Keeping shoes on your feet

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(Photographs by Gonzalo Vidal)

What do you do with a hole in your shoe, or if the sole is flapping loose? When your heel comes off, do you throw the shoes away and go shopping for some new ones, or just put them to one side and use instead one of the many other pairs that are lurking in your closet?

Most Cubans do not have that luxury, so taken for granted by most inhabitants of wealthier countries, where even if you have a low income you can go to a factory outlet or bargain shoe warehouse, to at least make sure that you need not go barefooted. There are shoe shops in the island, but they are few, generally to be found in the city centres. And when the prices are compared to the average income of an average Cuban, they are clearly beyond the reach of most. A pair of shoes sold in the shops costs several months’ wages; and with the cost of living, including food, on the rise, only those with access to hard currency earnings, or remittances from outside, can really aspire to replace what they wear on their feet. Most people wear shoes that were brought to them by family and friends, visiting Cuba or returning from journeys to other countries. Continue reading

The Octopus Hunter

Photos by Gonzalo Vidal (all rights reserved).

Octopus HunterVladimir has always loved the sea, and felt it beckoning to him. You can often find him, as the sun is lowering in the afternoon sky, on the rough Alamar coast, dressed in his wet suit, goggles, snorkel and flippers, swimming up and down the rocky shore snaring octopuses or harpooning fish; or sat in the inflated inner tube of a lorry that at times serves as his boat, resting with his flask of coffee and obligatory packet of cigarettes, or trailing a nylon line and bated hook to tempt a fish into his clutches. Above all, he brings his untiring patience with him, sometimes continuing until dawn, if the catch has been slow to come. On occasions, if he considers the weather appropriate, or his marine instincts call to him, he will go out with his equipment in the mornings, to collect what he can find.

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Going it alone, and other weeds

Gonzalo Vidal and Jonathan Curry-Machado today begin a new venture together, writing and photographing about present day Cuba and its people.

In ‘Por cuenta propia y otras hierbas’ (‘Going it alone, and other weeds’), we will explore through words and images the everyday lives and experiences of those who have opted for the precarious independence of working on their own account, as a means of survival free from the constraints of formal employment.

Over the coming months, The White Maroon will publish these real life stories. Although the tales we will tell all come from a single community in East Havana, Cuba, throughout the world there are many who in a multitude of ways seek to provide for themselves and their families through their own exertions, their own creativity and inventiveness, and their own free and independent attitude to life.  Continue reading