The photographic proposal of Cuba and Cruz del Cueto
Travel and photography are two passions that go hand in hand, especially when we talk about intrepid photographers who are in search of visual emotions. Thus, Cuba and Cruz del Cueto make up a spectacular pairing. Without a doubt, photography is the ideal medium to instantly capture those moments, places, people and experiences that we enjoy when we travel around a country, or when we have the opportunity to get to know new cultures.Cuba is a very picturesque island, with many visual attractions that attract the lens of any professional photographer, but also of any amateur. Whenever we travel we take as a souvenir those images of the places that have impacted us the most. And if we are talking about a Caribbean island, where the landscape, the sun and the sea are the protagonists, with all the more reason we use the camera to capture those special moments.
An insight on Cuba and Cruz del Cueto
Precisely the Cuban photographer Juan Manuel Cruz del Cueto, a graduate of the Photoreporter course at the International Institute of Journalism of Cuba, in his artistic career he has been documenting all over Cuba those places, landscapes and events that have attracted him the most visually. We are talking about a young man with cultural concerns and with a very special visual sensitivity. He has managed to capture the essence of a mestizo, multicultural Cuba, always on the move and open to any passerby who wants to know it in depth.The photographic stock of Juan Manuel illustrates, as a result of his investigative work, a Cuba marked by the stamp of religious, gastronomic, musical, social diversity, etc. Through a tour of its photographic series we can get to know those special places that deserve a visit, those annual events that we cannot miss, that typical Cuban food that makes us lick our fingers, and those paradisiacal beaches that make us return again and again.
1- Cities that escape the traditional tourist route
hershey.Juan Manuel, as a Habana urbanite, has been looking for just the opposite of what he already has in his hometown. He has preferred to search for cities and towns beyond the tourist guides, which keep that local virginity that attracts him so much. Towns such as Hershey, located 54 km from Habana, founded by the American Milton Hershey as a model town, by the sugar processing factory from the famous chocolate brand. Today it is a "ghost" town, which offers very peculiar urban landscapes. You can take photographs of their typical houses, the ruins of some buildings, as well as portraits of their inhabitants.
Likewise, the city of Baracoa, on the eastern end of the island, has fallen in love with the photographer, due to the authenticity of its people and the peculiarity of its food -prepared in an artisanal way and that responds to the culinary customs inherited from ancestors-. Above all, his images speak of one of the most endemic sites, with a variety of landscapes and types of vegetation in the insular Caribbean. The photographer shows us urban and natural landscapes that enhance the value of the oldest villa in Cuba.
2-Natural landscapes for recreation and relaxation
Fauna and Flora in Cuba.As a good lover of his native land, Juan Manuel has been able to appreciate from his images those values and peculiarities that the local fauna and flora have to offer. Its macro lens has recorded the typical fauna of the island, while it has expanded the visual record with its wide angle lens to accommodate those spectacular and unspoiled landscapes that Cuba has to offer.
Soroa WaterfallAmong the images of slow exposure that Juan Manuel has registered we can enjoy the waterfall of Soroa, called the Rainbow Falls. Soroa is a must-visit town for those who like tranquility, a few kilometers from the Habana capital, and considered a Biosphere Reserve. This town hosts an orchid graden, a special place for those who delight in flora; Besides, it has one of the best spots for bird watching throughout western Cuba.
Vinales Valley.In tune with these country landscapes are the mogotes of vinales, photographed over and over again by Juan Manuel in his search for natural beauty. In love with this town, located in the province of Pinar del Río, the photographer has captured dissimilar images of the natural wonders of this place: rivers, mogotes, mountains, lakes, vegetation and fauna. His images illustrate the true charm that is hidden behind tobacco crops, fruit trees and the people who harvest them every day.
3-Beaches of Cuba
Varadero.And if we talk about Cuba, we implicitly refer to sun and beach. The Greater Antilles has an arsenal of beaches on the north coast that make it one of the favorite destinations for travelers from anywhere. Juan Manuel has also captured the blue of his seas, the transparency of its waters and the fine sand that characterizes them. And among them: Varadero, known worldwide for its hot water that is pleasant to the body; and the northern keys of the island.
Precisely in Cayo Santa María, the photographer has captured some of the most paradisiacal snapshots of his photographic portfolio. The blue of the sea of the keys is incomparable with that of the rest of the beaches of Cuba, and this is reflected in photographs full of harmony and visual seduction.
Cayo Santa Maria.
