- May 31, 2020 -
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Yuris Nórido

Yuris Nórido

Periodista, fotógrafo, "narrador de historias". Va por la vida mirando y escuchando, con una curiosidad casi infantil, para después contarlo todo en crónicas muy personales, que a algunos pueden parecerles exageradas (y es probable que tengan razón). Dice que la memoria es mitad realidad y mitad pura invención.

Photo by Yuris Nórido

A Cuban in Space

I’m from a generation that lived the dream of conquering space, of thousands of children who dreamed about being cosmonauts. A Cuban had done it, everything was possible. Before Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez took off with Yuri Romanenko on the famous Soyus 38, already 36 years ago, few dreamed that someone born on the island would “go” to outer space. Not only was he the first Cuban cosmonaut but also the first in Latin America. A bright path was opening up…that immediately was closed again. Will there be another Cuban astronaut? I’m sure hundreds of pilots have dreamed of that possibility, which right now doesn’t seem very probable. And if someone were to ask the children here what they want to be when they grow up, how many would say “cosmonauts”? I bet not very many, almost none. But at least we have the memory of a historic flight which moved the entire country. The Guantánamo Provincial Museum has a room dedicated to the event, in which it stores, among other objects, the capsule in which the two cosmonauts returned to earth. It’s there, one can even touch it. Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez was born 74 years ago, precisely in Baracoa, Guantánamo....

Photo by Yuris Nórido

From a train window

There is an endearing landscape for many Cubans: that you can see from a train window. Although the train is regular service, although the trip delay and it is uncomfortable ... From the window you can compose an interesting chronicle of the daily life of many people, although it will be necessarily an incomplete chronicle. The train arrival, for those living in some villages and small towns, is always an event. The curious and sensitive traveler will always find reasons to enjoy.

Photo by Yuris Nórido

Rhino

When this animal dies (and hopefully he have a long life) there will be no more rhinos in the Zoo of Havana. There are no elephants, so the hippo and the rhino shares the honor of being the biggest attractions of the Zoo. But the rule is not to welcome more animals of this size, because it is assumed that they suffer a lot. There are people opposed to zoos, with good reason. But this remains the only way to see face to face a rhino. At least for those (like me) who do not have money for safaris.  

Photo by Yuris Nórido

Cranes

Cranes and scaffolding are often symbols of progress, but it has not been clear to us how far that progress will involve us. But, if the city grows, if you change your face for the better … it’s something. Most likely, I will never stay at this hotel, but perhaps their incomes will serve to pave the street in front of my house. Perhaps it will serve to get that bill payed, or help the children of  of our neighbor. How many other people will gain from this work this progress? So let’s forget then the noise, dust and traffic affectations. Because Revolution is to build!

Photo: Yuris Nórido

Highway

The bus stops for a lunch break 6 miles from Bolondron, and the photographer takes the opportunity to tour the sourounding area. The highway is burning under the sun and not many people want to risk walking on the hot surface at this time of the day. I find scatter objects that catch my attention: a crushed can, a lonely flower, an oil stain... An old lady walks by and shouts at me in shock: "Get out of there, kid, you are gonna suffer a heatstroke!"   Visit the author’s photography blog to see more of his work.        

Photo: Yuris Nórido

Camaguey will have a railway museum

The old train station in Camaguey, built in the first half of the 20th century, is one of the most peculiar in Cuba. Its sober art deco lines give shape to a beautiful architectural complex that is a symbol of the city. The station is in ruins right now. Here and there, there are signs warning about the risk of certain parts of the building collapsing. The old porch is gone, and the place stopped operating a long time ago. But in the -let's hope not too distant- future, it will be turned into a Railway Museum and Theme Park, an ambitious project to be implemented by the Office of the Historian of the city of Camaguey. One more building with undeniable heritage value that will be added to the cultural attractions of the city.   Visit the author’s photography blog to see more of his work.        

Photo: Yuris Nórido

Amargura Street

Amargura Street is one of the most peculiar streets in Havana. Walking from one of its ends to the other, you can have a quick look at the history of Cuban architecture. It is a sort of good summary of the spirit of the city, with its cultural centers, its tourist attractions, its people.   Visit the author’s photography blog to see more of his work.      

Photo: Yuris Nórido

The Havana Bay Ferry

Crossing the Havana Bay on board of the local ferry in a rainy winter day could make us think for a second that we are touring a Baltic city. But the conversations of the other passangers and the view of the coast are a constant reminder of where we are. The Regla Ferry, as it is known locally, is one of the most peculiar means of transportation in Havana. It is also the cheapest, at only 20 cents of a Cuban peso - an amount so low that it would be pointless to convert it into dollars. The ferries look very old, but they are safe, and have a certain charm. Through their dirty windows, the view of the city can be inspiring, beautiful... A parenthesis in the middle of the noises and traumas of this city.   Visit the author’s photography blog to see more of his work.      

