In Baracoa, the first city of Cuba

“A long-standing need to know the origins of Cuban culture and history led me in 2011 to make this trip to the first city of Cuba: Baracoa,” Sergio de los Reyes, author of these photographs, points out in his artistic statement. “In addition to material elements such as footprints or Taino facial features, I was looking for that numinous substance that always remains in the air and that I like to call the Soul of the Island.”

All photos in this article are by Sergio de los Reyes.

But we know that essentialist quests often fail to reveal any essence at all…

No one could be sure, just by looking at these images, that the photographer has found this island’s soul he went to capture in the far east of Cuba.


And yet, there is much that we feel to be essential in these portraits, in these landscapes… landscapes historicized by the soft footsteps and the rough and kind voices thrown to the wind, for more than 500 years, by the inhabitants of the town of Baracoa and its surroundings.

The colossal aim of “reconstructing the past” –a crowded and already immemorial past; presumably encrypted everywhere here– certainly pales in comparison with the truth of the present gesture, as ephemeral as it is statuary, of he who glides over reality on a balsa wood raft.

The old faces, the round lightness of Cuban painted snails, the very brief eternity of childhood… It would be worth saying that Baracoa is here, in these photographs. Somehow.

Besides that, we suspect in these images the essential presence of what we will call –for lack of a better word– the soul of Sergio de los Reyes.

He explains it himself in his statement: “Photography,” he says, “helps me to identify what catches my attention, which is none other than the projection of myself, how I see and understand my reality. That’s why I believe that photography is –contrary to the idea that it “freezes an instant”– impulse, regeneration, perennial journey…”.


Photographs authorized by Sergio de los Reyes.

Sergio de los Reyes (Havana, 1978). He has published the poetry books Elsewhere (Silueta, 2013), Queen Street West (Silueta, 2015), Ciervo fugitivo (Ediciones Furtivas, 2020). He has lived in Madrid and Miami. Since 2005 he lives in Toronto, Canada.


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