Visiting My Family Again

Since my first visit to Cuba in 1991, I have as often as possible visited a farming family in the valley of Viñales, in the eastern part of the country. The family has become like a second family for me, always welcoming and always happy to see me again. As I am to see them.

After being done teaching this year’s Cuba workshop, which I have already written a couple of posts about, I once again returned to the family. I spent a couple days with them, unfortunately not having time for a longer stay. It was nevertheless a pleasant reunion.

Since the first time I more or less coincidently came across them, the family has transformed notably. Some of the family members have died and new generations have been born over the years. I first became acquainted with the old couple, Miguel and Catalina, who were the head of the family more then 25 years ago. Both are now deceased. Miguel died nine years ago, while Catalina passed away last year.

Today it’s their two sons and their daughter who is taking care of the family’s land. And grandchildren are already securing the next generation of farmers. The three families—the sons and daughter, included their spouses and kids—share the land and live the same simple life the family has done for as long as they can remember.

They don’t have much, but they always want to share whatever they have. Food, coffee, a smoke or just the evening under an open sky talking together. I always leave the family in Viñales feeling richer and more grounded than when I arrived. I am moved by their hospitality and joy of life—despite the hardship making a living of the land.

I have written about my family previously in these posts: Back from Cuba, Where Time Stand Stills, A Family of Farmers and My Second Family.

82 thoughts on “Visiting My Family Again

  1. It’s wonderful you share your 2nd family with us. You give us a glimpse of their lives and it feels like we have watched them grow as well. Beautiful photos, lovely memories.

      1. I agree with Michelle’s comment. And I don’t think it’s too personal at all. I’m grateful for the opportunity to feel a bit of a personal connection with people I could never know otherwise.

  2. I am always very touched to see that throughout the world there are families which go on working the land, as have done their parents, instead of running to the cities hoping to become rich!!💐My very best regards Martina

      1. excuse me, Otto, my adding that going to the big cities may also be positive, if one doesn’t get dependent on food produced by Nestle or other such companies! All the best Martina

  3. How fabulous for you to have made such a connection with this beautiful family!
    Wonderful pictures, Otto

  4. This sounds like a wonderful experience with this family. I’m glad you are able to spend the time and enjoy life’s simple pleasures.

  5. Thank you, Otto for sharing your special time you spent with your second family. I’m moved by your stories and beautiful photos.

  6. This is a beautiful post, Otto! Farm life, the old kind, IS very grounding and joyful… when i was young, i had two uncles, they each had a farm, one was new technology, the other was age old ‘technology’… and i much preferred the age old farm, where the animals were happy and so was everybody else… i wanted to move from the big city to be on that farm.

    1. Of course such life is also very hard. I know your feeling, but also know it’s easy to idealize and romanticize the simple farm life. And I know it wouldn’t be for me. 🙂

      1. i know, I would NEVER live on a farm now, but I sure wanted it as a child… but as a small child I never had to do any work lol

  7. Wonderful! What a lovely post, full of caring compassion and a love of human values….brilliant that you are able to spend time with these people, Otto

  8. A very nice story of your visit to the family and your long relationship with the family from the parents to the current generation. I can feel the happiness of the family living of the land and simple life.

  9. How wonderful it must be to reconnect with a family over many trips (and generations). Living a simple life with only the basics is something we can all benefit from. I think we better appreciate the good things in our own lives.
    Love these shots, especially the 2nd and 4th images. They speak to me.
    You’ve definitely changed something in your style of photographing people, Otto. There’s something different about the way you capture the essence of the person. It’s subtle but noticeable. Can’t exactly put my finger on it. The images seem more candid than ever before and as the viewer, I feel more connected with the people within the frame.

    1. How you describe my photographic approach to people is something I really appreciate. It may be new or just and a continues development of my photography, but it makes me happy to know that I may be able to connect more strongly through my photographs. Thank you for the lovely feedback. Vicki.

  10. Such lovely photographs, I am especially captivated by the young girl twirling the hem of her skirt and the boy who tends the goat. How fortunate are you to be connected to this beautiful family.

  11. Hej Otto! Har varit inne hos dig en bra stund nu…har njutit av Cubabilderna, både från landsbygden och från Havanna…visst är väl några därifrån?, tycker mig känna igen vissa byggnader och vyer…men jag har kanske fel.
    Hursomhelst så känner jag mig tillbakaflyttad för en liten stund och speciellt bilderna och berättelsen om “din familj” griper tag och gör mig ännu mer intresserad av att åka tillbaka.
    Genuint, äkta och ärligt…det är alltid en lisa för själen att besöka dina sidor.

    1. Joda, flere av bildene (unntatt i denne posten er fra Havanna. Jeg må innrømme at forholdet mitt til familien i Viñales er en av grunnene til at jeg så ofte vender tilbake – og det er veldig kjekt at det oppleves sånn i bildene. Jeg takk for de vakre ordene dine.

  12. What treasured memories. I am fortunate to have similar memories and more from my month in Vietnam. I went with a colleague, we stayed with her family and traveled about the country. None of the tourist stuff. Perhaps one day I will get to Cuba? It was always on my list. However, since becoming an ex-pat and spending my time exploring France, I really have no desire to be elsewhere… 🙂

      1. So true and I’ve had some wonderful experiences in a variety of Countries. However when I moved here I found the home I had searched for all my life. It doesn’t get any better Otto. Enjoy!

  13. I had a family like that when I first came to Alberta, a friend whom I met in the city took me to her family who lived on a farm. Nothing fancy but there was always plenty and I felt loved and included in all the holiday celebrations.Once I left my toothbrush there and it stayed in the holder beside the sink, and was always there for me when I came to visit. Your photos have that feel to it, of being home, like the colours in paintings of the romantic period.

  14. There’s so much here that’s familiar: the bucket filled with grain or water: the chairs on the porch; the generations sharing life together; the kids just a little on the fringes, soaking it all in. It’s a world I recognize, even though the details of their life differ from the one I grew up in. It’s wonderful that they’ve allowed you in — but then again, not surprising. That’s what strong, stable families do. (They also nurture skirt-twirlers quite well!)

  15. You are lucky to have such a long continuity with this family. Its no surprise that you feel richer and more grounded after spending time with them. Your photographs are just terrific – I love the colors, all the diagonals, the action, the heart.

  16. These are members of the ‘Salt of the Earth’ people, the ones who teach us many lessons and who embrace us into their families. Time slows down, and for me, I wonder, “Do I really need to disconnect from this?” Obligations and responsibilities patiently await; we recharge our batteries and are stronger and better people when we leave….

    1. I think being connected to people of the salt of the earth is good for maintaining one’s own balance and view on the meaning of life. In the moderne and technological world we too often get caught up in need for things that aren’t really important.

      1. I met a very grounded and amazing man from Venezuela last night. A gifted and talented photographer, he traveled South America three years ago on his motorcycle and recently returned to his all -time favorite place – here in Jama… Our mutual friend was dumbfounded when she heard this – what was so special? Of course, one sometimes has to experience lots before appreciating that Salt of the Earth community.

        1. It’s all about putting things in perspective, isn’t it. Before we know better, we dream of big life, money and what not. Only after having seen it all (if not having lived the jet set life) do you start to appreciate the simple life of the salt of the earth community.

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