Foto: Yuris Nórido

Ghosts from another time

The fountain outside the Pan-American Stadium in Havana will soon be 15 years old. It was a gift from North Korea to the people of Cuba on occasion of the 11th Pan-American Games, celebrated in Havana in 1991. The sculptures - in the most authentic North Korean style - represent athletes practicing different sports with a long tradition in Cuba. Many years ago, the fountain used to offer a beautiful display of lights and water that was beautiful to watch. But now it is dry, and dark at night, and the athletic figures are more like ghosts, frozen in mid-action, the silent witnesses of another time...   Visit the author’s photography blog to see more of his work.        

Triolet Pharmacy in Matanzas / Photo: Yuris Nórido

The 19th Century French Pharmacy where time stood still

At the Triolet Pharmacy Museum in Matanzas everything looks as if time had stopped more than 100 years ago. Founded in the late 19th century by a French couple, the establishment was turned into a museum in 1964. Today, it exhibits many of the things that could be found in a regular pharmacy in colonial times: the same bottles and vases, an old cashier machine, the instruments that were used to prepare the medications, log books, mortars, handwritten recipes, the bicycle used for deliveries, and the lamp that announced that the place was open late at night. As the best preserved of its kind in Cuba – probably one of the best in the Americas - the museum has been declared National Monument. It is a must-see for those who visit Matanzas.  

Jesus at the cemetery. Photo: Yuris Norido

Statues and Sculptures in Holguin

Holguin, one of the cities visited by Pope Francis during his recent tour of Cuba, is also known as “the city of parks,” and in each of those parks we can find at least one sculpture. Most of these pieces were erected during the first half of the 20th century, shaped in the style that was taught in European art schools in those years. The figures they pay tribute to are mostly generals of the independence war, including local hero Calixto Garcia. The cemetery is another place that treasures a valuable collection of funerary sculptures. Visit the author’s photography blog to see more of his work.

Perea, a small station on Cuba’s Northern Railways.

My train broke down in Perea

Nobody goes to do tourism in Perea, a small town in Yaguajay, a municipality in Sancti Spiritus, in central Cuba. But en route to Santa Clara from Nuevitas, my train broke down at the local station. Many of the passengers got out to walk the streets under the burning sun and take a closer look at the architecture, which reveals that the town has seen better times. Many of the houses, made of wood, are reminiscent of those in the American South. There are two churches, and a good number of shops. Some of these constructions are close to collapsing; others have remained in good shape thanks to the efforts of their owners to keep them standing. The locals, used to their routines, looked surprised to see so many strangers on the streets, as if Perea was one of those towns where everybody knows each other. Visit the author's photography blog to see more of his work.

There used to be an eagle up there

An old man approached me on the Malecon seaside when I was taking pictures of the monument to the victims of the explosion of the battleship Maine, the American ship whose explosion in the Havana harbor was followed by a declaration of war of the United States to Spain in 1898. “I was here the day the eagle that used to be up there was knocked down,” said the old man. “Did you know there had been an eagle on top of those columns before?” I did. I had even seen the footage several times, but I knew that the man wanted to tell his story, so I gave him an excuse to do so. “I had heard about it," I told him, "but I had never met someone who was witness to it.” “I worked at a café on 23rd Street when it happened. Those were intense times; I thought they would bomb us at any time. Everybody was nervous. One day, on my way out of work, I saw that they were bringing the eagle down. It shattered on the floor. The area was surrounded by militia troops, so I wasn’t able to get close to the pieces...

Ill-mannered Travelers

I have been flying frequently lately for work, only to destinations inside Cuba, I must say; I haven’t been outside the country in over a decade. By now, I already know by heart the safety instructions flight attendants recite before taking off. Something that has caught my attention in these trips is the little attention most people pay to those instructions. Obviously, no one would think of bringing a machete to the plane –they wouldn’t make it past the first security control– or lighting a cigarette on board, although I’m almost sure that the latter is only thanks to the prohibition to carry matches and lighters. Over the loudspeaker, a voice says: “The use of cell phones is not allowed during the flight, because the signal could interfere with the equipment in the plane.” The lady by my side doesn’t turn off her phone. What’s more, while the flight attendant is explaining how to use the lifejackets in case of an emergency, her phone starts ringing and she takes the call. “I’m here, on the plane,” she shouts. “We’re about to take off. I’ll call you as soon as we land in Havana. Tell Mario not to go pick me...

