A remarkably candid and ugly portrait of Castrolandia’s elite

Two of Castrolandia's elites
Two of Castrolandia's elites

From The Atlantic, of all places:

Splendor Amid Poverty: Gallery Nights With Cuba’s Gilded Elite

A photographer’s inside look at the secret lives of Havana’s super-rich, just down the street from its many poor, are a reminder that this supposed communist paradise is anything but equal.

HAVANA, Cuba — On a recent, dark Havana night, the breeze blew the ocean spray over a crumbling sea wall along the city’s seaward road as New York photographer Michael Dweck took a seat across a dockside table from Alex Castro, one of Fidel’s sons. Alex is balding and solid; in Dweck’s photos, part of a larger project to document Cuba’s upper crust, the young, hulking Castro sits with his chin in his hands.

Dweck had arrived at the restaurant, a small open air patio with bare lightbulbs hung from buoys, after several wrong turns through the blackened streets of a western suburb. It was a private sort of place, the kind with no signs and several bolts on the front door, popular with “the family,” as the Castros are called around here.

“My father,” Alex told Dweck in an interview, “is an artist with words. Very good words.” He himself is not so verbose. Dweck hunched a little nervously as Alex flipped through a book of Dweck’s photos that captured Alex’s friends and family in various intimate arrangements. “It’s the first time he’s seen these,” Dweck told me. Waitresses brought out rounds of seared tuna, sushi, and ceviche between bottles of chilled white wine. Alex cruised through the pages, lingering on the shot of his brother’s ex-girlfriend posing semi-nude, flipping past the interview quoting him saying that in Cuba, “everyone can better themselves, even without financial resources.”

In the photos, models with martini glasses laugh in the back of an open convertible, women play mini-golf at the yacht club where Hemingway used to fish, the Castro boys smoke cigars. The glossy black and white images document Cuba’s most privileged — artists, musicians, models, and filmmakers — portraying lives of splendor in one of the poorest countries in the world. This was Dweck’s eighth visit to Cuba, this time for the opening of his show, Habana Libre, for which his shots of Havana’s elite were displayed at the Fototeca de Cuba Museum. Dweck is the first American photographer to have a solo exhibit in Cuba since the embargo began 52 years ago. “I’ve had the chance,” he said, “to see what most Americans, most Cubans for that matter, will never get a chance to see.”

continue reading here (article also contains several more photographs)

Che bling
Che bling

6 thoughts on “A remarkably candid and ugly portrait of Castrolandia’s elite”

  1. This just proves the Castro crowd is cool and shit. I mean, whaddaya want, North Korean-type looney tunes? Now move along.

  2. When his book came out last year “experts” all claimed it was a sly dig at the hypocrisy of Cuba’s privileged class–but AS USUAL, us intransigents were too chusma and blockheaded to grasp the elegance, slyness and subtlety of it all.

    “MI*RDA!” we countered. From day one Babalu blog called out the book as classic Castro sycophantism and tourism promotion…



    • From the article:

      “Back in the Miami airport, people pushed mountains of luggage wrapped in lime-green anti-theft plastic slowly toward the check-in desk. It would be wrong to call them bags, per se; on my flight, there were boxes labeled as medicina, tires, spare engines, 33 inch LCD TVs, fishing rods, and an electric guitar. Just getting to Cuba is “un[a] misión” as the woman behind me in line told me, and one not taken lightly. For families still in Cuba, these American relatives can be a lifeline.”

      A lifeline for the relatives — but especially for the regime. That, my friends, is why there will never be change in Cuba.

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