Cuba, the photographic proposal of 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 learn about new cultures.Cuba is a very picturesque island, with many visual attractions that appeal to the lens of any professional photographer, but also any amateur. Whenever we travel, we take with us those images of the places that have most impacted us. 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
So, 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 outside 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. Here, you can take pictures of their typical houses, the ruins of some buildings, as well as portraits of their inhabitants.
Likewise, the city of Baracoa, at the eastern end of the island, has seduced the photographer for the authenticity of its people and the peculiarity of its food - traditionally ellaborated following culinary customs inherited from the ancestors. Above all, his images speak of one of the spots with the most endemic species, 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 homeland, Juan Manuel has been able to highlight those values and peculiarities that the local fauna and flora have to offer. Its macro lens has registered the typical fauna of the island, while his use of the wide angle lens expands the visual register to reflect 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.
Viñales ValleyIn tune with these country landscapes are the mogotes of Viñales, photographed again and 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 different images of the natural wonders of this place: rivers, mogotes, mountains, lakes, vegetation and fauna. His images illustrate the true charm 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 warm and pleasant water, as well as the north cays 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 cays has no equal with the rest of the beaches of Cuba, and this is reflected in photographs full of harmony and visual seduction.
Cayo Santa María.
4. Rivers in CubaHowever, the rivers we have on the island also deserve a mention, especially since in the eternal Caribbean summer they become an oasis. While going around Cuba, the photographer has captured the beauty of the waters of the Toa River and the Miel River in Baracoa, as well as some western ones, such as the Almendares River in Habana and the San Vicente River in Viñales.
5-Cuba: a musical islandMusic floods every street in Cuba, every home, every party; so it is not difficult for a photographer to capture images that illustrate a city that moves to the rhythm of son, salsa, mambo, chachachá and reggaetón. Juan Manuel in his audiovisual work with Cuban musicians, and in his collaboration with Cuban labels, has had the opportunity to document video clips and national and international musical events that have been held on the island. He has taken portraits of famous singers, as well as photographs that document the creative process. For example, the International Jazz Plaza Festival and the International Festival Drum Festival, held annually in Habana, have been the alibi for Juan Manuel to show Cuban music and its main performers.
6- Dance in Cuba: all about moving your bodyThe internal rhythm of the Cubans has no discussion. 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 to record an island in motion, 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 International Festival Fiesta del Tambor , where national and international musicians and percussionists, the country's most prominent dance companies, jazz groups and folk groups participate.
7-Cuban religion and folklore
The religious theme has been one of the most explored areas by the photographer from an anthropological perspective. He has actively participated in religious processions, local religious events, having recorded active practitioners. Among these events, we find Procesión al Santuario de San Lázaro, held every December 17 in the Iglesia del Rincón, where he has captured overwhelming and dramatic images.On the other hand, he has documented the "Velorio de Pachencho", a three-decade tradition that belongs to the town of Santiago de las Vegas and that consists of a representation of the burial of one of the neighbors, to end up at a party and dance. He also keeps images of the activities carried out in the Hamel Alley and the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Caridad, in Santiago de Cuba.
8-Cuban cuisineThe food 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, culinary 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 character is the result of a very rich and diverse cultural mix. This can be verified in a simple walk through the streets of Cuba. This physical variety is ideal for an intrepid photographer to take portraits from multiple approaches. In his social inquiry, Juan Manuel has made a huge series of portraits, where he combines children, elderly, workers, peasants, personalities of politics and culture. A tour of these images allows us to take an inside look into the psychology of the Cuban and know more deeply about those features 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 taken part are the La Huella de España Festival, during which the Spanish roots present in Cuban culture are shown; the Havana Theater Festival -with a sample of shows in theaters, squares, parks, schools, hospitals- and the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema, which offers a wide overview of the audiovisual production of the continent. On this tour of Cuba through the look of Juan Manuel Cruz del Cueto podemos advertir no solo su trayectoria polifacética, moviéndose por diferentes registros de la fotografía; sino también esos lugares que más le han impactado de su isla natal. Aunque actualmente reside en Madrid, ciudad donde dirige su último proyecto MetroxMetro de fotografía inmobiliaria a medida, su tierra natal no escapa de su lente, siempre la tiene en el punto de mira. Ahora la observa desde la distancia y la repiensa desde una nueva perspectiva.
Julienne López Hernández
Degree in History of Art
Contributor of CubaUnique