Americans have a distant idea of Cuba. Most of us don’t really know what to think of the place, as most never visited due to the embargo – or blockade, as the Cubans see it – so we chalk it up to be the ‘paradise’ we have seen in pictures or heard of: beautiful architecture, 50s-era automobiles, cigars, beaches, women, rum.
My initial impression was not far from this picture, as it does exist here, but the truth is our tiny neighbor to the south is more complex, living a reality that involves all the above, though in different measures. A paradise for the elite and the tourists, but for most Cubans it is about surviving the paradise.
Paradiso follows two Cuban DJs of electronic music as they come of age while making a name for themselves in Havana. Their landscape is the dark night landscape of Havana, and they are of a generation defined by Cuba’s Special Period, an extended period of economic crisis beginning in 1989 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Due to severe shortages of hydrocarbon energy resources, the period radically transformed Cuban society and the economy and people were forced to live without many goods and services they were used to.
Whether a result of the blockade, the Special Period, the Cuban system of government or a combination of the above, Cubans have a brotherhood and spirit of resilience that is palpable. Many Cubans struggle to not only survive but to live their dreams in a country largely cut off from global society.
A sample of images from an in-progress book about Rene, Chino and their crew in Havana.