4-Rivers of CubaHowever, the rivers that we have on the island are equally worth mentioning, especially since in the eternal Caribbean summer they become an oasis. Especially in his journey through Cuba, the photographer has captured the benefits of the waters of the Toa River and the Miel River in Baracoa, as well as some of the west of the island such as the Almendares River in Havana and the San Vicente River in Viñales.
5-Music in Cuba: an island of musicality?Music floods every street in Cuba, every home, every party; Therefore, it is not difficult for a photographer to be able to capture images that illustrate a city that moves to the rhythm of son, salsa, mambo, chachachá and reggaeton. Juan Manuel, in his audiovisual work with Cuban musicians, and in his collaboration with Cuban record labels, has had the opportunity to document video clips and national and international musical events that have been held on the island. Portraits of famous singers have emerged from these activities, as well as photographs that document the creative process. For example, the Jazz Plaza International Festival and the Fiesta del Tambor International Festival, held annually in Havana, have been a pretext taken by the photographer to value Cuban music and its representatives.
6- Dance in Cuba: all about moving your bodyThe internal rhythm of Cubans has no discussion. And it is that this musicality inherited and transmitted from generation to generation has great exponents in contemporary dance, in popular dances and in Cuban ballet. Juan Manuel has also taken care of registering an island in movement, through photographs of people dancing in popular carnivals, in the Callejón de Hamel and in family celebrations. In addition, he has participated in various festivals associated with the world of dance, such as the Havana Ballet Festival, the International Salsa Festival -where he has photographed popular dance music orchestras-, and the Drum Festival International Festival. , where national and international musicians and percussionists, the most outstanding dance companies in the country, jazz groups and folkloric groups participate.
7-Religion and Cuban folklore
Religious themes have been one of the areas most explored by the photographer from an anthropological perspective. He has actively participated in religious processions, local religious events, and has made documentary records of active practitioners. Among these events is the Procession to the San Lázaro Sanctuary, held every December 17 in the Iglesia del Rincón, of which he has captured overwhelming and dramatic images.On the other hand, he has documented the "Wake for Pachencho", a three-decade tradition that belongs to the town of Santiago de las Vegas. This tradition consists of simulating the burial of one of the neighbors, to end with a party and dance. Likewise, it keeps images of the activities that take place in the Callejón de Hamel and the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity, in Santiago de Cuba.
8-Cuban cuisineThe food it is an intrinsic and defining part of any culture. Through traditional recipes and typical ingredients we can learn about the characteristics of the cultures that consume it. Juan Manuel Cruz, a lover of cooking, has mixed his two passions, cooking and photography, in a series of images where he records both the dishes he cooks and those he has been able to taste in Cuban restaurants. In his trip around the island he has been interested in the local dishes of the towns he has visited. As a result we have images that illustrate the kitchens of our grandmothers. In the same way, he has photographed the Cuban avant-garde cuisine that can be enjoyed in places such as the Vistamar Restaurant, La Guarida or Doña Eutimia. Added to this are markets and street vendors that have not escaped the photographer's lens.
9-Portrait of a CubanThe Cuban is the result of a very rich and diverse cultural mix, this can be corroborated in a simple walk through the streets of Cuba. This variety at the physiognomic level for an intrepid photographer is the ideal setting to take portraits from multiple approaches. In his social inquiry, Juan Manuel has made an immense series of portraits, where he combines portraits of children, the elderly, workers, peasants, political and cultural personalities. A tour of these images allows us to delve into the psychology of the Cuban and learn more deeply those characteristics that define us as a culture and society.
10-Cultural events in CubaAs a "sniper", Cruz del Cueto has witnessed and documented many of the most relevant cultural events that take place on the island. In these cases he has pulled his most journalist side and opted for visual registration. Among the events in which he has participated are the La Huella de España Festival, during which the Spanish roots present in Cuban culture are shown. He has also documented the Havana Theater Festival -shows in theaters, squares, parks, schools, hospitals-, and the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, which offers a broad overview of the continent's audiovisual production. In this tour of Cuba through the eyes of Juan Manuel Cruz del Cueto we can notice not only his multifaceted career, moving through different registers of photography; but also those places that have impacted him the most on his native island. Although he currently resides in Madrid, the city where he directs his latest project MetroxMetro of custom real estate photography, his native land does not escape his lens, he always has it in his sights. Now he watches it from a distance and rethinks it from a new perspective.
Julienne Lopez Hernandez
Degree in History of Art
Contributor of CubaUnique