Portraits of Cubans
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35 NIV
A few weeks ago, I went on a service trip to Cuba with some other medical students and a non-profit called First-Hand Aid. I had been dreaming of going to Cuba for a few years, but it just never seemed to work out. God's timing is so perfect.
People go into other countries, whether as tourists or because of some genuine interest in another country and their culture, and take photos and leave. We (because I must include myself) take photos of people and rarely think to leave anything behind. When I went to India, I left some photos with the clinic I had been volunteering at and printed some on regular paper. But I decided to be more intentional this time. For every person that allowed me to take their photo, I wanted to give them a copy to keep. I went to Meijer's (similar to Walmart) and found a Polaroid printer. I bought it and a couple extra packs of photo paper, even though it was way over my budget.
The experience was life changing. The saying "It is better to give than to receive" took on a whole new meaning as I quickly took some portraits on my camera, saved them to my phone via my camera's wifi, and printed them through the printer. Each reaction was different, but the genuine thankfulness was the same. Some of the people photographed below were parents of children with various cancers, invalids we brought groceries to, people attending a health fair we hosted in a local church, and just people I might have crossed paths with as I explored. Some of these beautiful people had never had a photo of themselves. As I type this, reliving the reactions, I'm getting a little emotional that something so simple as a 2x3 print (tiny y'all) could bring so much joy. It really is the simple things in life that we so quickly forget.
I am humbled that God even placed the money in my account to do this in the first place. I was even more humbled and in awe when someone I didn't know saw what I was doing on instagram and decided to send me some money to keep going.
This is one of the many forms that photography can take. A gift. Raw and from the heart. Thanking the Lord daily for this talent that He blessed me with. All I can do is honor the gift, and share it.
I hope you enjoy the portraits I was able to take (edited all different ways per usual). I do wish that I came across more Afro-Cubans, but I guess that just means that I have to come back, right?
Oh, and shoutout to my friends who translated for me when I was too nervous to ask.
These next set of images are a personal favorite. This man worked hard on his small tobacco farm to provide for his family. The farm grew under his care for the past 75 years, and now his sons take care of the crops and teach others about the cigar making process. He and his family (some of his great grandkids are pictured above) hosted us, made us an amazing dinner, and serenaded us throughout the evening. We had a mini photo shoot because I couldn't help myself.