Culture

What Cubanos Really Think Of All The Tourists Taking Over Their Beloved Cuba

Writer-photographer Walter Thompson-Hernández, the creator behind Blaxicans of Los Angeles, is currently in Cuba, where he is meeting, and photographing, Cubans across the island. Along the way, he’s asked Cubans, young and old alike, about their views, hopes and concerns for their country’s future.


Even as Cuba sits on the precipice of what might be yet another large scale economic and political restructuring, for many of the island’s youth–and an increasing number of foreign tourists–the revolutionary propaganda that lines the island’s streets exist only as a reminder of an era in Cuba’s history that has been canonized by popular culture. For others, however, the revolution is more than aesthetic or hallowed rhetoric. These people, well into their golden years, can still vividly recall the day their lives were directly impacted by the outset of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Some were young children, while others were well into their early 20s when the first shots were fired on the Southern shores of Playa Girón.

All of these perspectives form the Cuban experience. Here, then, are the stories of the Cuban people — young and old — in their own words:

Pedro and Giovanny, 11

Pedro and GiovannyCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“People always get us confused for each other and our teacher says we’re the best mathematicians in our school.”

Bertha and Ignacia, 75 and 73

Bertha and Ignacia
Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“We’ve been friends for over 40 years. We’ve seen it all.”

Yasmani, 24

YasmaniCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I’m a writer, poet, radio dj, and cultural promoter. I am inspired by my reality and my society. I try to change the negative things that I encounter. When I started my first poetry project called “El Sendero De La Poesía,” I was told that I was crazy, but as time has passed, people saw that I wasn’t crazy. That project has united a lot of people that I love. It’s always important to change reality for the better.”

Juan, 86

JuanCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I am grateful that I have friends and family that take care of me. I go to church almost every day where they help with my laundry, give me food, and allow me to socialize with my group of friends.”

Mercedes, 32

MercedesCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I think tourists help our economy, but I don’t like to socialize with them because a lot of them come to Cuba for the wrong reasons. I think we’re going to have to find ways to become more self-sufficient in the future.”

Mari Julia, 84

Mari JuliaCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“Life can be difficult here, but we find ways to overcome a lot of the challenges that we face.”

Hector, 14

HectorCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I’m from central Havana and baseball is my favorite sport; I hope to achieve the things I want to achieve through it. I don’t know what the future looks like, but I just hope that I can keep playing baseball.”

Camita, 86

CamitaCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“Cooking allows me remember my mother and what she taught me. I don’t know what the future looks like, but I do know that I hope I can cook for as long as I live.”

Reynaldo and Ivan, 7 and 10

Reynaldo and IvanCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I’m his older brother.”

Maria Luisa, 75

Maria LuisaCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

Maria Luisa is unable to speak. She is battling Alzheimer’s.

Surisaday, 25

SurisadayCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I am from El Cobre, a small neighborhood here in Santiago de Cuba. I’m a singer and go against the grain, trying to move past a lot of the limitations that we experience here. I’m always trying to inspire young people like myself.”

Omar, 75

OmarCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I work as a watchman and look after this home every night. When I was younger I traveled to Guatemala to work for the government, but now my days are spent watching this home. I was happy that President Obama visited the island – now I want to see Cuba reach levels it’s never reached before.”

Maite, 20

MaiteCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I studied music and piano in school for many years. I also earned a lot of national awards and graduated. I realized that I wanted more than classic piano, so I began to sing when I was 11 years old. Today, I’m a singer, producer, manage several groups, and helped to bring the Manana festival to Santiago.”

Hilario, 81

HilarioCredit: Walter Thompson-Hernández

“I live in Los Angeles and I am back to visit my family. I moved to the United States in 1967 and worked in different jobs. I retired years ago and spend a lot of time with other Cubans who also left the island in L.A.”


READ: Hiiii Khloe, How’s Your Cuba Trip Going? Can We Chat About Something For A Sec?

