Vice Goes to Cuba

Props to Vice for their new Cuba story, “Castroland” (aptly named for sharing the spectacle of this sometimes dark amusement park). The photo portfolio is profound, humorous, and visually strong. The short captions are intelligent and loaded. I’ve read a million predictable Cuba articles that make me yawn, but this one has a vibrant personality. You can tell the photographers really explored, walked around, and had intimate but brief conversations with their subjects.

Photographed and written by Danish guys Jesper Damsgaard Lund and Lasse Bech Martinusse, Vice says they describe Cuba as “a perpetual going-out-of-business sale at Fidel’s personal cigar factory”.

(Vice Caption: A storefront window in Havana. It can be hard to find toothpaste and soap, but if you want something esoteric like a minibear bike, they have them)

(Vice Caption: Vladimir is the star of the water ballet that plays every day at the National Aquarium in Havana. He was simultaneously elegant and masculine—a hard thing to pull off in a loincloth)

The photographers integrate tourists in the portfolio which is sorta genius since tourism is so woven into the fabric of the circus that is Cuba — see the Italian and Slovakian who visit for their freak holidays. Photos of empty discos in grand hotels and Cuban bowlers with no shoes speak volumes. This is real photography.

(Vice Caption: Cubans have been isolated politically, socially, and financially from the rest of the world for decades. As a result, their access to mass communications has always been extremely limited, and the few things they do have access to are heavily censored. It was only two years ago that the government set up an internet infrastructure and allowed people to go online)

(Vice caption: This is Cesar, a retiree from Italy. He visits Havana several times a year to meet Cuban ladies. They become his “girlfriends” and move in with him at whichever casa particular (sort of like a Cuban bed-and-breakfast) he is staying at. Cuba’s sex industry is growing because there is less work than ever for young women)

(Vice Caption: Cubans bowl too, only barefoot, and against a different color scheme than what you’ll find at the average American alley)

(Vice caption: This is Yimi Konclaze, a fairly notable Cuban rapper/DJ who just finished his second album. A friend of ours knows him and asked us to bring Yimi a hard-to-get (in Cuba) cell phone. We visited him in his tiny Havana apartment-cum-studio, where he lives with his mom, sister, and eight-year-old daughter)

Shout out to one of his subjects, a Cuban rapper called Yimi Konclaze — one of East of Havana’s photo subjects — Represent. Represent.

(Vice Caption: Friday night at the Hotel Habana Riviera. The dance floor was completely empty)

I strongly recommend you go to this link and see more photos/captions truly illustrating the beauty and the despair of this gorgeously unique island — oh yes, there is a woman with a moustache too. Go to Castroland, The Beauty and Despair of Modern Day Cuba.

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