They Invited Me Into Their Home And Opened My Heart

While in Matanzas I took a drive up the hill to an area that overlooked much of the city, and found a perfect place to park and street to explore. The first home I saw was an incredibly dilapidated structure that I was utterly convinced must be abandoned. I thought, “There’s no way someone could live here”, and proceeded to take photos of the exterior.

A few minutes of photo taking, and my assumptions were proven wrong when a young man – perhaps 15 or 16 – opened the door and invited me into his home. I was so shocked that someone could be living inside that I obediently entered.

Once inside, the young man called his mother, who I could see was hanging laundry out to dry in the back yard. As she approached, I noted that there was no roof covering the entrance section of their home.

She approached, greeted me with a warm, “Hola”, and asked where I was from. “Canada”, I said, and a wide smile took over her face as she explained that her daughter had visited Canada as part of a Baptist mission.

She then asked what I was photographing, and I told her that I had made a special trip to see Matanzas after going on a Safari Jeep tour earlier in the week. I told her that I thought her city was beautiful, to which she replied, “That’s because you have money. People who go to Varadero do not know how Cubans outside the resort struggle to live”.

She went on to say that Cubans who lived and worked in Varadero were much better off than any other Cubans because of their access to food and due to all of the extra tips they earn. “The government does nothing”, she complained. “Look at the roof. It fell in, and we can’t get it fixed. We had to move into the rest of the house. It’s crowded, and the bathroom doesn’t work. The Revolution… we were much better off under Capitalism”. I was impressed and touched with her honesty and openness.

We spoke for over a half hour about Cuba, and Canada and how proud she was of her son, who’d just finished military school, and whom she had great hopes for.

In such a short time, I came to feel very close to these people, and I left shedding a tear, hoping that life would soon improve for them and other Cubans struggling under similar conditions.

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Mark Iocchelli is an Edmonton, Alberta, Canada fine art photographer specializing in images of the Canadian prairies, urbex (urban exploration), rural decay, homesteads, abandoned farm houses, barns, automobiles and machinery. Signed, limited edition prints of the images you see here are available upon request.

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