Las Habanas represents three months of ethnographic and artistic work in Havana, Cuba under the tutoring of photographer and printmaker, Eduardo Hernandez. Images and text are based on guidebooks, historical tourist materials, and conversations with locals and tourists.
Thanks to Roberto Garcia for translations
Unlike other guidebooks, the cover of The Rough Guide to Cuba does not depict tropical beaches, mojitos, old American cars, people dancing, colonial architecture, Che, or even cigars. Instead, the reader is introduced to the Rough Guide with a photo of newly painted tiles cemented in a wall indicating in an elegant font, “CALLE BARATILLO.” Hand-painted designs symmetrically frame the words with forms that reflect the curves and points of shells and leaves. Bright green paint chips off of the wall that surrounds the street sign to reveal a beige stone color. Despite this image’s uniqueness among guidebook covers, it still makes the comparison between the old and new, the exuberant and deteriorated, that Cuba’s most commonly reproduced images communicate.
Images convey emotions and sentiments about cultures. For the outsider, images form the basis of their understanding of places and people. This power of the image is what unites my interests in graphic design and tourism. Las Habanas calls upon images and taglines that surfaced during conversations with tourists and locals. The series refers to pre-revolutionary typographic visual styles used to entice American tourists to make reference to the city’s touristic history. The display includes photos to give context to the Havanas that the posters reference.
Las Habanas is driven by a desire to find out how the distinct Havanas of tourists and locals overlap and interact. It explores the spaces between the old and new, the needed and wanted, and the Romantic and routine. The piece brings forth and considers the Havanas that exist amongst touristic perceptions of the city and the sides of the city more commonly lived. Through the mingling of image and text taken from guidebooks, interviews, and historical materials, the project addresses a multi-dimensional Havana experience. The series elongates and blurs the spectrum that spans between the constructed and the lived. Las Habanas negotiates between the Havanas that are imagined and sought, and the Havanas that are perpetually reiterated and consumed. In a non-accusatory way, the series’ ironic tone hopes to implicate each viewer in the process of how cultural images are produced and imagined.