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?

A Photographer Is Capturing New Mexico’s Chicanx Community Through Portraits

Culture

A Photographer Is Capturing New Mexico’s Chicanx Community Through Portraits

Courtesy of Frank Blazquez

Photographer Frank Blazquez is paying a loving homage to Chicanx culture in the Land of Enchantment. The photographer is showing the world what it looks like to be Chicanx in New Mexico to highlight the diversity in a shared experience.

Frank Blazquez wants to show the world what Chicanx culture looks like outside of California.

“I am an Illinois transplant, so I was fascinated, and eventually obsessed, with the differences in my ethnicity’s iconography,” Blazquez says about the inspiration behind his project “Barrios de Nuevo Mexico: Southwest Stories of Vindication.” “For example, in New Mexico, as opposed to the Midwest and East Coast, there is a strong connection to American geography. You’ll see Latinx people with New Mexico state symbols tattooed directly on their faces and skulls. But refreshing similarities such as hairstyle also struck me.”

The other reason Blazquez started to document these lives was because of the devastating and widespread impact of drug addiction.

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Sleepy with his Daughter

A post shared by Frank Blazquez (@and_frank13) on

Blazquez admits to once having a drug problem and eventually overcoming those struggles. Some of the people that he photographs are former drug users or others who have sought redemption.

“I started in 2016 just walking around Albuquerque’s Central Avenue in the War Zone earning my street photography badge. When I almost died a couple of times, I started to use my Instagram page more often to set up shoots and contact homies from my former days of opiate abuse,” Blazquez explains. “My friend Emilio created the random handle @and_frank13 and I kept it after he died in 2017 from drug complications; an event that made me work harder to present portraits of New Mexicans demonstrating faces of dignity, hence my project ‘Barrios de Nuevo Mexico: Southwest Stories of Vindication.'”

Photography was a passion for Blazquez that grew into something bigger than him as he learned.

Blazquez’s interest in photography and love of his culture combined to create a photo series celebrating the people in his life. Blazquez turned his lens to the people in his life to capture a beauty he saw in his own community that is often overlooked and ignored.

Blazquez is hoping to show people that Chicanx culture has spread farther than California because of an exodus.

“Homies escaping the three strikes law in California created an exodus in the ’90s that transferred new symbols from organizations, namely 18th Street, Sureños, and Norteños,” Blazquez explains about the Chicanx community in New Mexico. “As New Mexico is an expanse of serene beauty that attracts people to escape from former lives, in turn, symbols were exchanged such as black and gray tattoo and font styles with purist craft structure adhering to Southwest archetypes—fat ass cursive and serif fonts with ornate filigree stems.”

He acknowledges that California is known for its Chicanx and Latinx communities but there is so much more to teach people.

“LA fingers do not represent the millions of brown people outside of California and it certainly does not represent native-born New Mexicans,” Blazquez explains. “I learned the Latinx experience is entirely different in various locations—the California stereotype doesn’t carry itself across America. It’s enlightening to know that brown culture grows and adapts independently.”

The photographer also wants to teach people that the Latino community is vast and diverse.

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Homemade New Mexican Tattoos // #dukecity

A post shared by Frank Blazquez (@and_frank13) on

“That the Latin-spectrum in America is not pigeonholed to any sole category,” Blazquez says. “Knowing that the labels Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicanx (a/o), Latinx (a/o), Hispanic, Mexica (not Hispanic nor Latino), Indo-Latino, Afro-Latinx (a/o) are just several of the hundreds of labels available to classify my culture’s diaspora is important.”

“Duke City Diaries” is a mini-series on YouTube that Blazquez has produced to take you deeper into the lives of the people in his photos.

“I knew the profound faces from my 2010’s New Mexico experience would make great art and explain an important POC narrative at the same time,” Blazquez says. “Creating the short YouTube documentary series “Duke City Diaries” was also an offshoot from my portraiture and one that created distinct reception. The hateful and racist comments kept me moving forward to show a larger audience that racism still exists.”

Blazquez is currently working on a new photo series called Mexican Suburbs diving deeper into his themes of Chicanx culture and the opioid crisis.

READ: Photographer Diego Huerta Took An Update Photo Of The Most Beautiful Girl In Mexico

Cuban Doctors Arrive In Italy To Combat The Coronavirus– Demonstrate History Of Global Humanitarian Commitment

Things That Matter

Cuban Doctors Arrive In Italy To Combat The Coronavirus– Demonstrate History Of Global Humanitarian Commitment

USA Today/ Twitter

Communist-run Cuba received a round of applause yesterday after it was shown that the country had dispatched a fleet of doctors and healthcare providers to Italy.

Since the 1959 revolution, the Caribbean country has sent Cuban medical personnel overseas to disaster sites around the world, particularly in poor countries.

Cuban medical internationalism is the Cuban program that has sent doctors to the most underserved corners of the world. Its broad sweep of mission program has seen the country attend to 37 countries in Latin American countries,33 African countries and 24 Asian countries. In the face of the 2010s Cholera outbreak in Haiti and West Africa, the Cuban doctors played a key part in the relief.

And while a — research study pointed out that the country has provided more medical personnel to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined, Cuba’s aid to Italy in the time of the Coronavirus pandemic is notably surprising. After all, this is the first time that Cuba has sent an emergency unit to Italy, one of the world’s richest countries and also the one worst affected by the disease. Cuba’s presence there demonstrates it’s role as a medical commodity.

On Monday, the Cuban doctors were seen arriving in Italy to assist in combatting Covid-19.

According to Reuters, this is the sixth medical group that Cuba has sent in recent days to fight the spread of the disease. Recently it sent contingents to doctors to its socialist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua. It also sent doctors to Jamaica, Suriname, and Grenada.

“We are all afraid but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfill, so we take out fear and put it to one side,” Dr. Leonardo Fernandez, an intensive care specialist from Cuba, told Reuters on Saturday. “He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheroes, we are revolutionary doctors.”

Cuba’s healthcare system was built with the help of its former Soviet Union ally but many of its advances have collapsed in the wake of the communist bloc’s fall.

In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, Cubans have bemoaned their lack of access to medicine, hospitals have become dilapidated.