Postcard from Havana, A Cuban Character

This is one of the numerous ‘professional’ models which ply their trade in and around the squares of Old Havana. Offering their interesting features often with huge cigars for posing with tourists or for photographers. I usually decline but the handlebar moustache of this particular gentleman seemed too good to pass up.

I was quite taken back however when after receiving payment he asked for another convertible peso, stating his fee was two. There hadn’t been any discussion about price and this seemed a little steep for two photos and I politely informed him so.

This was not my only encounter with this character, but his offer to pose for me a few days later was declined. His response was extremely animated, indignantly informing me he was a superstar and that I should want his picture. To prove his point he produced a copy of National Geographic magazine which featured him on the cover.

There is little doubt he is a superstar, that moustache alone is legendary. I understand this is how these professional subjects make a living and also have to pay taxes but do object to requests for more money or ‘pushy’ sales techniques.

Model character in Old Havana on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel adventure photography

The Cuban star of National Geographic magazine

There are many equally interesting characters around which are usually happy to pose for a photographer, most do not ask for payment at all or are happy just to accept whatever donation is offered.

Those that pose for money uusally mean the final image looks exactly that, posed and contrived. They do not provide any insight into the culture, a candid environmental image is far better in this respect. Regardless of the destination; Cuba, Morocco or India a picture which includes the surroundings or activities of the individual portray much more.

Nevertheless this character deserves his moment of fame and although this website is not in the league of his usual published material I hope he will be equally proud of his appearance here.

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    2. Dave Darnell

      that’s right Hinshaw, it is a country where they next zero income. asking for picture is their only way to survive. be thankful of your affluent disposition

      1. Iain Mallory

        While it’s true the average salary in Cuba is relatively low, it’s not so simplistic as it may initially seem:

        http://bestcubaguide.com/cuba-poor-country-salary/

        That said, since writing this piece I’m now aware these street ‘models’ are some of the most heavily taxed individuals on the island, and probably wouldn’t have been so quick to judge if I’d known that at the time.

        I actually wrote the piece more about his reaction to me not wanting his photo a second time, his undoubted pride at featuring on the front cover of National Geographic and maybe the mention of his asking for more money was superfluous to this?

  1. britabroad

    I had a similar encounter with this man a few weeks ago. I didn’t want his picture. He decided to put his arm around me to which I pushed him back forcefully but slowly away from me. I’ve heard of too many pickpockets using distractions like this to be hugging a stranger. He was not impressed and once again touted his National Geographic around. I felt a little bad later but I was not risking being pickpocketed.

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