Casa de fruta y pan
I traveled to Cuba for the first time in 2011 to start a project that explores domestic life at the edge of capitalism. The families I stayed with as I traveled across Cuba host tourists in their private homes as a means of income.
After the collapse of the communist bloc in 1989, many families opened their doors to travelers in order to supplement their state-regulated source of earnings. Thus, the casa particular, literally, “private house,” was born. These photographs represent a modest cross-section of Cuban casas particulares throughout the country. They attend to a way of life where the previously private home becomes a business, and moreover, mark a transition from a purely communist country to a hybrid one at a key point in Cuban history—the waning of an outdated political and economic model as well as Castro’s rule over Cuba.
My intentions, as I have returned to Cuba over the past several years, has been to push past preconceived notions and the prescribed experience to gain a fuller and more intimate view of domestic and familial culture. These families have graciously provided a means of entrance into personal, yet public space. Like so many inquiries we must travel inward to come out again with fresh eyes. As Amelia Weinreb so succinctly put it “one must go—as anywhere, but particularly in Cuba—into private space” to re-emerge with new understanding. And I come to find the interior landscape of Cuba is transformed, both figuratively and literally—as am I.
Each image stands to reinforce the heat, love, and power this country has within it. This can be seen and felt in every manifestation, from the vibrating color and light this environment exudes, to the easy self-assured individuals I have come to know, to the food we make and break together. It is shared through the physical transition each home has made over the years, but also a deeply felt sense of movement which seems to permeate even the air. I consume, ingest and ruminate upon these images. They are a means of sharing my personal experience, but serve as a collective expression.
It is my hope that this work engages and disturbs previously held thoughts—adding something new to the on-going conversation of an evolving Cuba. I am convinced that we can unsettle the narratives of life after economic collapse, and the nostalgia of “Old” Cuba—whether under Batista, Castro or any other leader.