Marta Estévez: “You can have a lot of love in poverty”

A sign hung on the door of Marta Estévez’s home, in the Havana neighborhood of 10 de Octubre, the day we went to interview her: “We’re unavailable until further notice, please, do not disturb.” We knocked on the door and Marta herself answered, made-up like a 1950s film star: long lashes, powdered face, red lips…. “Good afternoon. Please come in. I was expecting you.” The photographer complimented her: “But you look great, you’re very beautiful.” “You can’t yourself go, my dear. I’m an artist. And an artist is an artist from the moment they wake up.” Marta Estévez’s home is solid but small, without any showiness. Considering the number of people who come see her for her predictions about their future or advice for all types of life’s dilemmas, and considering her extraordinary popularity in this working-class neighborhood and beyond, you could even expect a mansion. But it is an ordinary house, although well decorated and furnished. “I was very poor as a little girl; I didn’t have toys. Maybe that’s why I like dolls and stuffed animals so much. I have many, as you can see. This one”—she points to a very stylized doll with a long red skirt—“is...

For Ruiz, dance and art are excellent ways for the Cuban and the American people to communicate

United by Dance

Pedro Ruiz is the first Cuban-American choreographer to work as associate artistic director for a dance company in Cuba. For over a year, he has been working with the Endedans Contemporary Ballet Company from Camaguey, a province in central Cuba.

En un balcón de La Habana, a partir de una fotografía de la agencia AP.

Cuba yes! Yankees …?

This week I open a parenthesis to talk about what everyone talks about. My tales of Belize can wait seven days. The news obviously has rocked the country. Few, very rarely, the National Television News has information so overwhelming. Maybe I should talk about the poor role played by national media in covering the event, at least in the early stages, but the truth is that now I do not want to talk about journalism in Cuba. Already I have done it in this column and generated a debate which now I do not feel prepared to address. A Cuban friend who lives in Canada told me, "for now enjoy the news, we'll have time to get into a fight later for what it actually represents." You are absolutely right. Let us rejoice as most Cubans in Cuba (almost all, there are some, you know who, who are very upset and feel deeply betrayed by Obama, someone came to say only good thing about this deal is that Cuba freed Alan Gross); we trust that this will mark a new path, a new era, a hand, an opportunity to fulfill the dreams of many people, etc, etc, etc ... Let's...

VIH

HIV

The problem with HIV is that you always think that you won’t be infected. Thinking that another one is going to get it is one of the handiest or unconscious defense strategies. If not for it , probably we would not have evolved. Imagine if we walk all the time thinking that a turtle is going to fall over your head. But HIV is a serious problem because the infection is rarely strictly random. A simple forgetfulness, carelessness, overconfidence can be the difference. The trifle of using a condom or not, just like that, and not so simple. Because at the exact hour it is probably we don’t have a condom, or the desire prevails beyond any consideration, or we say ourselves that nothing will happen for that solely time. And maybe nothing happens (many times nothing happened), but it can happen once and can be enough once to pass. HIV is not cancer. HIV is not Ebola virus. HIV is not a cold. HIV does not strike anyone. There is a simple way to avoid it: to abstain from sex. But for the vast majority of humanity that is a too high price. Nor should we regulate the sexual...

Homeless

I dare not take the shot. I felt ashamed. I, standing on the sidewalk, camera in hand, looking at her from my height. She, dirty, badly dressed, lying on the grass, with her head on a battered suitcase. She opened her eyes and looked at me with glazed eyes. "Do you have a peso you can give me?" She said at last, with hoarse voice. I got disturbed a bit, I reached into my pocket. It had no peso only had five peso bills. I gave her one. She smiled: "It is enough to buy a bread and ham. Or rather, to give me a drink. "She gave a grim laugh. I must have looked disturbed a little, because then he said: "Do not panic, I do not bite." I was filled with courage, I did what I had long wanted to do: talk to a beggar. Why is that? Why sleeping on the street? He shrugged. "¡What do I know! Life takes many turns. Ten years ago I had a house, but my daughter kicked me out. And now she almost never let me spend the night with her. She has a husband who says I'm a drunk. That...

Triunfo Bridge / Photo: Carolina Vilches.

Sagua, the great

Isabela de Sagua no longer welcomes steamers or other mighty ships from big cities across the continent. What was once one of Cuba’s major ports is simply a fishing enclave today. There was a time, decades ago, when travelers from far and wide would disembark there and then continue on their journey to Sagua la Grande by train or by smaller boats that sailed the River Undoso. At that time, Sagua was one of Cuba’s most prosperous towns. It is still an important city, the second-largest in Villa Clara province, but one thing must be recognized: most of its glory is in the past. This city clings to its history (which is rich and teeming with events) and does not resign itself to decadence. Immaculate Conception Church, detail/ Photo: Carolina Vilches. Sagua is still a significant agro- industrial center. Suffice it to walk through its streets to confirm the vitality of yesteryear: its historic district holds buildings with valuable architectural features, most of them from the early 20th century. The reconstruction effort sweeping other historical cities in Cuba does not seem to have taken hold in Sagua, but passers-by can still admire the greatness of their surroundings....

