Our Man in Havana

There was a time when the best American nightlife was in Havana. The Hotel Naçional on the Malecón still has pictures of Sinatra and other American matinee idols on its walls. That party has been closed to Americans since Castro’s revolution and the embargo imposed by the US government. In the meantime, Cuba has in many ways become a time capsule in decay. You may get a cab ride in an American car from the 1950s, shined to a high gleam and in need of nightly maintenance from its owner. You can walk by Spanish colonial buildings, majestic in their unattended dotage. However, Cuba is changing, and travel restrictions are now loosening. Friend of No Man and unrestricted Canadian Neil Watson was there earlier this month to photograph a world that may soon disappear.

Photos and Captions by Neil Watson of A&H Mag

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Rafael Trejo boxing gym has been seen through the lens of many other photographers. We were on the hunt for the cover shot of our next Risk Takers Edition: Victories are Temporary. One of the boxers named Mac, was our target. We stopped in on our first day - but it was closed. The man here kept the open air gym safe and our spirits high for the return next morning.

 

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We all see the pictures of classic cars, but few take notice of the fact they are actually shells of their pasts. Most no longer have badges, lights inside or out. It's a stark reminder of the availability of things in a place cut off from the world for so long.

 


 

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Diver off the Malecón.

 

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I thought about the design of this car. I'm unsure of the make and year, but I could easily tell it was created in an era where the future was so bright and free flowing. Sort of like the Jetsons... stark contrast to where it was parked.

 

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Adults in childhood. As we transferred over to another side of Havana, we were aboard a water taxi of sorts. Riddled with teens, this particular one caught my eye. His carefree attitude and demeanour was that of a man twice his age. Did he know or care to know what future lay ahead of him in a country where prosperity is wholly tied to your blood line?

 

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Back at the gym, the third visit. He paused just long enough for me to catch him in motion. I can't recall his name, but he was one of the few training for a real fight, and not just there to stay fit.

 

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Me: "Up to much? ¿Qué paso "Her: "Nada, hoy o maña." There isn't much to do for those living in Havana outside of the service industry. Most days are spent doing, well, nothing really.

 

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The few pristine cars left were being used during the filming of Fast 8.

 

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While we were walking over to a point of interest in old Havana, I gazed over to my right and the light just caught this man sitting in this makeshift doorway. As I pulled up my camera, he casually grinned, as if he knew exactly what I saw.

 

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The "guard" of what was once a two floor home, now, nothing but collapsed concrete and rubble and exposure to harsh sun above. He said "it is my house, but not my home." Haunting words, knowing full well he lived here, but no longer found solace in staying there.

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