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Previous | Next :: Family in Havana : Poetry of the still image in History : Cuba | October 4, 2013, 5:17 pm

Family in Havana : Poetry of the still image in History : Cuba
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Castro Moves Into the Havana Hilton BY SANDRA M. CASTILLO

Camera Obscura

The afternoon lightening his shadow, Fidel descends from the mountains, the clean-shaven lawyer turned guerilla, his eyes focused on infinity, El Jefe Máximo con sus Barbudos, rebels with rosary beads on their 600-mile procession across the island with campesinos on horseback, flatbed trucks, tanks, a new year’s journey down the oldest roads towards betrayal.

Ambient light. Available light

Light inside of them, nameless isleños line El Malecón to touch Fidel, already defining himself in black and white. The dramatic sky moving in for the close-up that will frame his all-night oratory, he turns to the crowd, variations on an enigma, waving from his pulpit with rehearsed eloquence, a dove on his shoulder.

This is a photograph. This is not a sign.

Flash-on camera. Celebrity portraits.

      1.     Fidel on a balcony across the street
              from Grand Central Station,
              an American flag above his head,
              New York, 1959.

      2.     Fidel made small by the Lincoln Memorial,
              Washington D.C., 1959.

      3.     Fidel learning to ski,
              a minor black ball against a white landscape,
              Russia, 1962.

      4.     Fidel and shotgun,
              hunting with Nikita,
              Russia, 1962.

Circles of Confusion

Beyond photographs, Havana is looted and burned. Women weep at out wailing wall, El Paredón, where traitors are taken, and television cameras shoot the executions, this blood soup, the paradoxes of our lives, three years before I am born.


But it is late afternoon, and a shower of confetti and serpentine falls from every floor of the Havana Hilton, where history is a giant piñata, where at midnight, Fidel will be photographed eating a ham sandwich.



I read this today on the poetry foundation webpage and found it kind of startling. Thinking in bursts of the visual. The visual memory of images and politics catagorized primarily by how the images were made. Society, revolution and history defined in terms of the remembered stills. Thats what I do too.


The soldiers for Castro 'heading down the oldest road towards betrayal'. To victory yes we know but also to betrayal ? Thats what it says. I guess meaning who amongst them would have thought the young previously clean shaven lawyer who inspired so much hope would move into the Havana Hilton and go on to become the old bearded dictator still clinging to power 50 years later ?


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