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like the most beautiful slum ever
September 20, 2012 10:19 AM   Subscribe

This NYT slideshow of Cuba photographs does an excellent job of portraying Cuba's mood: "like the most beautiful slum ever."

“For me, this really embodies all the contradictions of modern Cuba,” says Andrew Moore, a photographer who has spent more than a decade traveling to Cuba. Moore points to the juxtaposition of the crumbling, colonial-era warehouse and the the view through the archway of a crane used to unload and load barges on the San Juan River and the clever creation of an urban garden. “For me this came as a sign of entrepreneurship that’s now developing in Cuba.” It’s a story, Moore says, of “people reinventing themselves and reinventing the landscapes of the cities.”

The accompanying 9-page article, Where is Cuba Going? is also a fascinating read, though more particular. Both capture the feeling of what it's like to visit.
posted by univac (22 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Moore points to the juxtaposition of the crumbling, colonial-era warehouse and the the view through the archway of a crane used to unload and load barges on the San Juan River and the clever creation of an urban garden. “For me this came as a sign of entrepreneurship that’s now developing in Cuba.”

Heaven forbid anybody have a fucking garden without the NYT planting a little flag claiming it for capitalism.
posted by enn at 10:29 AM on September 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Slum? We should ship those guys some aid or buy their products or something. Or wait, it's beautiful: how about tourism?
posted by DU at 10:37 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nothing a few more decades of embargo won't fix.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:43 AM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Heaven forbid anybody have a fucking garden without the NYT planting a little flag claiming it for capitalism.

More than that, as I understand it the urban garden programme is state-sponsored.
posted by Abiezer at 10:57 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The photographs were stunning, but did anyone else feel uncomfortable or irritated at the quotes from Moore? I'm not sure how to describe my annoyance, but there was something...wrong...with how he was describing the work.
posted by blurker at 11:03 AM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Heaven forbid anybody have a fucking garden without the NYT planting a little flag claiming it for capitalism.

It's a quotation from the photographer, not an editorial comment by the NYT.
posted by yoink at 11:09 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Andrew Moore has taken a lot of very beautiful photographs in some interesting places, by the way. A nice companion piece to the Cuba photos would be his photographs of Detroit: http://www.andrewlmoore.com/photography/detroit/.
posted by yoink at 11:13 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, the comment about "the most beautiful slum ever" comes across as weirdly patronizing. On the other hand, it does seem like a fairly accurate description, based on my limited personal experience travelling in Cuba.
posted by asnider at 11:17 AM on September 20, 2012


Perhaps Castro has been right and the US wrong. Cuba is probably better off for resisting western style capitalism. Imagine Cuba today had United Fruit and the gambling mafia continued their efforts of 'modernization'. Compare with Guatemala, which was like Cuba in the 1950s, but went the way of western modernization. Is Guatemala better off today than Cuba? I for one don't think so. Guatemala had a socialists Castro-like leader in the 1950s, Juan José Arévalo, who was overthrown by a CIA-instigated coup d'etat in 1954. Che Guevara fought on the side of Arévalo, but managed to escape the country (and the CIA) and next went to Cuba. The two countries are a sort of "natural experiment" in western-style development vs. other ways. These pictures speak many words: no crime, high level of happiness, hard work, great health, tight community, sustainable, healthy environment. Cuba has problems too not perfect, just interesting to see the comparison between different methods of ordering society, what is gained and lost.
posted by stbalbach at 11:18 AM on September 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Those pics are cool, but seriously every website in the world should just copy the Atlantic's In Focus blog for how to present photos. It's so much better than every other news organization's attempt.
posted by Aizkolari at 11:25 AM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Imagine Cuba today had United Fruit and the gambling mafia continued their efforts of 'modernization'.

There are a lot of different paths that Cuba could have gone down between the "United Fruit and gambling mafia" path and the heavy-handed state socialism path that Fidel opted for very late in the course of the revolution (during the revolution, Fidel insisted that he was fighting to establish a pluralistic liberal democracy with multiparty elections etc.), and there are lots of Latin American countries one can compare Cuba to besides the singularly awful example of Guatemala.

