At Home in Cuba’s Campoamor Theatre

Even though the last curtain fell in 1965, one man still calls Havana’s Campoamor Theatre home.

April 11, 2015

Credit: Thomas Heckner

Photographer Thomas Heckner enjoys traveling and meeting people of different cultures to find out about their ways of living and surviving. “If my protagonists let me take part in their everyday life, I’m happy.” he says.

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Central Havana’s Campoamor Theatre opened on October 20, 1921. For more than four decades, it was one of the country’s leading venues for music, theatre and poetry. Singer Rita Montaner, Cuba’s most popular performer from the 1920s until her death in 1958, enjoyed her first major show there in 1924.

But in 1965, six years after Fidel Castro took power in the Cuban revolution, its curtain fell for the last time and it became a garage for pedicabs and mopeds.

It was then that Reinaldo, now 52, started working in the building as a parking attendant. Then the garage, too, closed down. And so for more than 20 years, the former theatre has been his home. His living room is on the first floor in what was formerly a vanity room.

He has a wardrobe for clothes, a bed, a gas cooker, a television, a ventilator to cool the summer air and help keep off the mosquitoes, and — usually — electricity.

Like all Cubans, Reinaldo has a government rations book that guarantees him a supply of food, though not enough to survive. To make ends meet, he works as a cleaner in houses around his neighborhood or takes on other temporary jobs.

For 30 years, he has practiced the Chinese martial art, Tai Chi. Formerly taught by a master teacher, he now practices alone twice a day, for an hour in the morning and another hour in the evening.

Text and photographs by Thomas Heckner








Photographer Thomas Heckner enjoys traveling and meeting people of different cultures to find out about their ways of living and surviving. “If my protagonists let me take part in their everyday life, I’m happy.” he says.

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Takeaways

In the midst of an historic Summit of the Americas, we reflect on the lives of Cuba's citizens.

Despite changes in Cuba's relationship with the US, its citizens still face daily struggles.

Six photos depict the life of one man living in a relic of the pre-Castro era in Cuba.