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“Memories of Cuba”
by Paco Feria
A Photojournalist's Story of Preconceptions and Reality

When I approached you, my mind was full of half truths told by those whose visits to you had preceded my own. I preferred to escape these themes and wanted to find you myself and so in the first days of the new millennium, I walked like a blind man with my camera as my white-tipped cane.

Now I think of the loss of hope, the frustration of the proof in those first days. The certainty of those themes they had told me of you - seeing old white hands interlaced with tender black hands, reaching for dollars between vapors of rum - a rhythm of salsa. I couldn't pretend. I decided to disappear, to savor your authentic essence. In short, to find myself lost. I didn't want to see what thousands of eyes had seen before me. If anything, I preferred to delude myself until I understood that my mission wasn't on the beaches of Varadero, nor in the bars of Old Havana, nor in the promenade by the jetties, answering a thousand and one times when the jineteras asked me the hour. No, it wasn't there that I had to search for you.

You were in another place, which I would discover - I found you. You were in the red dusk of Havana, and in the white dress of a 15-year-old girl at the brink of abandoning puberty, and in the emotional tears of her father. You were in the shame of my friend, an engineer in Cienfuegos forced to be a taxi driver. You were in the cane cutters at six in the morning when the golden light of the sun hid the loss of hope. You were in the beating heart of the people, by the fear of the future. You were in the soap opera of the shipwrecked child Elian. You were in the gray-haired beard of a god who came to earth in a flash of fire to cry out, "my country or death," in the middle of a legendary revolution, seated with your apostles Camilo and Ernesto. I also found you in the ration cards. I found you resisting the strong winds that whipped your borders and threatened to leave you adrift. Above all, I saw you in the lifeless eyes of a little blind girl - what irony! It seemed as though she looked with hope to life as it was remembered. As it was when I knew you, dear Cuba.
Translation Provided by: Lonny Shavelson

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