To Celebrate Guelaguetza, Here Are Some Mesmerizing Diego Huerta Photos Of Oaxaca’s Indigenous Peoples

Culture

To Celebrate Guelaguetza, Here Are Some Mesmerizing Diego Huerta Photos Of Oaxaca’s Indigenous Peoples

Courtesy of Diego Huerta Studios

Diego Huerta is an Austin-based photographer on a mission to photograph all of the indigenous populations throughout Mexico. His photos are giving people an intimate and sincere look at the lives of the people who have long called Mexico their home. July is a special time in Oaxaca for the indigenous community. The month marks Guelaguetza, a month-long celebration in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca highlighting the indigenous people and their contributions to Mexican culture. In honor of Guelaguetza, here are photos by Huerta taken in Oaxaca showing the vibrant and mesmerizing indigenous community.

Photographer Diego Huerta is capturing the wonder and majesty of Mexico’s indigenous communities.

Courtesy of Diego Huerta Studio

Huerta wants to give people a true sense of what indigenous communities look like. There is something about seeing the communities people talk about instead of just reading about them.

“Nowadays the information that we have about the native peoples in Mexico is only numbers and statistics,” Huerta told mitú. “There’s no photographic documentation of each of the towns, we don’t know where they are, we don’t know how they live, we don’t know how they look.”

Huerta earns the trust of the communities and gets intimate photos that show the beauty within these communities.

Courtesy of Diego Huerta Studios

Huerta doesn’t just walk into these spaces with his camera snapping. The photographer makes his presence and intentions known to earn their trust and the chance to document their existence.

“Whenever I come to an indigenous village, the first thing I do is talk to people, be interested in knowing how they live, be simply a human talking with another human,” Huerta says. “Then I tell them what I do and I ask them to be able to portray them, which in most cases they say yes.”

Huerta has spent years documenting Oaxaca and absorbing the culture in the southern Mexican state.

Courtesy of Diego Huerta Studios

“I have spent six years traveling through Oaxaca, and every year people knew my work more, which made things easier for me because it was the same people who invited me to their villages to portray them,” Huerta says.

As someone who has experienced the incredible celebration of Guelaguetza, Huerta has one thing to say.

Courtesy of Diego Huerta Studios

Guelaguetza is more than a celebration tied to a specific time of year.

“To live the Guelaguetza is to start living,” Huerta proclaims.” There are so many emotions to see the eight regions of the State of Oaxaca gathered in the same place that you don’t need to be Mexican to get excited, it’s simply a wonderful and unique world that’s lived there.”

It is crucial to document and capture images of the indigenous communities for several reasons.

Courtesy of Diego Huerta Studios

Huerta believes that there is value in capturing proof of the indigenous communities to preserve our own history. These are the people who lived on these lands first and are therefore the basis for the people now inhabiting the land.

He wants to make sure that everyone who sees his images understands the greatness of human beings.

Courtesy of Diego Huerta Studios

Huerta explains that getting people to see the greatness of human beings is the main objective of his indigenous photo series. By understanding the greatness of people and the indigenous communities, Huerta says that will lead to us understanding ourselves.

Huerta’s work within Mexico’s indigenous communities has endeared him to the very people he set out to document.

Courtesy of Diego Huerta Studios

“On my last trip to the State of Sonora with the Yaqui people, I felt that I was already part of them,” Huerta recalls. “It was difficult to be accepted but after three years they saw me as someone they trusted and that made me feel very special.”

READ: Diego Huerta Is Capturing The Most Amazing Photos Of Indigenous Mexicans

Some People Don’t Believe The Cuban Government Is Being Honest About The Number Of People Living To 100

Culture

Some People Don’t Believe The Cuban Government Is Being Honest About The Number Of People Living To 100

Alexander Kunze / Unsplash

Longevity is both the question and the answer to experts seeking to understand communities that live longer than average. In the U.S., wealth is often more correlated to health, with greater access to both healthcare and self-care. Cuba, however, is not a wealthy country. With the average monthly income being publicly listed as $30 per month, experts are puzzled as to why there are 2,070 Cubans living over 100 years old on the island.

Like many other communities of centenarians, experts suspect a strong family system is a key to a long life. Other experts suspect Cuba is lying.

The data on thousands of people living to 100 is released by Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health.

