What is your first name: Miguel
What city are you from: Trinidad
What country are you from: Cuba
What do you do: Sell trinkets on the street to tourists
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why: I’m happy in Cuba and don’t want to go anywhere.
What’s your dream and why: I have no dream and am happy!
Notes: I saw this guy on the street selling purses/bags made out of straw. He was with another guy and they took a break to sit on the street curb next to the restaurant I was eating at. I kept an eye on these guys because they had such weathered faces, and the fact that they were peddling purses of all things. After I finished my meal I walked outside and sat on the curb with them.
I got out my pack of smokes and offered them both one. They seemed a little surprised, but graciously took one and we sat there for a minute smoking our cigs, watching tourists walk by. I was doing this as a lead up to an introduction to see if I could photograph these guys.
I pulled out my camera and snapped a few photos of street life going on, then turned the camera to my left and smiled. They didn’t run, and seemed ok with it, but both put on a model look while I snapped a few photos. I quickly looked at the photos on the LCD screen and then showed them both, but they just both nodded at me, as if I was their grandkid and did something that I thought was great but they didn’t.
I didn’t ask these guys for an interview then and there, but saw them later sitting on another curb in the shade. I figured what the hell, the worst thing they could do was say no, but since I had buttered them up already, and they seemed ok with photos, I figured I might have a good chance. Again, I offered them both a smoke and asked if it would be ok to ask them a few questions. They both seemed really hesitant, but my friend explained that it was the same thing we ask everyone and would only take a minute.
Miguel said ok in a half “I could care less” way, so we asked him what his first name was. The other guy started shaking his head while smoking and by the time I asked Miguel what city he was from, the other guy walked off repeating “No, no, no!” I thought I was done with the interview, but Miguel kept going, though his answers were so cold and closed. Basically, the only thing he would say is that Cuba is the happiest place in the world and he didn’t want to leave it.
This was a perfect example of the repression you see while in Cuba. It boiled down to only two reasons for the coldness I received when I tried to ask anything:
- Afraid of the Cuban Government: because if he said something bad about Cuba, they might come after him for it.
- He’s a proud Cuban: because he thought I was going to use his photo and info to show how bad Cuban life is to the world, and make his country look poor.
Either one is probably true (if not both), but it just struck me as funny. Never have I been somewhere where people were so worried about what might be written that they couldn’t express themselves freely.