Story of a family in Cuba
My set of portraits in Cuba is at

One morning I headed out to photograph for the full day. The town I was in was not too small so I wandered the streets and main areas but got bored so I headed to the country.

Of course in Cuba very quickly the streets and homes turn to much poorer quality as you leave the centre.

I met 2 boys selling a bird in a cage. It reminded me of a morning in Saigon when I had been unable to sleep so I went for a wander and ended up in a massive public park. The amazing thing was that there were kids football matches, Tai Chi classes and various other sports going on. it was 6.30AM. Anyway in a corner of the park were a crowd of elderly men and what they were doing was fascinating.

In Belfast we have flowers hanging from poles in the summer but in this park they had the same sort of poles but hanging from them were lots and lots of bird cages. Each pole had its own species and the men had brought their birds out for a 'chat with their birdie mates" Totally true I swear. I asked and it was explained that people who moved in from the country to the city missed the birds and so they had them in the city to remind them of their home in the country.

The 2 boys I met in Cuba (and their Aunt) they were selling a bird . Not too successfully. I was never going to be a customer. Anyway I talked a bit and asked if I could take their picture and then the taller boy said do you want to see our other birds. The aunt said it wasn't far and I said yes. After a few minutes we came to the very edge of town to 2 small houses. The aunt went into one and I was waved into the other by the boy who had ran ahead.
Now I was a bit hesitant because you never know what might be going on.

Anyway I went into the room which was bare brick and a dirt floor and the boy came back into the room with another cage full of very small birds. So after I admired them and said thank you, I went to leave but he beckoned me into the next room and I stuck my head in. What a surprise. The room had a very worn and rickety cabinet , a bed and a cot and a small table.

On the bed stretched out resting was the boy's mother. In the cot beside the bed was a new born baby and the boy wanted me see his baby sister.

The mother was as surprised as I was but she said hello and I explained how met her son and sister in law next door. The boy said he takes pictures what can we show him.

If you are saying to yourself this not a normal occurence. Well it is a bit for me on my photo travels but yes I had never ended up in a situarion before that I felt I was really being very intrusive and I was really quite uncomfortable.

She told him to get a wooden stool for me. So there I was in this brick shed sitting beside her bed and their poverty was overwhelming but their welcome and interest was equally overwhelming. I will explain.
They kept forgetting I was speaking spanish and they talked about me as if I didn't understand what they were saying. Anyway they decided a good photo was giving their baby goat a bottle of milk. So he got the goat put it on the bed and as you can see fed it.

Remember they are talking about me! The boy said there is no more milk (when the kid goat had finished the bottle), he is still taking photos!

The mum said get some water. Now I felt awful at this stage here I was in their home and they were entertaining me and using up their precious food. This was voyeurism of a tourist and i was cringing. My Spanish is not too good but I tried to say I was going but the boy came pack and they put the bottle with water in the goats mouth and gestured 'take more photos'. So I did.

Then they said what next and the boy said something and disappeared and came back with his dog. You can see the photos. I was incapable of setting the camera at this stage and the photos are really poor.

Then I heard someone arriving at the door and in came the aunt and her son (boy's cousin) and she had got dressed up for her photo to be taken (and her son). So away I went more photos. First of the original boy and mum and then the aunt and her son. They both gave their mums hugs and kisses. The mums just loved these photos. Then of course a photo of the 2 cousins.

At this stage it all felt surreal to me, it was a fair bit beyond my other photo experiences. This was mostly to do with their acceptance of me. If you read my other stories I carry photos of my family and can speak enough to talk about who I am, my family and where I am from and what I think of Cuba etc.

Then the boy went to get his baby sister and the mum near had a fit. He wanted a photo of her with him and his mum. He was so proud and excited about her. I told him her name was very english.
So mum did get the baby and you can see the photo. Now I was sitting real close to them and using a wide angle lens because the room was small. Then the baby started crying and the mum lifted out her breast to the baby and fed it for a minute until it went back to sleep.
I am from Ireland and woman don't breastfeed like that here so this was another thing which unsettled me. I hope in the photos you can see the love in their eyes and dare I say peace. I felt I was in an oasis of love it was that strong to me.

Then the father arrived. Now if you are a man and you come home and you find in your bedroom a strange man taking photos of your family and sister in law plus nephew, would it surprise you. Well it did surprise him and his arrival piled on my discomfort. This all seems over reaction on my part but I had been making moves to leave and I put the camera away. When they saw the other lenses the 2 boys stared and one said 'he must be very very rich'. My obvious wealth to their poverty was not comfortable. I can't really say more I haven't the words.
Anyway the boy wanted a photo of mum dad him and baby and his dad said no but the boy persuaded him. He put his arm round him and gently brought him over.
Then I left but I would love to go back.
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