Alfredo Fernandez Rodriguez

Restored inner courtyard in Old Havana.

HAVANA TIMES, March 31 — Several days ago, while walking through Havana with a London photographer, he told me he didn’t like the restored part of the city because it appeared too much like just another European city.

For this friend, what was different was capturing the municipality of Centro Havana in his lens, an area where the restoration work of the Office of the City Historian has yet to arrive.

“Here is what’s interesting about Havana,” he said while photographing buildings in poor condition and crammed with people.  He also took shots of the horrible posters located all over the city advising us of just about anything.

Without too many hitches, my friend photographed some of the last museums of socialism, though on more than one occasion his pleasure turned into dismay when confronted with the deterioration.  Still, he didn’t cease snapping photos of this part of the city.

Colapsing building in Centro Havana. Photo: Caridad

Although I tried to be explained to him —hoping not to seem overly sentimental— he never completely understood that I would love to see Havana totally restored, without the slightest worry of the city ended up looking European.

His pictures were taken in places where thousands of people’s daily lives are characterized by living packed together in properties lacking the basic infrastructure for ventilation, drinking water, lighting, or elevators, and which are consequently deficient of proper hygiene.

I find it extremely unjust that for a city to be shown unique in the lens of a photographer it has to remain indefinitely submerged in deterioration and abandonment.

I would be thrilled for the residents of Havana if the city appeared the most European possible – especially if that meant the disappearance of its deplorable housing condition, which fills the souls of all with despair.

I don’t know, but if there occurred some miracle and the Cuban capital was restored to the point that it seemed First World, I’m sure that the gift of being born in this part of the Caribbean —plus the intense dynamism of Cubans— would save Havana from seeming like just another city.

Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

9 thoughts on “Havaneurope?

  • April 3, 2010 at 3:05 am

    For those interested in seeing for themselves, are just nostalgic, there are several nice video walking tours of Centro to on YouTube and CubaJunkty (Potato’s Centro Tour, Parts 1 through 4).

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