Vintage in Havana “Because I Can”
I just returned home to Winnipeg from a rejuvenating trip to Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba. This quick vacay naturally brought to mind the week, last year, that I spent with my mom in Varadero.
And the vintage photo shoot I had among the beautiful architecture and vintage cars of La Havana.
I had been to Havana years ago and fell in love with the city that seemed frozen in time and decided that I would take advantage of our close proximity and capture my love of vintage in a space where it truly belongs.
My 85 year old mother really didn’t understand how I was going to pull this off or even why I wanted to. (She still doesn’t really “get” Style Hunter Fox.) To be honest, a strong motivator for me was just to see if I could, indeed, pull it off. In the end, when there didn’t seem to be a clear purpose for my plan to those around me, my reason was, simply “Because I Can!”
With the power of Facebook, (thank you Angela La Muse!) I was put in touch with Samuel Reina Calvo, a photographer from Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, 400 km from Havana. At first he was going to put me in touch with someone from Havana but then decided to travel the 6 hours by bus to do the shoot himself.
With hardly a week to spare before my trip, Sam realized that payment in the form of camera equipment would’ve been a great idea, with items of quality being very hard to come by in Cuba. Amazingly, I found the right kind of lens he needed locally, on Kijiji, and approved its quality with the help of my friend and photographer Dano Tanaka.
So with a new lens in my carry-on and a suitcase full of hair tools, makeup, vintage outfits from WildWoodRose Vintage and my favourite rainbow crinoline (plus a few bikinis for the rest of the trip!) I was extra excited about my Cuban adventure!
That trip marked my mother’s 24th time in Varadero! After all those years she had some very close Cuban friends who really helped out with my plans.
Her dear friend Nacyra Gómez drove us to Havana the night before the shoot and arranged accommodation at her friend’s B&B. The three of us went to the Cabaret Tropicana, and enjoyed ourselves immensely.
With the help of Imyris, our assistant whom Sam had hired for the day (who schleped so much of our stuff around!) and Nacyra’s help with driving, keeping my costume changes in the car, and entertaining my mom for the day, plus a LOT of walking, we managed 4 (5?) locations around Havana.
We saw gleaming government buildings, Colonial and Art Deco architecture and of course lots of beautiful, vintage cars!
In Old Havana, there were women in colourful dresses with baskets of flowers and head scarves that posed with tourists for a small fee.
I walked in, looking like some Old Hollywood starlet and attracted a crowd of my own, with people asking to take a photo with me.
Sam jokingly suggested that I charge money. He figured that the tourists thought I was a celebrity impersonator while the Cubans thought I was a celebrity that they just hadn’t heard of. It was a fun memory for sure!
Ending the day on the famous Malecón, the sea wall stretching along the coast of Havana, we were quite thrilled with the results of our day, and happy that we were done!
Now, a year plus another Cuban experience later, I am happy to grant myself the time to write and reflect on a day I will never forget. Plus I am grateful for the confidence I’ve developed that allows me to consider “Because I can” reason enough to try just about anything.