David LaFevor, assistant professor of Latin American history and digital humanities at The University of Texas at Arlington, has been traveling to Cuba to research and document its history since 2001. The skilled photographer is among the first recipients of a new grant awarded by the College of Liberal Arts to encourage digital humanities, and this summer he will travel back to Cuba with a team of UTA graduate students to help preserve the island nation’s rich repository of historic documents.
At top, a scene from the Rafael Trejo boxing gym in Old Havana that’s been a training ground for the nation’s boxers since the 1930s. A former boxer himself, Dr. David LaFevor, pictured in the archives of the Archbishopric of Santiago de Cuba, says the sport provided a conversation-starter during his visits to the country. “I was able to walk into gyms and strike up a conversation and was always welcomed.”
One of Havana’s 15 districts, Centro Havana hasn’t undergone the renovations evident in Old Havana as the nation readies for increased tourism, LaFevor says. “It’s one of the neighborhoods where material scarcity is most evident. In my opinion, it’s one of the most vibrant parts of the city. Few people have air conditioning so everyone’s out in the street, everyone’s in each other’s business. There are no secrets there. It’s a great place to walk around and engage people in conversations.”
In this picture, taken in the Centro Havana borough, the Cuban flags shown hanging above the doorway indicate the impending Revolution Day on July 26, a holiday that marks the day Fidel Castro launched the attack that started the Cuban revolution. LaFevor, whose father was a professional photographer, upgraded his equipment in 2006 and began taking photos focused on portraiture and street photography during his trips to Cuba. Last year, he showcased his work in the traveling exhibition and lecture series Cuba: Histories of the Present. His photography has also been featured in national media outlets such as Huffington Post and nbc.com.
Above, three women who served on a Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. “They are in charge of watching the block, reporting on activities, especially if you are doing suspect things,” LaFevor says. “It’s kind of a neighborhood spy system, but it’s more civil than that.” Below, a government-run bar features a prominent photo of Che Guevara, who LaFevor says “is still considered a sex symbol.” Images of Santa Claus mark a shift in attitude in the country. “That’s something you wouldn’t have seen even a few years ago since Christmas was outlawed because it’s capitalist and decadent.”