The title of my photography series Cuba: Before the Dawn, is a nod to Reinaldo Arenas’ autobiographical novel Before Night Falls. The novel describes the writer’s life and persecution by Castro’s regime, his hunger and fight for freedom and finally escape to New York. I read the book while in Havana, realising that in principal, not so much has changed in Cuba, since the Reinaldo Arenas times. I spent the first half of my life in communist Czechoslovakia, and just like being in China, Burma, Russia and other totalitarian countries, things seemed eerily familiar in Cuba.
In the Havana series, I tried to capture the spirit of the once grand city, which is now falling apart, its absurdity intensified by the parallel world of tourism.
The Freedom project shows portraits of the dissidents in Havana, combined with images of daily life in the capital. The members and supporters of the Ladies in White (wives of political prisoners) meet weekly in St. Rita’s park in Havana for a silent protest march, and they are still severely persecuted by the regime for their human rights activism.
In the Provincias series I captured life in the villages of Oriente and Trinidad provinces. I accompanied the amazing Padre Conrado in his travels in his diocese and I saw people living in total poverty, almost entirely abandoned by the government.
I fell in love with Cuba and I will hopefully be back. I feel strongly about the sexy hypocrisy surrounding the Cuban issue – there is nothing romantic or truthful about the Cuban ‘revolution.’
Ordinary Cubans who don’t collaborate with the regime or who are not lucky enough to have connections with the outside world suffer incredible economic hardships and on-going political oppression. As the English saying goes, the night is darkest just before the dawn. Hopefully, the dawn is coming soon in this beautiful island.
Hana Jakrlova is an internationally published Czech-born photographer whose work addresses issues of belonging, intimacy and identity. Learn more about her work at www.hanajakrlovaphoto.com.
This article was prepared or accomplished by Hana Jakrlova in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Cuba Journal.
“Cuba: Before the Dawn” by Photographer Hana Jakrlova was last modified: February 26th, 2016 by Contributor