Havana Homeland

Havana Always

by | Dec 27, 2000

Havana: The ruined and the restored

Like thousands of Cubans, at the age of fourteen, I crossed the Caribbean Sea in a small boat with more than 20 people on board in search of a better future, the Promised Land. The journey that took me back to my Cuban homeland had been unconsciously planned since my departure from Havana on May 20, 1980. The opportunity to reconnect with that once forgotten, a vague and elusive part of my life, came when I decided to base my graduate thesis at the Harvard Graduate School of Design on the historical evolution of the architecture and urbanism of Havana. In August 1998 and February 1999, I was able to once again step foot on that amazing island, this time in search of my past. My trip became the primary and most important connection to my past and future work, a moment of personal reconciliation and professional growth. Once there I also realized that Havana lives, like its people, persisting through each tropical breath in its everyday struggle for survival. Havana is arguably a city frozen in time, hopelessly waiting for a kind of resurrection, a chance to once again become the vital capital city it once was. Its built and social infrastructure has dilapidated to a state of great despair, but like my fellow Cubans, it sits there waiting for that day when the sociopolitical tensions that have clouded its existence for the past 40 years can cease to exist.

The image above and other of my photos scattered through this issue of DRCLAS NEWS are a humble tribute to the city, a monument of Cuban culture located by that beautiful bay in the Caribbean Sea that once connected the Eastern and Western Hemisphere, my homeland, my roots, my Havana. Havana remains hostage to its children, emotionally governed by a sense of political rancor, cultural betrayal and personal loss. These photos are an attempt at a kind of disengagement and reconnection with the portrayal of a vision still present in the eyes of many Cubans, a sense of hope and optimism that I hope someday will bring its children together again.

Through my thesis work I was able to bridge the gap that for so many years had darkened my perception of Havana, and in return was able to provide a clear vision of Hope. I proceeded to graduate from the GSD in June 1999, and I am now working with a real estate development firm in the Boston area, hoping to expand the knowledge that will someday allow me to participate in Havana’s recovery.

Winter 2000


Reinerio P. Faife is the Cuban-born president of Futura, a Florida-based company.

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