Yesterday was our last day of classes at the center. We spent most of the day presenting our final photo projects. The students’ work was extremely impressive and it was great to see how much everyone has learned over these past 4 weeks. After our presentations, we had a graduation ceremony where each student received a certificate of completion from the center. After the ceremony, we celebrated by dancing and dining on the patio with the wonderful people from the center. Tonight is our goodbye dinner and party in the city! Can’t believe the trip is coming to an end!
The past two days have been intense workdays in Havana. We have been doing preparations for our final portfolios while trying to enjoy every last moment of our dialogue.
The past two days, one of the dialogue students and Northeastern varsity basketball player, Marco Banegas-Flores went to local schools to donate Northeastern basketball gear. The students were thrilled to receive new shoes, shirts and basketballs. Marco then led a couple of drills with the Cuban students along with a couple of students from our Northeastern group.
This morning we enjoyed a concert from our culture professor, Alberto Faya. His band performed a combination of traditional Cuban beats and Cuban contemporary music with a grand finale of “Guantanamera” by Pete Seeger. After the awesome performance, we celebrated our beloved TA, Emma’s birthday with a beautiful white cake adorned with red-hearted ribbons. Then, we headed to “La Cabaña” which is a fort overlooking Havana that helped defend Cuba from the Spanish in the 1800s.
We are now feverishly editing and processing our photos for our final presentation tomorrow!
It’s hard to believe that we have less than a week left in Cuba. Yesterday morning we had a lecture all about Jose Marti. He is one of the most iconic figures in Cuba and was one of the most influential people in the Cuban revolution. Because Cuba’s government is so different than what most of us are accustomed to, it is interesting to see how an ideological icon in Cuba can have such a different makeup from who the United State’s traditional political and ideological icons are. Although the Cubans have explained that Jose Marti is just like the United State’s George Washington, they are ideologically very different.
In the afternoon we spent all day shooting images so that we can begin to assemble our final portfolio. This morning, all students have the opportunity to have private critiques with Luis, Dana and Emma to pinpoint what our strongest images are. This afternoon we will all go shooting again and hopefully take our final images for our portfolios. All of the students have improved an exceptional amount since arriving in Cuba and we are all excited to see each other’s final works.
Yesterday afternoon we arrived back in Havana from our relaxing weekend in Varadero. Although Varadero was a beautiful place and a fun experience, we were all excited to be back in Havana where we have been having a much more authentic Cuban experience and have been learning a lot.
This morning we had an awesome lecture from a professional photographer and professor, Alfredo Sarabia. He explained to us that there is no specific photography school in Cuba, thus photography is not a very common profession in Cuba. But, there are creative outlets like groups and societies where photographers can support each other while honing their techniques and working on their different styles. Sarabia’s lecture focused on Cuban photography and the shift in photographic style from the pre- revolution period contrasted with the post- revolution period. He also showed us the original and familiar famous photo of Che Guevera by Alberto Korda and explained the context of the photo. Apparently Che had just been informed that a ship exploded in Havana Bay that was believed to be a planned act of terrorism. This explains his pensive, distressed yet perhaps motivated face. He also explained that if Korda had not been from communist Cuba, he easily could have been amongst one of the wealthiest photographers of all time because his photo has been reproduced and replicated millions of times throughout the world. However, he also explained that monetary gain is not the motivation for Cuban photographers and especially was not the motivation for this photographer during the post- revolution era.
Varadero has been a blast! Yesterday morning we got on the bus at 7AM to head east to Varadero. On the way we stopped at Cuba’s tallest bridge and enjoyed Cuba’s (allegedly) most famous and most delicious pina coladas. We then hopped on the bus again to check out a small and vibrant town called Matanzas, a relatively small transit town between Havana and Varadero.
Around 1PM we finally made it to Varadero and we didn’t waste any precious pool and beach time. We all enjoyed rides down the water slide and the breathtaking light blue carribean waters. Many of us are shocked that we are in the same country as Havana. Because Varadero is geared toward tourism, it is a stark contrast to what we have been experiencing in Havana and it is very interesting to see the country from the two differing perspectives. We have all been enjoying our mini vacation here but are getting anxious for our last week in Havana where we will be hitting the streets shooting all day and preparing our final portfolios.
Today we had our final culture and music lecture from Alberto Faya. He spoke to us about the intersection of music and religion and showed us a few documentary pieces from the post-revolution era when people were free to practice any religion they pleased (something that Cubans were not free to do under Batista.) In the afternoon we went on a photo tour through Old Havana. Coincidentally, we ran into the Northeastern DR/Cuba Social Entrepreneurship dialogue! It was exciting to see another group from Northeastern and to share quick stories of our exotic and exciting experiences in Cuba so far. Tomorrow we are off to Veradero to enjoy a weekend in a resort town where we will perfect our panoramic landscape images and enjoy the sun!
On Monday we had lectures all day. In the morning Luis taught us some key aspects of Adobe Photoshop and helped us learn how to tastefully and effectively enhance our photos. In the afternoon, a Northeastern professor, Andrea Raynor’s, husband Charlie came to our class to share a number of spectacular photos that he has taken on his four trips to Cuba. His images are very inspiring because they really capture life in Cuba outside of the typical old cars and pictures of the Malecón. In the late afternoon, Dana lectured us on portraiture and showed us a variety of different photos throughout the age of photography. We have all been enjoying the lectures because they are helping us understand what makes a truly great photo and how to work with images to make them the very best that they can be.
Yesterday we had a lecture from a Religion expert from the University of Havana. She taught us all about the fusions of religion in Cuba, and specifically how Catholicism has influenced a wide range of Cuban religions. In the afternoon we took a short bus ride outside of the city to Guanabacoa for a photo tour and a visit to an Afro-Cuban religions museum. The museum tied together what we learned in our lecture because we saw various religious artifacts that are used in a variety of religious ceremonies.
We had an awesome weekend in Havana. On Saturday morning, most of the students headed down to Old Havana to check out another section of the city. Many of us took hundreds of photographs. Some students went to the “Chocolate Museum” where they enjoyed a variety of chocolate delicacies while other went to a restaurant called “Los Amigos,” where Anthony Bordain dined on his TV show “No reservations.”
On Sunday we woke up early and headed straight to the beach. The waves were rough and the sun was hot, but we all had an awesome time. Overall we had a very fun and exploratory weekend and we are anxious to keep learning this week.