Villarreal takes an invitation from texture and color to connect to the culture and way of life in Cuba. His relationship to Havana is incredibly intimate and has continued to deepen since he began taking annual visits in 2010. “La Habana” is a collection of photographs that document the anachronistic nature and the folkloric rituals of Cuba. In this series, Villarreal tours through the streets of Havana to unveil brightly colored images of the unfamiliar.
Untitled (Cuarto Negro)
Untitled (Focsa Architecture)
Untitled (Ventanas Rosas)
Untitled (Hasta Las Nubes)
Tommy, former ballet dancer and instructor alongside Alicia Alonzo and Carlos Acosta, sits outside of his home’s restaurant, or paladar, to begin each day with tea and people watching. Paladares are fundamentally directed to serve a more vivid interaction with homestyle, Cuban food. La Guarida, the most famous paladar in all of Cuba, is open for business just down the road.
Arte en la Rampa, on Havana’s main strip, gathers musical concerts, food, drinks, art. Hundreds of people traffic in and out of the venue daily. A crate of eggs falls and breaks at the back entrance of the event.
The red car near Tommy’s house. The car seemed similar to the wall, in texture and wear. Villarreal took several images of this wall and car, also seen in his "All My Friends are Sketchy" series, a mixed media art project.
"La Vista" 2013
"Elbia's House" 2013
Elbía accepts a crown of bright flowers from locals outside of the main bar, La Bodegita.Over the years, she befriends Villarreal, inviting him upstairs, and over to her home on top of the bar, where she sings to him.
Elbía says she is 28 years old.
"El Tesoro de Abajo" 2012
Water at the entrance to the Port of Havana. Throughout history, Havana has learned to defend themselves against naval attacks. At 9pm each evening, the city is informed by a single canon shot that the port is closed, and chains are raised. Hundreds of ships have sunk from trespassing, leaving treasure also. China has offered to clean the water in exchange to keep all treasure they find.
"Untitled" (Phone Booth) 2013
"Untitled" (Pescadores) 2012
Elbia poses outside her home
The streets of La Habana Vieja, Villarreal captures people’s anticipation for the emerging relations between Cuba and the US. A man walks in front of Che Guevara in American flag shirt, shorts and shoes.
"El Niño y la Telé" 2015
A child watches as Cuba raises the American flag for the first time since 1961. This night marked a historic ceremony to reopen the diplomatic outpost in Havana, and normalize the relationship between the two countries.
A corner meat market on Lagunas St. Religious motifs displayed publicly in the background.
"Cat Call" 2015
Deep within an alleyway of Centro Habana, a private invitation is exchanged of calls ‘chulo,’ ‘guapo,’ ‘papi.’
"Untitled" (Che) 2014
Man poses proudly while showing off his motorized bicycle.
Although illegal, prostitution is a profitable hustle. One CUC amounts to 25 national Pesos.
"Untitled" (Pedro) 2013
Pedro Pulido gets a hair cut before his graduation from the Universidad de La Habana
4am, outside of an apartment window, two drunken men argue over their broken down car.
Man sits and plays the French Horn on the Malecon. Joking he asks if they can hear him in Miami.
"Untitled" (Gucci) 2015
"Untitled" (Turquoise Architecture Cloud) 2013
"Rum Room" 2010
A market table sorts pig parts at a grocery for Shaman’s rituals.
"Blue Vent-Ana" 2011
"Before the Ritual" 2013
The beginning of a cleansing Santería ritual to last approximately 6 hours, and after an intricate assemblage of the person’s profile drawn and translated onto cloths.The pigeon would be soaked in rum, and beat against the person’s face and body until the bird died.
Boys play pelota, or hand ball, a popular street game among Latin American countries: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Cuba.
"Brujo Blanco" 2012
The hand of Elbía.
"Untitled" (Malecon Kids Swimming) 2015
Walking the Malecon during sunset, kids play and swim before night fall.
One of two birds decapitated for a ritual.The chicken was drained and defeathered as an offering to the god represented by a bucket of twenty machetes.
"Kids in Habana Streets" 2015
While photographing a mural of Che Guevara on Ave San Agustin, Kids pass and say hello.
"Jesus Under Construction" 2015
"Smoking Graciela" 2010
Nicknamed "Polly" or "La Guera," Graciela has become one of La Habana's most iconic faces. Her sudden death in October of 2012 gave the opportunity to her best friend and roommate Elbia to come to follow in her footstep and become an icon as well.
Fishing supplies are very hard to come by in Cuba. Many fishermen improvise with what they have to catch a fish. Condoms are used as a floater and can keep the bait from sinking to the ocean floor.
"Niño en el Malecon" 2010
Part of a finance building in Centro Habana, and the end of Cuba as an untouched treasure before major change.
"Wilber's Seat" 2013
The seat of Wilber. Although most cars in Cuba originally have gasoline motors, many people customize they're cars so that they run on diesel gas because it is a lot more economical.
Closet of the witch doctor’s inventory. Among other shelves: tiger bone, rhino horn and herbs.
"Caro Verde" 2015
"Verde y Rosa"
"Dame Tu Leche"
"Untitled" Nino Rojo
"Untitled" Puerta Verde
"Los Pescadores" 2012
"Untitled" dancer 2010