HAVANA TIMES — In 50 years time, let’s hope it’s less than that, when somebody wants to know something about the multiple realities we live here in Cuba, the one that doesn’t appear on the TV, or in the newspapers, or in books, you know why, rebellious photography will take on the role of resistance, and by looking at these photos you’ll be able to see bleak scenes, like the ones we experience in our own daily lives.
Nowadays, we live in complete uncertainty while the Latin American Left is moving backwards, or better yet, staggering, and in Cuba panic is beginning to spread as we may return to the 18-hour blackouts that made the entire country go dark, and with them, a hint of the nightmare that we all still have living in our memories: shortages of absolutely everything. As well as the constant feeling of being suffocated, which is always present, because we’re breathing in a reality that is stifling us?
Now that the crisis in Venezuela has reached a foreseeable crossroads, future oil exports to Cuba are in danger of being reduced to disquieting figures. Therefore, the summer that the media announced was going to be hot and happy is being threatened by electricity cuts that are already taking place. They told us that the people wouldn’t be affected. It’s true, however, that under the power grid “adjustment” plan, they’ve cut the power from 8 am until 6 pm at least once a week.
Those blackouts that took place night and day and made history, such as the lack of food and our desperation, reminded me of 20 snapshots taken by photographer Raul Canibano (1961) at the Seis seis Gallery (74 Aguiar Street between Pena Pobre and Cuarteles Streets, Old Havana) which will be shown in an exhibition open to the public from July through September.
The selection of photos taken from four of his photo series (Tierra Guajira, Ciudad, Fe por San Lazaro and Ocaso) give us an insight into daily life at the time as they document survival, pain and the devastation that marked, and continues to mark, the existence of so many Cubans that we’ve seen drown in their hopes for living in a better society. A country where its leaders have made a memorial of disappointment out of its revolutionary utopia. A policed state where the government wants complete control of its citizens isn’t a delusion or paranoia. It’s as real as the suffocation we suffer.
The old lady with a hump in her back, who walks along the wet pavement using a walking stick for support, where is she going with a bag in her hand? Solitude, anxiety and fatigue conspire against a person that has to go out, who has to “struggle” in order to eat, hoping to see a better world before she dies? In front of her, the Malecon watches her from a distance. The old man who hides his face in his coat, what reality is he trying to escape from? What would he rather not see? The woman who cries incosolably next to a crowd, what pains her so?
And the young man who bangs his head against a windowframe, what’s tormenting him? The old lady surrounded by cats with a TV in the background, you can see Fidel on the screen. Is he talking about Cuba’s energy revolution? Explaining the advantages of using an electric stove? The old woman avoids it, she’s looking somewhere else, tired? Lost her faith? The same thing as yesterday, today and tomorrow?
Sacred utopia, The new man, Invincible Party, Victorious Revolution. Crushed up words whose echoes now only name other realities such as disappointment, failure of hope and distrust of a social project which prioritizes its “unbreakable” image, while diversified opinions and individual initiatives are not. They’ve been blaming the US trade embargo for paralyzing the country for half a century now, and in adopting this strategy they’ve dismissed the Government’s inability to guide an economy which breathes through life support.
The Cuban poet Roberto Fernandez Retamar has written a verse that says: “We, the survivors, To whom do we owe our survival?” Like we don’t know? I’ve heard the many different versions that Cuban imaginations have conjured up to this verse. I really like the one that says: We, the survivors, owe our rebellious nature to the Cuban State.
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