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  • Writer's pictureAndy Scaysbrook

A letter to Fidel Castro.

Updated: Nov 26, 2018

As many of you may know Ive been working on a six year long project in Cuba. The project is called, No Mojito, its an ongoing project that has seen me documenting the changes in Cuban society. Its the story of the people of Cuba and the great changes that are happening there. Its not about classic cars and cigars, its about real life. It will celebrate the amazing Cuban people, the struggles they face, the lives they lead and it will showcase the beauty of the country that I love so much. I hope you enjoy the stories and follow the project as it grows. One day these images will become a book and an exhibition but for now I want to share these pictures and stories with you so that you can be a part of this project and hopefully gain an insight into why I love Cuba and its people so much. I hope you enjoy the journey.

So, where did it all begin? In 2012 I was asked to run a photography workshop in Havana and Trinidad. At the time I was working with a number of politicians in the UK, one of which was George Galloway. I was working on a project to digitise one of his books, The Fidel Castro Handbook. Upon hearing that I was due to travel to Cuba, Galloway had asked me if I could help to try and secure an interview with Fidel Castro by delivering a letter whilst I was in the country. The letter was from the owner of The Independent newspaper, Evgeny Lebedev, who is the Russian-born British chairman and owner of the Evening Standard Ltd. Lebedev was requesting an interview with Fidel Castro. In return for delivering the letter I would get the assignment to photograph Castro should the interview go ahead. What could possibly go wrong? It seemed like a fair exchange, which I readily agreed to. I met Galloway at the House of Commons in London, Evgeny Lebedev had a letter waiting for me. I read it and it was then sealed in a House of Commons envelope and given to me to deliver to the Communist Party HQ in Havana.

Upon arriving in Havana I had a few days before the clients arrived. I set off to deliver the letter which was easier said than done. Arriving at the HQ in Revolution Square was interesting. I was met by the cold steely stare of two Cuban soldiers who in no uncertain terms let me know that I wasn't welcome at the offices. I knew this wouldn't be easy, I had been warned it would be difficult. I spoke with my fixer who was looking after me, he was interested in what I was trying to do. "Nothing is easy in Cuba my friend" were his words. We sat down on the grass outside of a small cafe and I told him why I was there and what I needed to do. he was fascinated by the story and suggested we meet a friend of his who was, shall we say, well connected. The next day I met up with a man called Jose, he worked in the building that the communist party HQ was housed in. At this point it was all getting a bit James Bond and all I wanted to do was to get my part of the bargain done. Drop the letter off and get on with the work I had come to do. Jose was a funny man, we talked about England, he was fascinated by English life and wanted to know all about how people lived. I told him many stories and we drank rum and coffee in the sunshine and talked of politics and how he hoped that one day he would get the chance to experience "My beautiful country" I handed over the letter, and he promised me he would make sure that it got into the right hands.

Did it ever get into the right hands? who knows?, but I'd completed my side of the deal and it was time to move on. When I returned to England I rang Galloway and told him the story and he said "Jose was right, nothing in Cuba is easy, but thank you and we will await news" After a few months nothing had been heard, but I'd had a great adventure and I had got my first taste of Cuban life and I wanted more. It fascinated me. And so began a six year adventure, and what an adventure it has been. This blog will feature stories form the past six years and will feature many of the pictures stories that I have shot along the way. The journey continues...

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