Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - Obispo Café – An Old Havana café, a few blocks from my...
Obispo Café – An Old Havana café, a few blocks from my great-grandmother’s apartment. Her address was the only one my aunt remembered.  

Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - My
grandparents were married in this church in 1940. I have a copy of their
wedding invitation.
My grandparents were married in this church in 1940. I have a copy of their wedding invitation.
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - I
have many pictures of my grandparents at the famous Tropicana nightclub. What
was once a...
I have many pictures of my grandparents at the famous Tropicana nightclub. What was once a common social event is now solely for tourists, who can afford the expensive tickets.
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - A
typical shopping experience on 10 th  of October. The busy street’s large shops have...
A typical shopping experience on 10th of October. The busy street’s large shops have mostly disappeared or only carry a small supply of items.
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - This
decaying art deco theater is a few blocks from my mother’s house.
This decaying art deco theater is a few blocks from my mother’s house.
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - Luz
y 10 de Octubre,  At the top of this hill
is the house my mother grew up in. It is...
Luz y 10 de Octubre,  At the top of this hill is the house my mother grew up in. It is now called the hot corner, because of frequent accidents.
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - Luz House
Luz House
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - The
front door of Luz House, where my mother’s family lived. I have many
photographs...
The front door of Luz House, where my mother’s family lived. I have many photographs of my mother and her siblings on this front patio.
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - The
view from the upper apartment of my mother’s childhood home. As we photographed...
The view from the upper apartment of my mother’s childhood home. As we photographed the street, we met a neighbor, Clara, who remembered playing with my mother, aunt and uncle as children. She still lives in an apartment across the street with her 87 year old mother Isabel.
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - Luz Bedroom
Luz Bedroom
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - Luz Bedroom
Luz Bedroom
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - Dog & Distant Church – An overlook; the church in the far distance was attended...
Dog & Distant Church – An overlook; the church in the far distance was attended by my family every Sunday before they would drive out to the family tobacco finca.

Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - Asking for directions as we search the countryside for the family finca.
Asking for directions as we search the countryside for the family finca.
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality - Finally, the finca beyond closed gates.
Finally, the finca beyond closed gates.
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality -

Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality

Silvia Ros
Photographer based in Miami, Florida
My mother left Havana in 1961, after the family tobacco farm was nationalized. She was a teenager when she arrived in Miami and would never graduate from high school. She died when I was 20. Her parents, who cared for my brother and me after her death, died a few short years later.
Having lost my mother and grandparents, my only tangible relationship to Havana was now my grandmother’s photo albums.
As I prepared to travel to Havana for the first time, I searched her albums and documents to find the places my mother had lived as a child. There was an apartment, where she was an infant, with the circle and wave pattern on the balcony railing. A house, in an upscale neighborhood, where they had room for their growing family. And the finca, owned by my great-grandfather, where my grandfather worked. Family lore was that the finca produced the final tobacco leaf in the H. Upmann Cigars, and once nationalized had become the Center for Tobacco Research.
I departed with high hopes, but I really didn’t know what to expect once in Havana. Would it be possible to find the landmarks of my mother’s youth? What would finding them mean to me? What relationship would I have to these places after losing my mother over 25 years ago?
As a photographer I document the world around me. Photography allows me to explore, experience, process and articulate with images, what I could never express with words. I use the camera to create distance between myself and my subject, all the while sharing the intimacy of my gaze, transcending my own story to create a new experience for the viewer. My work is my vision, but the medium allows it to become a new story and create an alternate meaning for the viewer. The layers of memory, both physical and pictorial, resonate in a larger collective which encompasses how Havana itself exists “outside of concrete space” [Cuban Palimpsests by Jose Quiroga, 2005].
This collection of images document the reality of the Havana I visited, as a photographer, and represent the myth of Havana I grew up with. Both exist in the images, memories I created and memories that were passed down to me. Making connections between the real/myth and singular/collective, I strived to capture this unique aspect of Havana and its relationship to American-born Cubans, who are survivors of an exile that they didn’t directly experience. Returning to a homeland lost long ago, real and myth, what isn’t there is as significant as what has survived.
Public Story
Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality
Copyright Silvia Ros 2022
Date of Work Aug 2015 - Ongoing
Updated Nov 2018
Topics Architecture, Documentary, Editorial, Essays, Family, Freedom, havana, cuba, ancestry, vibora, cuban american, exile,, Historical, Landscape, Latin America, Migration, Photography, Photojournalism, Revolution, Street, Travel
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Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality by Silvia Ros Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality by Silvia Ros Photographing Cuba: My Myth, My Reality by Silvia Ros
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