Carlos Ernesto Escalona Martí

Carlos Ernesto Escalona Martí

Photo: Carlos Ernesto Escalona Martí

Parallel stories

A game of chess on the street, a phone call that can be heard among the crowd, a trip on train on the way home. Daily lives of common persons in Cuba and the United States. Images like mirrors that discover what joins us despite the differences in culture and language. Mirrors, moreover, to look at ourselves and to redefine how much we have assimilated for decades what’s on “the other shore.” When one leaves home to get to know other places, we bring with us the concern of understanding what is happening before our eyes. We have two basic budgets to achieve this: the surprise when faced with the difference and the exoticism of what goes beyond our capacity to understand or, on the contrary, the search for resemblances to our own world. The point of departure of the Common Places | Lugares comunes photographic project (Cuba-U.S. / 2014-2016) is the latter proposal. It began before the 17D, before President Obama’s trip, before Donald Trump’s electoral victory. With these events, or without them, it would have existed anyway since it is born from a humanism that tries to transcend...

People from Cocodrilos

Cocodrilos (Spanish for “Crocodiles”) is a village in the eastern part of the Zapata Swamp that for over three centuries lived on coal production. At some point in its history, the village came to have over 400 inhabitants, but today, little more than 100 people live there. The establishment in the area of a forest reserve in 2002 not only deprived the locals of their source of income, it also crushed their spiritual life. The elementary school was closed because there are no kids left. They have been taken away by their parents, who have had to relocate to find jobs in other places. The road that connects the village to the Bay of Pigs, the closest town, is extremely deteriorated. The government has allocated resources every now and then to fix it, but the materials are shamelessly stolen in front of the eyes of the villagers. The elders stayed behind, stubbornly refusing to leave, as normally happens with people who are too old to learn how to lead a different life. The most urgent question for the villagers right now is getting connected to the national power distribution network. At present, a diesel generator provides eight hours of electricity...

Photo: Carlos Ernesto Escalona Martí

Escambray

There are those who refer to it as a sierra, but a sierra is a small mountain range. Actually, the Escambray is a mountainous mass, and its indigenous name is Guamuahaya. Located in the center of the island, it soars into peaks and drops into gullies and cascades. At its base lies the city of Trinidad, founded in the colonial era, and the towns of Cumanayagua and Manicaragua. On the southern coast, the curved bridges of the recently renovated highway rise above beaches of stone and sediment, where the fast-flowing rivers of the Escambray empty into the Caribbean Sea. The highest peak is Pico San Juan, at 1,140 meters. From the hills, Cubans extract coffee, lumber and honey, and the heart of the Escambray holds one of the purest quartz deposits in the world. Photo: Carlos Ernesto Escalona Martí Three provinces share this geography: Cienfuegos, Villa Clara and Sancti Spíritus, but all roads lead to Topes de Collantes. Since the mid-20th century, Topes has been home to a monumental tuberculosis sanitarium, today the Kurhotel Escambray. Less than a two-hour walk away are the Vegas Grandes and the Caburní waterfalls. A bit further—and preferably accessed...

“2014 Digital Nature” or how to live a photo contest

Monday After passing the village of Manicaragua the engine speed has increased. The bus is not afraid of the mountain, and it heads straight ahead, full of inertia, towards the next slope. Inside it, almost everyone knows each other. Now they are talking about models of cameras and lenses, or new acquisitions in terms of nature photos and documentaries. We are just arriving to Kurhotel, a monumental building at human scale, but tiny between the mountains and forests of Topes de Collantes in the Escambray heart. Because we are heading to Topes, to the "2014 Digital Nature" photography competition organized by the "Gaviota" Tourism Group and the National System of Protected Areas (SNAP by its Spanish acronym). Silvio González, director of the resort welcomes. Meanwhile, Frank Oltuski, Gaviota vice president salutes us on behalf of the company, and invites us to try the authentic mountain coffee, which is always marketed as a bulk product. Then we witnessed tributes to the botanist Jesus Cañizares and Eduardo Aguiar Martin, recently deceased, one of the biggest promoters of nature photography in Cuba. The rules: Three images per contestant in each category. Photos will be valid from 12:01 am of Tuesday until 10:00 pm...

Within a few minutes, in this quiet place an extraordinary event will occur...

Pink flamingos in the Maximo River

You are late –said Loidy—the boys are already gone. They should be back in an hour. No one would think this is in Cuba. There is dry, cracked, arid land resulting from low tides. Square kilometers of mud and dead logs that used to be a forest. The ground is low here, every time the sea level raisesone tenth only, salt water walks in hundreds of meters from the coast. Over there, there is a skull of a cow half buried, and here is a bird egg that never cracked a chick out. However, an extraordinary event will take place in a few minutes, in the middle of this dead environment–apocalyptic and post nuclear. Maximo River Mouth Wildlife Reserve is located to the north of Camaguey province. In Cuba it is not known this place shelters the largest number of pink flamingos in the world. “They come from Bahamas and Florida”—said Fefo. They come here because they are close to fresh water and low and muddy bottoms, which are ideal elements for nesting”. Nests are some sort of mud columns they build from the bottom with their legs. “The funniest thing is that by using that same mud they manage...

¨Balloon fishing¨ on the Malecon in Havana

At dusk, on the roundabout of G and Malecon, fishermen start to show up on the wall. After a couple of hours it becomes interesting that no one takes t but small fishes out of the sea. Then they begin to inflate balloons that happen to be transparent ... condoms. Arthur is 24 years old and has been fishing for 4. They call him The Minor, even though in time others even younger have joined him. He explains that the “Balloon fishing " is the result of the inventiveness of Havana fishermen for over ten years. When fishing in rafts and truck´s inner tires was banned, someone came up with the idea that the combination of ocean currents and winds could get a hook to deeper waters. Waters where they could no longer get to in small boats, and where obviously the "big fish" swim. "This fishing is done in the section from the Malecon and G Street to the Hotel Riviera. It is only there where the balloon always goes far into the sea, "he explains. In fact, it is the northernmost point of the Malecon. The coast current drags the package to the west and the breeze at...

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