Nostalgia

Is it possible to feel nostalgia for what was not experienced personally? Nostalgia for something we just glimpsed? You can, obviously. I feel nostalgia for the Soviet Union. Or rather, for the image I had, we did, of the Soviet Union. Because, over the years, we learned that what we were shown was, to some extent, made up. That paradise of blond and smiling children walking to school through futuristic avenues, jumping in flowery fields, throwing snowballs and skating on frozen lakes ... that paradise was ultimately only one side of the coin, the most beautiful and bright, and the kindest. In the Soviet Union there were dark areas, like everywhere. And in that story that gave us in school they obviated conflicting passages. In high school, for example, they never told us about Stalin's crimes; I had to wait for an unorthodox pre-college teacher to stray from the script and narrate stories which, at the time, I found them too sleazy. Today we know that there was everything there: the good, the bad and the not so good. But while in elementary school one gets reveled in the bright dream. Flipping through the Misha magazine, I longed to make...

Cañaveral

Short stories

I didn’t feel like walking from home to the Monumental Avenue (more than one kilometer under the furious sun of two in the afternoon) and I sat to wait for the bus, the 58, patiently (that’s the only possible way to wait for the 58). I opened up a book and in the first line a man showed up: “Good afternoon, I’m sorry to bother you. Can you do me an important favor?” I looked at him. He was about 70 years old, maybe more. His clothes were modest but clean. His face looked downhearted. I said yes. “Can you give me one peso? I’m collecting the money I need for buying medicine. Actually,I need more than one peso, but I only dare to ask for one”. I knew it. It happens a lot. But this time I was touched. I looked into my pockets: I found a bill of 20 and three pesos in coins. I saved one for the bus and I gave him two. “Thanks you, fortunately there are still good people out there”. And he took a turn in a corner. An old lady who had witnessed the scene nodded her head: “You shouldn’t have given...

My girlfriend Yisel

My first and I think only girlfriend (I do not count, of course, the little girlfriends of primary or secondary) was Yisel. I dreamed of her a while ago. It was a very vivid dream, and much more logical that most of my dreams. I got up and wrote a poem in one sitting. Here I share it with you: "Last night I dreamed about you / Yisel / first girlfriend / girlfriend of very few days / petal mouth / closed legs / tender skin / last night I dreamed about you / and I stole a kiss / and you complained / and you said to me / do not dare / and I stole another kiss from you / And you left me / playing hard to get / Yisel / how I miss all that/ how far those days / what changed / you and me / and all / but I liked your mouth / it is weird/ but still / I liked your mouth ... "I do not know if Yisel read this poem, I do not know if she liked it if finally read it. Long time no talk to Yisel. I phoned...

Journalism in Cuba

Why would I lie to you? Who am I kidding? Journalism in Cuba is bad; I'm tempted to say too bad, despite the desires and capabilities of some journalists. The public knows, officials know, journalists know it. They know it and they know it inside out. Our press is very gray, boring, schematic, cacophonous, simplistic, bombastic in their praise, timid in their criticism.  Radio and TV are not much better. Especially television, the other day I wrote in my blog: I think it is an exorbitant cynicism that the first information in TV Cuban news is compliance with the plan of rice production in a province when we all know that rice we eat is bad and expensive. Someone told me the other day: journalism in Cuba seems to inhabit another dimension; it is clear that is not the same as the average Cuban is living in. I tried to clarify , I tried to find explanations ( I found them, in fact, but did not convince my partner) , I wanted to throw the towel to my colleagues (which is the same as throwing myself the towel , I'm part of this whole scheme ) but I finally agreed....

A lemon pie in La Guarida

At La Guarida restaurant (Concordia No. 418, between Gervasio and Escobar) people can enjoy one of the most delicious desserts in Havana: lemon pie with almonds. In fact, people can taste many other desserts, all of then certainly exquisite. Yet, this journalist ordered the pie and the truth is there are no words to describe it. It is simply delicious. Obviously a gastronomic chronicle does not begin with dessert. Let´s start over, let´s talk about the restaurant, though the most important newspapers in the world, the most exclusive gourmet food guides, have published references, reviews, comments, reports on this restaurant. “It is the most famous restaurant in Havana” –said The New York Times, for instance. “Le Paladar des stars, la star des paladares” —Air France Magazine published. La Guarida is different since the very first moment. The aesthetic adventure begins as we walk in through this mansion from the beginning of the last century, which has become the home for multiple families. It is a beautiful construction, despite the passing of time and circumstances. Its walls now need painting, up the stairs we can see the small apartments (everyone keeps on with what they are doing), visitors can observe what’s...

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