We have landed in Miami, Florida! On our way home…
On Tuesday morning we went to Guanabacoa, a small city outside of
Havana and the site of the original city of Havana. There students
were able to learn more about Afro-Cuban religions and see exhibits
showing how those religions are practiced. We were also able to learn
a bit more about Guanabacoa back when it was founded as a sugar mill.
Wednesday afternoon we had a special guest, one of the wives of the Cuban
Five. They are known here as las Cinco Heroes and have spent the past
15 years in jail in the United States, although one was recently
released but was forced to give up his US citizenship in order to
return to Cuba. The US found them guilty of espionage and conspiracy
to commit murder, but the Cuban government says it sent them to spy on
US-based terrorism groups made up of Cuban exiles. Cubas also takes
issue with them being tried in Miami (an area with an overt negative
opinion of the current Cuban government) and of so much of the
evidence being labeled as confidential for national security purposes,
so the 5 couldn’t properly defend themselves. Our guest shared with
us some history regarding why the Five were on their mission, what
happened to them during their legal process in the United States, and
what life has been like for her as she has spent the past fifteen
years without her husband, fighting for his return. Students were
able to ask her questions about her experience, and her English skills
added greatly. We were very lucky that the Marti Center was able to
organize this visit for us, and we were inspired to do more research
on the topic when we’re back home.
This morning we had another special treat. For his last lecture,
Alberto Faya brought a band of some of Cuba’s best young musicians,
including his own son and the percussionist of Pablo Milanes, famed
Cuban musician. The class was very lively since Faya covered music in
Cuba since 1959 by speaking for a little while to explain each period
or style of music and then the band would play to demonstrate. The
music was largely improvised, although we certainly couldn’t tell.
They covered rhumba, religious rhumbas, feeling, nueva trova and the
essence of Cuba as a country and people of assimilations.
After lunch, we went to the Museum of the Revolution. While some of
it was under construction, we were still able to see exhibits on Cuba
before the Revolution, the major events of the Revolution itself, and
the progress of the Revolution up until 1990. There was also an
exhibit of art inspired by the Cuban Five.
This evening students will be shooting, packing and squeezing in their
last minute experiences before our departure.
On last Thursday evening most of the students went to Yellow Submarine, a
live music venue featuring American and British rock music, and
decorated entirely in a Beatles theme. It was a nice reminder of home
to see so much English and to hear music that wasn’t reggaeton or
Friday morning the students took a tour of the Christopher Columbus
Cemetery, which had been rescheduled due to rain. The tour guide was
particularly lively, and the morning light was much better than the
previous day’s grey skies and rain. In the afternoon we had crit of
the five best images from each student, as well as Kade and Delia.
The students final projects are taking shape nicely, and we will spend
this last week on the finishing touches.
Most of the weekend was a bit of wash. Unfortunately, Boston has had
much better weather than Havana recently. Between the rain and the
bad light not a lot of shooting has taken place, but the students have
instead spent some time watching movies, doing their reading homework,
and shopping for souvenirs. On Sunday night a group of students went
to see the Cuban National Ballet perform Romeo and Juliet. It was a
beautiful rendition and we enjoyed a nice breeze and lack of rain
before and after.
On Monday morning we had the Cuban photography lecturer return to
speak with us about Cuban Film. We learned about the history and
common characteristics of Cuban film, as well as the most famous
directors and films from Cuba. We saw a few short films as well as
some clips from longer ones to get a feel for the Cuban style and
common subject matters. We also got copies of the films so we can
watch them later when we have more time.
On Monday afternoon we rearranged our schedule due to the weather.
Instead of going to the museum we did some one-on-one reviews of work
and left early so students could shoot. This is going to be a very
busy week and we have had some issues with the wifi at the Marti
Center, so we (and your students) will do our best to keep you in the
On Tuesday the students saw a presentation on the depictions of Jose
Marti in art and photography throughout history. The presentation
covered a large swath of artists and it was interesting to learn about
Marti and his personality through their work. In the afternoon
everyone went out shooting, exploring the neighborhoods around Vedado
and Centro. There were plans to watch our Cuban ball of energy and
cultural liaison Jorge perform with his band, but the show was pushed
to next Tuesday.
Wednesday Andrea introduced the students to the world of night
photography, explaining various techniques for capturing images after
the sun goes down. Cuba has a lot of crazy artificial light, so it
will be neat to see what the students are able to come up with in the
next few days. Wednesday afternoon we learned how to organize our
files and after that went off to do more shooting in the city. At
night a group of students took a trip to the movies just up the street
from our hotel. At just 8 cents a ticket it was quite a bargain, and
the movie was even in English with Spanish subtiles.
Yesterday Luis and Andrea explained the software and technical
aspects of creating panoramic images as well as diptychs, triptychs
and grids of multiple images. Students spent the morning shooting
with this in mind. They returned to try their hand at stitching the
images together in Photoshop, and in the afternoon we will be
photographing at the Christopher Columbus Cemetery. Final projects
are shaping up, and the students’ final presentations are only a week
and a half away.
In other news, rainy season is finally here and every afternoon we are
getting some very intense rainstorms. The rain is a nice departure
from the heat, but it is definitely making photography a little