In many ways, Havana is a place frozen in time, according to photographer, writer and world traveler Armand Thomas, whose exhibit “Havana in the Times of Fidel” is on display through Sept. 30 at the Rainbow’s End Cafe, 1100 E. Sahara Ave.
“There are all these beautiful cars, and they are held together and running with wire and tape and ingenuity,” he said. “I could have done a show just on the cars of Havana.”
Thomas visited Havana in 1993, but he said it doesn’t change much there, and it still looks much as it does in his photos.
“The new Castro, Raul, is loosening things up a bit, but as far as everyday life goes, it hasn’t changed that much,” Thomas said. “It’s just 90 miles off the coast of Florida but a million miles away in terms of ideology, lifestyle and standard of living.”
He said that the stories of Havana having no new cars are untrue.
“They did get some new cars, but most of them were these little tin boxes from behind the Iron Curtain,” Thomas said. “ You would see some cars and buses donated by different governments. I’m from Montreal, originally, and when I was down there, I saw some of our Montreal buses. I saw buses from Nordic countries that didn’t have windows that opened and didn’t have climate control. You could get places but it wasn’t comfortable.”
Thomas has worked for Cirque du Soleil for the past 18 years and is stage manager at “Mystere.”
“For the last 10 years or so, I was in show creation but decided to slow things down a bit,” he said. “It’s a great job. It’s still tough but a bit slower. Now I have time to tend my roses, ride my motorcycle and expose my art.”
Thomas has been going through old slides and converting them to digital format, regrouping and categorizing them. He has put together enough work for several shows from different parts of the world. For the show at Rainbow’s End Cafe, he made a dozen large-format prints.
Cafe manager Karla Davis said the the vegetarian restaurant has been showing art for more than a year.
“We’ve got a great space with track lighting, so we figured it would be a nice thing to do,” she said. “We bring in a new artist every month, and we have an opening reception. It’s been terrific.”
Thomas said that photos capture a time and space that can often never be seen again. He knows that there are many Cubans, particularly in Florida, waiting for the end of Castro’s tenure, and while he looks forward to the people he photographed being able to enjoy a better life, he fears that something will be lost when communism falls and fast-food billboards come in.
“It’s still gorgeous,” Thomas said. “Old Havana is a World Heritage Site protected by UNESCO. They’re trying to preserve it, but the funds are so limited. They’re basically patching patches. It’s going to end soon. Fidel and his brother aren’t immortal. The clock is ticking on Castro’s Cuba, and it’s just about to hit midnight.”
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.