Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Postcard Cuba

Postcards don’t offer much as a guide to great events but they can shed unexpected light on social conditions. This group of vintage cards is an unreliable guide to the turbulent island that formed the subject of The Crime of Cuba but the casual cruelty of the cockfight enthusiasts suggests a dubious moral climate. When we see a prospective client inspecting the merchandise through the iron bars of a brothel (disingenuously labelled as a Cuban courtship), it suggests a public acceptance of prostitution as just another economic activity without a moral dimension. The sugar and fruit growing industries are visible and remind us that poverty wages and harsh working conditions drove the social unrest that overthrew the Machado regime. Camagüey and Santiago de Cuba are among the towns that Walker Evans did not visit on his 1933 assignment. These cards give little impression of the major population centres they are today but on YouTube there’s a fascinating video that shows just how much of old Camagüey can still be seen today.

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