January 2010 Archives

Cuba - Along the Paseo del Prado

A couple more pictures along this grand avenue:


(click to enlarge) Purposeful


(click to enlarge) Maybe not so purposeful

I'll be at a workshop in Death Valley, taught by Stephen Johnson, until Monday Feburary 1. Internet access is very limited, I understand, so there will be no postings to this blog until Monday or Tuesday. Thanks for looking.

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Cuba - Havana Electrical System

As nations go up the prosperity ladder, their utility systems tend to be more carefully hidden. Cuba's is not as chaotic as India's or Vietnam's, but it's still photogenically messy.


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Cuba - Havana's Paseo del Prado (2)

A couple more photos of the grand but gradually decaying buildings along the Paseo del Prado:


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Cuba - Havana's Paseo del Prado


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The Paseo del Prado (officially Paseo de Martí) is considered perhaps Havana's most beautiful street. It extends from the Parque Central to the Malecon, with a wide central boulevard and elegant buildings on both sides. Most of them, unfortunately, are not in good repair, but they're beautiful nonetheless. I'll be posting more photos of buildings along the Paseo del Prado in the next few blogs.

Cuba - Havana by Night


(click to enlarge) We took a walk down Calle Obispo one evening, passing this nightclub that opened on the street ...


(click to enlarge) ... and coming upon an outdoor concert on the steps of the Cathedral.

Cuba - Hemingway and Cojimar


(click to enlarge) This large neoclassical monument surrounds a life-size bust of Hemingway - sort of like an oversize halo. You'll need to look carefully to find the head. The monument was built in 1962, a year after Hemingway's suicide. He lived in Cuba from 1940-1960.


(click to enlarge) Regardless of the one-time glory, time and erosion have worked their way on Cojimar. I like this photo because, at first glance, it's hard to tell whether those peeling verticals are columns or niches.

Click here to see my Blurb books, including the most recent one, on Cuba.

Cuba - Cojimar

Cojimar is a fishing village a short drive (or sail) from Havana. Ernest Hemingway spent a lot of time in both places, and kept his boat Pilar in Cojimar. The old Spanish fort is now used by the Cuban Coast Guard.


(click to enlarge) The sea wall is a good place to talk and make music with friends ...


(click to enlarge) ... or just sit and think.

Cuba - Polyclinic (2)


(click to enlarge) Dental resident in polyclinic


(click to enlarge) In many US hospitals, clinics, and doctor's offices one will find expensively framed art on the walls. But Cuba is a country of murals, so the art goes directly on the wall of the polyclinic and no frame is needed.

Cuba - Polyclinics

Cuba's health system, which has led to remarkable success in low infant mortality and long life expectancy, emphasizes prevention and primary care at the community level. Family doctors and polyclinics play a key role.


(click to enlarge) Treatment room at the polyclinic. Note the electrotherapy apparatus and the acupuncture maquette.


(click to enlarge) Physical therapists in the polyclinic

From CMAJ, the online journal of the Canadian Medical Association, Feb 3, 2009

Central to Cuba's approach to maternal health and early childhood development is the polyclinic. Currently, there are 498 polyclinics, which each serve an average of 22 000 rostered patients. Cuba also has 14 078 family doctors' offices that work under the auspices of the polyclinics. Over-all, this provides for 1 physician per 159 people and 1 nurse per 79.5 people.7

The role of the polyclinic is far more extensive than that of the typical Canadian medical clinic. The polyclinic's staff is multidisciplinary and includes a wide range of professionals. Currently, the average polyclinic offers 22 services, such as rehabilitation, radiography, ultrasonography, endoscopy, thrombolysis, emergency services, traumatology, clinical laboratory, family planning, emergency dentistry, immunization, dermatology, cardiology, family and internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.8 Polyclinics also provide mental health care, maternal and child care, and care for diabetic and elderly patients.8 All of the staff at polyclinics are familiar with and responsible for every individual in the community. They focus on prevention and universal screening initiatives, and they encourage immunization through house calls, home visits and semiannual checkups. During the subcommittee's visit, we were told that diabetes can often be diagnosed long before the patient is aware of a problem. Similarly, staff at polyclinics work closely with early child development, preschool and elementary teachers so that the moment a problem is spotted in a child, he or she can be referred to the appropriate specialist.

The polyclinic is also a hub for medical and educational training. Students in medicine and nursing receive part of their training at a polyclinic, which is often where they will work after graduation. Polyclinics are also resources for data collection and scientific research, and they are conduits for scientific advances. The data collected are used by health authorities to evaluate the effectiveness of the polyclinic programs. Scientists are frequently appointed to polyclinics, where they undertake academic research and facilitate the transfer of knowledge to and from front-line staff. For example, between 2001 and 2003, a nationwide survey about the needs of people with disabilities was undertaken by scientists, university professors, professionals and specialists in cooperation with all polyclinics and primary care settings. The results of this survey led to the development of individualized education and rehabilitation programs and improved health and social services.9

Cuba - Havana Color

Even when Havana's buildings are neither grand nor crumbling, they're colorful and pleasing to the eye.


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Cuba - Colorful Decay

Many of the buildings in Havana (and elsewhere in Cuba) were once grand but have begun to crumble. Maintenance is expensive, and the country has little money for other than the essentials of food, education, and health care. Although this situation is unfortunate for Cuba, it's a gift to the photographer who likes to photograph romantic decay. Here are a couple of examples; more to come.


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I've just completed a Blurb book on Cuba, containing the photos - 141 in all - I'm posting in this blog (but no commentary). Go here to see the Cuba book, and click here to see all my Blurb books.

