasure here. And also yet again another reminder of how much space we as Americans take up, and how lucky we are that a 1200 sq. ft. house is not considered large.

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