There can be no doubt that US policy towards Cuba has been stupid and has done much to aggravate the problems that Cubans face, but I find the persistent reflex to try to excuse Castro's exercise of dictatorial powers on the US Left--simply because the hostility to Castro on the Right is so unhinged in its excesses--depressing. Cuba is a country where most of the freedoms we cherish most highly are routinely trampled upon. Yes, it's done some important things (like healthcare) very well and yes if the US sanctions were lifted it would do even better--and those sanctions should be lifted. But that still leaves Cuba's political system as an utterly non-transparent nightmare which offers ordinary citizens no meaningful say in their own governance.
posted by yoink at 11:32 AM on September 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Those pics are cool, but seriously every website in the world should just copy the Atlantic's In Focus blog for how to present photos. It's so much better than every other news organization's attempt.
Better then Boston.com's Big Picture which they copied?
posted by delmoi at 11:34 AM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Better then Boston.com's Big Picture which they copied?

Big Picture was originally created by MeFi's Own™ Alan Taylor, who left boston.com to do In Focus for the Atlantic. The bastard's ripping himself off!
posted by theodolite at 12:01 PM on September 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'll third the 'nice pics, bad(?) narrative." The text is too short to be detailed and seems to emphasize the "these people are foreigners and they do some foreign things that are strange to me, but i didn't bother to ask about it." The dismissive language "The Cubans are very handsome people,” Moore says." and in the next sentence he talks about the tiles on the floor, not the guy with the birdcages?!
To quote a friend of mine talking about a really handsome guy who happened to be as dumb as a box of dirt, "Don't speak... You're so much more attractive if you don't speak."
posted by Zack_Replica at 4:13 PM on September 20, 2012


I took a small group of California community college photography students to Cuba for a week this summer. Aside from feeling uncomfortable with the constant reminders of how much crap we Americans own I was blown away. Havana must have been stunning 50 years ago. For more reasons than I want to try to explain, it's falling apart now. But it's a photographers paradise. The colors are a constant surprise. It would be hard to go there and not make at least one very very nice photo.

This post is a delight. I look forward to reading the story that goes with it.
posted by cccorlew at 4:19 PM on September 20, 2012


The photos are beautiful.
posted by limeonaire at 4:21 PM on September 20, 2012


Yes, it's done some important things (like healthcare) very well ...

Really? I've read suggestions that people visiting Cuba leave their travel medication behind - even things like ibuprofen and paracetamol/acetaminophen. These are things that are (a) cheap and (b) not all that hard to produce. If Cuba can't supply them then its healthcare system is deeply broken.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:25 PM on September 20, 2012


Don't know a great deal about the place but its public health outcomes definitely always gets a decent write-up in the development literature - see this article from the WHO on primary care for example.
posted by Abiezer at 8:58 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Havana must have been stunning 50 years ago. For more reasons than I want to try to explain, it's falling apart now. But it's a photographers paradise. The colors are a constant surprise. It would be hard to go there and not make at least one very very nice photo.

I have spent a few weeks traveling throughout Cuba, and I couldn't possibly agree more with the above view that it is extraordinarily photogenic. There is also a feeling there of an intensity that I have found nowhere else: a combined sense of swagger, joy, confidence and love of life. And music! It's everywhere, highly varied and superb.

Now that Obama has (I understand) made travel to the country easier, I hope many Americans will take advantage of the easing of tensions to travel in Cuba. Brush up on your Spanish (if you need to), go without any political baggage or preconceptions, reserve judgment, and talk to Cubans. Take the place just as it comes out of the bottle. It is a difficult place not to enjoy.

[Mails invoice to Cuban Bureau of Tourism.]
posted by dmayhood at 8:28 PM on September 21, 2012




I was very interested to hear that Cuba has two currencies. Then I stumbled across this article On Tipping in Cuba which does a pretty great job of exploring the issue. Also interesting alongside the article in the FPP because it's from a Canadian perspective.
posted by likeatoaster at 3:18 PM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I thought Tipping was a city in China?
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:08 PM on September 22, 2012


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