An unusual photo of a(n) (un)common Havana

My friend Santos Rodríguez visited Cuba recently. He walked the streets of Havana (the real city, not the one that appears in touristic pamphlets) with a good camera, a good eye and a happy-trigger attitude: ready to press the shutter whenever there was a scene begging him to grant it the immortality of the still shot. He took amazing (and heartbreaking) photos, which he was kind enough to share with me and I will publish here, giving him his due credit, to illustrate some of my musings.

After this preamble, let’s get to the photo that inspired this note. Santos was wandering around Centro Habana (I’d like to think he was nearby the corner of Belascoaín and Neptuno, my former address, the two streets that name my blog in Spanish), when he witnessed an unbelievably unusual setting for a country kidnapped by an ideology that brags about the high literacy rate of its population and, still, the only things it produces by the truckload are ruins and exiles. On an unspecified corner on his way to nowhere in particular, abandoned in a trash container, he saw loads of books. This shocked him. But the main course was yet to come. As he approached the container to zoom in, one book caught his eye. He was surprised that nobody had bothered to cover that book by placing it under one of the many volumes that surrounded it. “Alexis, I swear I didn’t touch anything; I just took the photo,” he told me. And we would have to believe him. It is hard to imagine a Spaniard rummaging through Cuban garbage.

Poetic justice does exists. Thanks to her, the generations of Cubans who grew up forced to scream everyday at school “Pioneers for communism: We will be like Che!” can see here the final destination of the Writings and Speeches of the blood-thirsty argentine:


(Photo: Santos Rodríguez).

3 responses to “An unusual photo of a(n) (un)common Havana

  1. Donna Pazdera

    Hi Alexis,
    Very interesting photo. I shot something similar in July 1995:

    Thought you might like seeing it.

  2. Hi Donna,

    Thanks for your photo! I, of course, am not a proponent of book-burning. But burning a book by Lenin in Cuba is as big an act of civil disobedience as you could imagine. I applaud the gesture and the bravery of the person who made that bold statement.

    Alexis Romay

  3. Photos from Havana in black and white:
    “See See Havana”

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