Documentary

Carl De Keyzer’s Cuba – From Communist to Capitalist Country

Havana, Cuba 2015, from the series Cuba, La Lucha © Carl De Keyzer, courtesy Magnum Photos/Lannoo

In photographing Cuba just before the American trade embargo is lifted, Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer shows us the residue of a bygone era, as well as a population ready to open a new chapter in its history.

“I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas,” President Barack Obama said in Havana.

With the speech, President Obama became the first US President to visit Cuba in almost 90 years, following the reinstatement of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Before President Obama’s speech, which saw the relaxation of a trade embargo between the two countries that lasted 56 years, the British photographer and Magnum member Carl De Keyzer had already began to explore Cuba’s transition from a regime communist to a capitalist system, and the consequence of this change on the country’s population.

The images from de Keyzer’s new book, Cuba, La Lucha, capture the unique character of the Cuban people struggling to survive in an outmoded, authoritarian system. Through crumbling buildings, we see the residue of a bygone era, as well as a population ready to open a new chapter in its history.

Carl De Keyzer shows the ambivalence of a changing country, torn between the desire to preserve its traditions and the desire to improve its economy, and therefore the living conditions of its people.

Carl De Keyzer explored the last remnants of the Soviet regime in his series Homo Sovieticus, photographed between 1988 and September 1989 before the Berlin Wall was demolished in November 1989.

Cuba, La Lucha was planned before American President Barack Obama’s 2014 speech inviting the relaxation of the Communist island’s 56-year embargo.

In doing so, De Keyzer has created images that capture “the end of a bankrupt Utopia, which has plunged its population into a deep identity conflict, divided by the lure of dazzling economic growth promised by capitalism and fears of consumerist excesses on its traditional culture,” he says.

Cuba, La Lucha is published by Lannoo (2016). De Keyzer is a member of Magnum photos. See more images from the series here.

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