Arts > Heaven and hell in Havana

01 December 2016 | by D.J. Taylor

Heaven and hell in Havana


Deepa Fernandes, who presented this absorbing contribution to the BBC’s “100 Women” season (23 November), paid her first visit to Havana as a fresh-faced 22-year-old back in the late 1990s. This was the height of the “special period”, a decade after Russian subsidies had run out, when, as her interviewees bleakly recalled, the key questions facing a Cuban housewife each morning were: will the rice truck arrive, and what are we going to eat?

Returning nearly two decades later to meet the five women who had participated in the documentary she made back then, Fernandes was clearly determined to look on the bright side. By and large, her subjects seemed eager to assist. “I’m lucky,” fortysomething Tatiana insisted, despite having endured a bruising morning with the bureaucrats over her attempt to procure a visa to study in America. Accomplishments chalked up by retired psychologist Norma included starring in an American documentary, coming out as a lesbian and setting up as a community activist.


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