Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Photos: Cuba Libre

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Can you tell us more about your locations. They are so evocative. How do you happen upon them?
Cuba is a miracle out of time and Havana is a beautiful disaster, a city in the clouds, that really ought not to exist, but there it is. For now. I understand that it is a stunning, evocative, and vivid aesthetic, and I understand that so much of Havana is hard for the people and for my friends who live there. The light and the colors and the ruins and the labyrinthine streets and the phantoms of history are part of what inspires me. It’s hard not to be inspired.

Beautiful, evocative indoor spaces are everywhere, of course. But it’s tricky to get enough light and privacy too. I love the process of working in Cuba, finding models and spaces too. But it’s often quite difficult to work in Cuba, to do the kind of work I do, I mean. Socialism does not want or provide so many opportunities for privacy. There exists in Cuba the lechuzas, the Spanish word for owl — they are the neighbors who are always watching, to gossip or to report to the government. Every time I go, every time, I spend so much of my time organizing spaces, especially looking at indoor spaces. Sometimes friends will set up appointments for me to look at spaces. I have even knocked on doors to ask to look at houses.  

So I am grateful for the spaces I have found. An architect friend helped me find the delightful blue room behind the Capitolio. Sadly, it has now been destroyed.  Friends showed me la Playa del Chivo and Playita 16 and, perhaps my favorite place in the world to be, Los Jardines de la Polar, my secret garden in Havana. It is abandoned and very nearly undocumented. When I take my models there, boys who live a few minutes away, they marvel at the beauty and the space. The Polar Gardens, named after the nearby Polar beer factory, the Polar Cerveceria, is secreted away inside the city, under a large canopy of ancient Algarrobo trees with their knotting, threading vine-roots casting dapple-drawn light on the gardens and gazebos and bridges, on the miniature castles and Chinese tile work, on the shining mustard and deep blue tiles ascatter in the earth, on Catalan modernist structures, now crumbling under the force of time and a death grip of vines.


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