Jul 10, 2013
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Is it him, or is it not?

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Havana, Cuba

By Desmond Boylan

Yesterday, a strong rumor that a delayed flight from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport due to land in Havana could be carrying fugitive former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, sent dozens of reporters scrambling to the airport. Since June 23, this has happened many times already.

As I watched passengers gather in the arrival hall, the gentleman in the picture below, with the blue shirt, grabbed my attention. Could he be the fugitive?

May 22, 2013
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Fidel and Miss Green, till death do they part

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Sagua La Grande, Cuba

By Desmond Boylan

I know a Cuban man named Fidel who is tall, well-built and hardworking. He is known to have had several wives and many girlfriends during his life, and now has a pregnant daughter who will soon make him a grandfather, but those details of his life are diffuse. What he does admit is that the undisputed love of his life is Señorita Verde, or Miss Green.

Fidel gets on well with his neighbors, likes telling jokes, and is always in a good mood. At times he looks a bit nostalgic or sad as his house badly needs repair, and he worries the whole house will fall down on him and Miss Green during the heavy rains and strong winds of the new hurricane season.

Apr 11, 2013
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“I’ve never been in an elevator”

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Havana, Cuba

By Desmond Boylan

Jesus Salgado, “Chinito”, was fished out of shark infested waters from a frail, sinking boat by a U.S. Coast Guard patrol near the Bahamas, back in 2003.  He had finally made his illegal exit from Cuba after a lot of planning, and even after spending a year in prison when a previous plan to escape was thwarted by the authorities. In those days, just thinking of leaving the country illegally was heavily penalized.

Salgado was not returned to the Republic of Cuba by the Americans as he would have been under today’s legislation. Under the U.S. government’s “wet foot, dry foot policy” in force today, he would have been sent home or to a third country since he was found at sea.

Jan 31, 2013
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Cubana sweet fifteen

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Havana, Cuba

By Desmond Boylan

“I started saving up for my daughters’ quinceañera party [coming-out celebration for 15-year-olds] over five years ago,” says Marlen, the mother of Carmen, who reached the age of fifteen this month. “I managed to put away money every month, by doing some odd jobs, separating some also from my husband’s retirement pension and adding to that some help from my family in the east of the country, plus selling off some worn out clothes and repairing other garments.”

Marlen managed to save just over 8,000 Cuban pesos, close to $300.

In Cuba’s economy, you cannot just go to the bank and ask for a loan; there is no culture of credit. All payments must be made in cash, so if you want to buy something you must cough up the whole cost at the moment of purchase. With the average monthly salary around $18, it’s not easy to save. But as the Cubans say, it is not easy but it is not difficult either. The amount saved up for the quinceañera celebration is huge for parents and is a really admirable amount for an average Cuban family to achieve. In this case, merit is even higher as it was done mostly by Carmen’s mother.

Dec 20, 2012
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A modern witch

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Havana, Cuba

By Desmond Boylan

At first sight, Mayra is a typical Cuban housewife, carrying out her daily chores as so many others. But she has another job apart from those housekeeping tasks, and when she does that she looks like anything but a housewife.

In Cuba, after the last Communist Party Congress, the government published a list of 181 private jobs and commercial activities that Cubans are now able to engage in, and pay taxes on the income generated from them.

Jul 19, 2012
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Transformer, Cuban style

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By Desmond Boylan

“I am 70-years-old and I still feel strong, but legally I can’t work as a taxi driver because of my age,” Gilberto Ruiz told me the first time I met him. I had asked him about his pickup truck, a Ford, obviously pre-Revolution, with a shape I’d never seen.

He continued, “One day I suddenly had an idea. I’ll cut up my 1948 Ford Deluxe Sedan and weld it into a van and work the private transport business.”

Jul 10, 2012
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Home sweet (furtive) home

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By Desmond Boylan

People in Havana refer to migrant workers from eastern Cuba as “Palestinians.” They arrive in Havana and its outskirts to work and make an honest living, and stay. Many of them have no choice but to secretively build a home in the bush to settle into.

SLIDESHOW: CUBA’S ILLEGAL HOMES

I watched and documented one of these constructions from the ground up and learned many things I had no idea about. I saw the use of several extremely simple but efficient building techniques dating back centuries, and met some very interesting people for whom I now feel great admiration.

Jul 2, 2012
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Cockfighting in an anti-aircraft bunker

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By Desmond Boylan

In Cuba, it is legal to own fighting cocks, it is legal to train them, and it is legal to put them to fight, but one detail –  all forms of betting and gambling are strictly forbidden since 1959, when the Cuban Revolution started.  And the sole reason to fight cocks is to bet on them. It is an activity so popular among Cubans that stopping it would pose a huge challenge for the authorities and would be counterproductive.

I spoke to a man named Yurien, who said, “President Raul likes cockfighting, our commanders Ramiro and Guillermo also like it, and we like it. Cockfighting is a part of Cuba so we do it with order and discipline. It is unstoppable. There are also a few legal arenas set up by the state, and even in those betting exists, but in a quiet and discreet way.”

Jun 6, 2012
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The Cuban gazelle

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By Desmond Boylan

A mixture of gazelle and human is the impression Dayron gave me when he took off from where I was standing on the training grounds and jumped the first hurdle. He became tiny in the lens very fast, and when he was running towards me there wasn’t much time to shoot until he filled the frame.

Dayron Robles is the main sporting figure of the moment in Cuba. In his specialty event of the men’s 110m hurdles, he won gold at the Beijing Olympics and is the current world record-holder.

Jun 5, 2012
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Another day on the job

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By Desmond Boylan

Imagine a job that runs from Monday to Monday, starts at 5 am every day and does not end until 9 pm if all goes well and according to plan. No days off permitted.

The basic description is: A job to be filled by a person capable of performing a variety of skilled activities throughout the day starting at sunrise, a quick 3-mile hike each morning over rugged terrain, and several more long hikes each day under the hot Cuban sun, in pouring rain or any given meteorological conditions. The job involves collecting, packing, carrying and processing produce necessary for the proper development of the business assets. The pay is 500 Cuban pesos per month, around $20.

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      "Desmond was born in London in 1964, and began working for Reuters in 1992. He was based in Madrid before taking the job of Chief Photographer, India, in 2004. He is currently based in Havana, Cuba. His assignments have taken him around the world covering major news events and sports."
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