Walking through Old Havana is a photographer’s dream. Not only are there centuries’ old architectural gems to capture as well as the local and extremely photogenic citizens as they go about their daily activities but throughout the historical district one will also come across a host of colorful characters who are there just to be photographed. In other words, willing photography models for just pesos a pose. I call them the “Havana poseurs”.
Often these characters will dress up in a manner that screams, “Take my picture”. Usually a cigar forms one of their props (this seems particularly popular with the older female poseurs for some reason) while vintage clothing also is a staple for many. There is one elderly woman who hangs around La Bodeguita del Medio with a cigar almost as large as she is. She gets extremely ornery with those who snap her photo and do not pay up. You have been warned.
There is also one especially freakish character that hangs around La Floridita (these poseurs all seem to have their territories) who has pierced virtually every inch of his face. I suggested to him that he should be wearing a T-shirt that says “do not try this at home”. He did not crack a smile as his palmed my pesos into his front pocket.
There is another gent who travels about with a bike and his tiny dog that is normally dressed up in some silly skirt, hat and sunglasses (the dog that is, not the owner). As I recall, the dog also “sings” which draws a crowd for their periodic performances.
However, my all time favorite has always been Eduardo. He is in his mid 80s and always dresses immaculately in a decades old suit and bow tie and carries a weathered leather attaché case as if he were off to work in a bank circa 1950. The thing about Eduardo is that he is a highly educated man and speaks impeccable English. Offer him a chair and a beer at a street café and he will answer virtually any question you might possibly have about Cuba (as he has “seen it all”). Every time I visit Havana I try to track Eduardo down and am always relieved that he is still around. He is my Man in Havana.
So if you are in Old Havana and are carrying around your camera, get ready to take some memorable shots of some unique personalities. But don’t forget to give them a peso or two for being there for you. If you don’t, you just might get a finger wagged at you…at the very least!
words and photos