@AFP / Twitter

The data itself is based on the first quarter of 2017, which showed that more than 1,200 of the centenarians were women. According to the communist nation, 19.8 percent of its people are 60 years and older.

“Centennials now represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the population, with very special socioeconomic and health implications,” Dr. Alberto Fernández Seco, director of the Ministry’s Department of the Older Adult, Social Assistance and Mental Health told Juventud Rebelde.

Dr. Fernández Seco credits Cuba’s free healthcare for the success of its citizens.

“Health care is free in Cuba, a country with has an average life expectancy of 79.5 years. Photo: AFP” Digital Image. AFP. 2 July 2019.

What’s more is that Dr. Fernández Seco says the population isn’t demented, disabled or heavily dependent. The majority of those 100 years and older live with their family.

Rigoberta Santovenia, 102, credits her family for her ripe age.

“Rigoberta Santovenia, 102, at her home in Havana. Photo: AFP” Digital Image. AFP. 2 July 2019.

She lives with her 68-year-old daughter, Regla, who takes care of her. “I’m very family oriented — I love my children, my grandchildren, my six great-grandchildren. I’ve never been alone,” she said.

Regla is convinced her mom will make it to the “120 Club.”

“Rigoberta Santovenia, 102, reads a newspaper at her house in Havana. Photo: AFP” Digital Image. AFP. 2 July 2019.

In 2003, Fidel Castro’s personal doctor, Eugenio Selman-Housein, created the “120 Club,” which is promoted to this day. Dr. Raul Rodriguez, President of the “120 Club” maintains that “biologically, it has been proven that humans can live for 120 to 125 years.”

Regla thinks her mother was born to live to 120 years old. “Her great-grandmother was a slave. Slave blood seems to be stronger — that’s why she’s kept going so long,” Regla said. Rigoberta continues to read the newspaper every day without reading glasses.

Delia Barrios, 102, also says that it’s her family that keeps her going.

“Delia Barroso, 102, blows out the candles on her birthday cake at a party in Havana. Photo: AFP” Digital Image. AFP. 2 July 2019.

“I don’t feel like I’m this old. I have a family … that loves me a lot. That helps me to feel good,” she said. Barrios uses a motorized wheelchair–one that her great-granddaughter Patricia likes to join for the ride.

When Barrios was 60 years old, she was diagnosed with colon cancer and moved to the U.S.

“Delia Barroso (left) receives a present at her 102nd birthday party in Havana. Photo: AFP” Digital Image. AFP. 2 July 2019.

Twenty years later, she moved back to Cuba so she could be cared for by family. She lives with her granddaughter, Yumi, 59. Barrios says she spent her youth dancing, drinking, and smoking.

Plus, like most of our abuelas, she’s still dressed for success.

@newsroll / Twitter

For Cubans, reaching 100 isn’t the goal. They want to join the “120 Club,” and to live as you’ve still got two decades ahead of you, once you’ve reached 100 years old, certainly offers motivation.

Some experts, however, think Cuba is smudging the numbers for propaganda’s sake.

@EmbassyofRussia / Twitter

Robert Young, an expert with the U.S. Gerontology Research Group, does acknowledge the family support system as a significant factor. “We see that in Japan, too,” he says. On the other hand, he thinks the numbers are meant to propel “a myth that’s used for ideologic propaganda purposes.”

The methods of manipulation are shocking.

@AFP / Twitter

An expert on the matter for Cuba, specifically, Vincent Geloso, says that Cuban doctors “have targets to reach or they’re punished.” Geloso references a similar government’s strategy–the Soviet Union used to record infant deaths as miscarriages to keep down mortality rates.

Regardless, Cuba’s life expectancy relative to revenue is truly remarkable.

@ANTICONQUISTA / Twitter

It doesn’t add up to other countries. Experts have a range of theories ranging from the low rate of car ownership and resultant accident deaths to even the 1990’s food rationing that kept diabetes rates down while other countries’ skyrocketed.

Whatever the case may be, many feliz cumple’s a Cuba.

READ: A Brazilian Social Security Worker May Have Discovered the Oldest Living Person Ever

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