Cuba photography exhibit

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jul 11 11:55:10 MDT 2003

NY Times, July 11, 2003
A Harsh Romance in a Land of Ruins and Revolution

"I want to go to Cuba before things get better there," someone confided 
to me recently. Cuba, for many people, is a place suspended romantically 
in history. It has outgrown its socialist revolution, but has not yet 
become crass and capitalist. Its streets are full of old Buicks and 
Fords from the 1950's rather than new Toyotas. It is a country of ruins 
that doesn't have enough money to build lots of hideous high-rises. 
Every street musician plays the old songs of the Buena Vista Social 
Club. And that's the way some people want it to stay, forever.

The signature image of "Cuba on the Verge: An Island in Transition," at 
the International Center of Photography, is Virginia Beahan's color 
seascape. Off in the distance you see a dark brown shape, a mangrove 
swamp, jutting into the blue-gray ocean. In the foreground is an aging 
cement balustrade pointing off in the same direction and at its base a 
pile of brownish rocks and flotsam. This is where Fidel Castro; his 
brother, Raúl; Che Guevara; and 79 other men landed in a boat called 
Granma, armed with weapons from Mexico, to start the Cuban revolution in 

Homely and forlorn as the scene is, it still packs in three kinds of 
nostalgia: for ruins, for landscape and for the revolution. Ms. Beahan 
set out to chronicle how Cuba's history has been "written on the land in 
words and images: on billboards and signs, on public buildings and 
homes, painted onto rocks, and spelled out in whitewashed pebbles in the 
red earth." One picture shows a cement baseball scoreboard planted on 
the site where Cuba's rebels first battled Fulgencio Batista's forces. 
Through the scoreboard's square chinks, where hits, strikes, balls and 
outs are posted, you can see green hillsides, muddy hilltops and in tiny 
white letters "Viva Fidel." The picture has a wry edge, but also a touch 
of pathos.

Is it possible for anyone to photograph Cuba without some romance 
creeping in?



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