Book Review: Hopes & Dreams from Cuba
By Jenna Butler
A cliff overlooks the vast ocean, and the sun starts to set. One by one, young men are seen jumping into the sea. Almost every photograph depicts the Cuban people in motion. Whether they’re pushing a car toward its destination or carrying a cake while effortlessly holding an umbrella, the Cuban people keep moving forward. Hilary Duffy’s new book, Hopes & Dreams from Cuba, is about the Cubans’ constant need to keep moving. She began traveling to Cuba in the 1990s and captured the essence of the Cuban people through her lens. Duffy photographs the proud, trusting, and hospitable people engaged in daily activities.
In the backseat of a car, a woman is seen resting her head. Next to her, a woman is embracing a man. Out of the window behind them, you can see the road and the setting sun, the long day showing on their faces. Duffy’s pictures are raw and embody the life the Cubans live: waking up to the same sun on yet another day and being with family.
Fidel Castro’s rule brought about many hardships. People went hungry, men used oxen instead of tractors to do strenuous work, and commuters who could not afford cars had to use Chinese bicycles, making daily travel arduous. Violence had erupted throughout cities, especially Havana. Nearly 60 years since the Cuban Revolution and the end of Castro’s reign, new economic freedoms have emerged in Cuba, and with it a less stressful way of life.
Throughout years of political turmoil under Fidel Castro and poor living conditions, the Cubans have kept themselves entertained with music, inspiring Duffy to capture this important facet of their life. A man holds a large violin that allows only a partial view of his face; ballet dresses hang outside on a clothing line to dry; young men breakdance in the street.
The last section in the book, Esperanzas, is a series of portraits that bring to life the dreams of the Cuban people. Each portrait is accompanied by a quote. With each flip of a page, a new person is seen, revealing an intimate wish. Each reflects the Cuban lifestyle: simple and humble. Many merely want to see their families grow old; One man dreams to see his daughter become a dancer. The dreams match the amiable souls reflected in each photograph.
Esperanzas, Esperer, Esperanca, Naděje: all mean hope. This is the backbone, not only of Duffy’s book, but also of the Cuban people. What Duffy captures in her photos is a presence that animates the streets; the hope that always has been, and always will be a part of the Cuban people.
The book can be found here: Daylight Books
More information about the author: Hilary Duffy