After the collapse of the communist bloc in 1989 and the subsequent evaporation of economic support from the Soviet Union, the people of Cuba had to develop creative, alternative sources of income to support their families. Many citizens opened their homes to tourists to supplement their state-regulated source of income. Thus, the casa particular, literally, “private house,” was born. The photographs in this series represent a modest cross-section of Cuban casas across the country and attend to a way of life where the previously private home becomes a business.
These images serve as visual translations of my experience of these households. They are a tribute to these individuals’ tenacity and willingness to improve the quality of their lives through the sharing of private, even sacred, spaces where their personal possessions are always on display. Simultaneously, the body of work acknowledges an undercurrent of formality; each family must play the role of eternal host.
Nevertheless, there is an inherent sense of familiarity as evidenced by small details such as a bowl of plastic fruit or the ingredients associated with the preparation of a home cooked meal. Domestic decorations represent keepsakes from generations past and new objects function as symbols of status. The images are an attempt to capture cross-cultural differences and similarities and to mark a shift from “pure” communism to a nascent, hybrid economy.