Roberto and Alhen at a cafe in the Vedado. 35mm.

The Vedado neighborhood in Havana is newer and by newer I mean mid-century modern. In this neighborhood you'll find the university as well as the local nightlife. After having spend two days in Old Havana surrounded by tourists, it was a nice welcome to get a sense of what life is like for the youth of the city. In Vedado Iwent to La Fabrica de Arte Cubano (now popularized by the many celebrities recently visiting Cuba). It's an old factory turned into a multi floor gallery, performance space, concert venue with a film screening room, bar, and cafeteria. Something I would expect to find in Berlin. The equivalent of $2 gets you into everything along with a stamp card that is marked every time you consume a beverage or food (you then pay at the end of the night). Here, I was surrounded by locals, both old and young, as well as tourists. I danced to Kendrick Lamar, caught the end of the film Jackie Brown, saw some amazing photography exhibitions, and attended a concert by a Cuban folk singer. I made two new friends, a young journalist student and a law student. They were candid. Opening up to me about their opinion on the situation in the country. This 2+ hour conversation was invaluable and it cleared up a lot of my confusions but also raised new questions. The time I spent in Vedado was the most honest experience I had in Cuba.   

* all photos taken in 35mm film

Alhen at cafe in Vedado. 35mm.

During the day, I went to a cafe, bar, and performance space frequented by students and young artists. Here I met Alhen, a man in his early twenties.  He was covered in tattoos and what in the US we would call "hipster" style. He is an actor, a dancer, a performance artist, and a mime. We discussed his background. His mother is Cuban and his father is half Mexican half Middle-Eastern and lives in Mexico City. He hopes to one day visit him. We talked about freedom, about art, about philosophy. The idea of being completely nude in a lonely place, men being able to wear skirts in public without being shamed, the machismo in Cuba,  and dreams of freedom and acceptance. 

Cafe in Vedado

Habana Libre Hotel

Mayra is the sister-in-law of the woman who owned the apartment where we stayed at in Vedado. The owner was on a trip and Mayra was watching over the "casa particular" business. She used to teach film at a college but decided to leave as working in the tourism industry proved to be more financially lucrative. Mayra still helps with programming films for a television channel in Cuba.

View from the University of Habana

Banner at the University of Habana, "Only the revolution of a village can arm a village." 

Sandwich shop.

The famed Coppelia ice cream shop. On weekends, locals will wait up to two hours to buy a single scoop of the single flavor available for the day.

My last two days in Cuba were spent in Vedado. At the end of my trip I said goodbye to our host Mayra and we made our way to the airport; a nostalgic place, that when looking out of its immense windows gives you a feeling of melancholy when making the realization that I have the opportunity to leave this beautiful but contentious place yet most of the people here don't have that privilege.

Last moments in Cuba. Inside looking out at the airport.