Cuba - Havana's Grand Buildings


(click to enlarge) El Capitolio. According to Wikipedia, "El Capitolio, or National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba, was the seat of government in Cuba until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and is now home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. Its design and name recall the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., but it is only superficially similar. Completed in 1929, it was the tallest building in Havana until the 1950s and houses the world's third largest indoor statue."


(click to enlarge) Gran Teatro de La Habana. "[I]t is the permanent headquarters of the Cuban National Ballet and the main stage for the International Ballet Festival of Havana. It has rooms of theatres, concert, conferences and video, as well as, galleries of visual, a choral centre, several halls test for danzarias groupings and dancing arts."

"The [original] building [built in 1836] was demolished in 1914 to open the way to the one that currently exists, an exponent in the German neo-baroque architecture style in Havana. The theatre is adorned with a stone and marble statue. There are also sculptural pieces by Giuseppe Moretti, representing allegories depicting benevolence, education, music and theatre. The current building construction began in 1908, was opened in 1915 with an opera season offered by important lyrical figures of the time. It was not until 1985, and as initiative of the prima ballerina Alicia Alonso that the building was renamed and became the Great Theatre of Havana." (Wikipedia)

Cuba - Modern Architecture in Havana

Many of the buildings in Havana are old romantic ruins, but not all. Here are a couple of examples of more modern (1950s Miami style?) buildings in relatively good repair.


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Cuba - Cathedral Square


(click to enlarge) The cathedral is an intriguing mixture of rough limestone material and refined baroque detail.


(click to enlarge) This woman, and several like her, dress up in fancy folk costumes and try to earn a few pesos by posing for photos with tourists in the square. She was having a slow time.

Cuba - La Habana Vieja

The heart of La Habana Vieja, Old Havana, lies in the old fort and the squares - from Arms to the Cathedral - that extend up from the waterfront.


(click to enlarge)  Castillo de la Real Fuerza, built between 1558 and 1578, is the oldest military fortress in the Americas. During colonial times it was the residence of Spanish governors and the place where gold was stored before being loaded on ships bound for Spain.


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(click to enlarge) Arms Square, near the Fort, is filled with racks of used books.

Cuba - Old Cars

Cuba is famous for its old cars. Some, particularly the government-owned cars with blue plates, are in good shape. Others, the privalely-owned ones with yellow plates, not so much. Here are a few examples.


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Cuba - National Literacy Museum

The two things of which Cuba is most proud, and which it most emphasizes, are health care and education. The campaign to make all illiterate Cubans literate within one year was announced by Fidel Castro in his speech to the United Nations in 1960. By 1961 the campaign had largely succeeded. This remarkable effort is memorialized in the National History Museum, "a small building located in Ciudad Escolar Libertad, formerly known as Columbia, the Batista regime's armed forces main headquarters.

"Located across the former headquarters, and just a few meters from the mansion that the dictator occupied when he was a General, the small institution treasures, among other objects, uniforms worn by literacy campaign participants, books, manuals, a blackboard hit by bullets shot during the Bay of Pigs invasion, pictures and personal belongings of the teachers murdered by counterrevolutionary gangs during the literacy drive and the Chinese made lamps used at night in the most remote places of the Cuban countryside. "


(click to enlarge) The Director of the National Literacy Museum


(click to enlarge) The Director holding a Chinese-made and -donated lamp used to provide light for after-dark literacy sessions in the countryside.

Cuba - José Martí

Statues and busts of José Martí are about as common in Cuba as pictures of Che Guevara, and for similar reasons. According to Wikipedia, "José Julián Martí Pérez (January 28, 1853-May 19, 1895) was a Cuban national hero and an important figure in Latin American literature. In his short life he was a poet, an essayist, a journalist, a revolutionary philosopher, a translator, a professor, a publisher, and a political theorist. Through his writings and political activity, he became a symbol for Cuba's bid for independence against Spain in the 19th century, and is referred to as the "Apostle of Cuban Independence". He also fought against the threat of United States expansionism into Cuba. From adolescence, he dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty, political independence for Cuba and intellectual independence for all Spanish Americans."


(click to enlarge) Statue in Parque Central, Havana.


(click to enlarge) Bust of Martí and tile rendering of the Cuban flag in entryway of Maqueta de la Habana, the museum housing the remarkable 1:1000 scale model of Havana. This is supposedly the second largest city model in the world (only New York City's is larger). It is used by city planners to examine siting plans for new buildings.

Cuba - Music in Havana

Havana is filled with lively music and skilled musicians. Mostly Latin styles, such as salsa, son, rhumba, jazz ...


(click to enlarge) Band playing in the lounge at the Hotel Plaza


(click to enlarge) Members of a fine jazz band at La Tococoro restaurant

but occasionally classical, as in this rehearsal of a baroque cello concerto ...


(click to enlarge) Basilica de St. Francisco de Asis, Havana, Cuba

Cuba - Havana Skyline

The architecture of Havana is striking for its beauty and diversity. Three examples as viewed from the fifth-floor breakfast patio of the Hotel Plaza in Old Havana (Havana Vieja):


(click to enlarge) Warm morning colors of buildings in a residential neighborhood


(click to enlarge) The ornate tower of the Bacardi Building


(click to enlarge) The upper floors and penthouse of an apartment building, sandwiched between the angel-topped spires of the Gran Teatro

Cuba - New Year's Eve in Havana

I'm back from a very interesting trip to Cuba. Although it's a few day's late, it seems appropriate to restart this photo blog with a couple of pictures from the New Year's Eve dinner and celebration arranged by Global Exchange at the Hotel Riviera in Havana.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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