Cuba – Amor del bueno

Cuba – Amor del bueno

This story explores the conditions on which a small group of Cuban women live entirely for and through their pets, beyond all the misery and poverty the country withholds. On every case, they are single women, without husband or family to care about.

What is this love all about? Is the hoarding of animals supply the love they lost or the love that never arrived?

An Unconventional Story of Love and Codependency

-Laurence Cornet

In an ongoing series, Peruvian photographer Gihan Tubbeh captures the unconditional love between a group of Cuban women and their animals.

Violeta has 66 cats and 5 dogs; Sonia has 30 cats and 6 dogs; Raysa has 28 dogs and 6 cats. The list goes on and on. All the women that Gihan Tubbeh encountered in Cuba share a mania for pets that goes beyond reason. “What I see is love, but a little bit twisted because they forget about themselves”, Tubbeh comments. “One of the women I met had 30 dogs in a very reduced place of 6 square metres. She had to build a bed hanging from the ceiling so that her dogs have space.”

The protagonists of Tubbeh’s ongoing series live in precarious conditions, in a reality reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s movies. Like their fellow citizens, they receive financial support from the state amounting to the tiny sum of 10 dollars per month, which is not enough to sustain one person and even less so when surrounded with a horde of animals. “They are happy nonetheless. One of these women told me that there is a lot of poverty but also a lot of heart. That’s the subtitle of my entire trip to Cuba. People are so powerful in their heart that they accept the difficulties and limitations in the country”, Tubbeh explains.

Technically speaking, these romantics are outlaws. For health reasons, the number of pets per household is regulated by the government – they don’t actively prevent anyone from having excessive numbers either though, as the system doesn’t provide any alternative way to deal with the large number of street cats and dogs.

As a result, the women Tubbeh encountered don’t let the animals out, by fear of having to cede them, and live in a confused and fetid jumble. “I stayed only with 2 of them overnight because it’s difficult. The women protect their space; they are afraid that I am going to judge their condition. And I have to forget that I’m stepping on poop and urine. But I want to continue”, she says.

Because behind the appearances lie incredible stories, like that of the unsuspected poet or of the ex-professional dancer who goes every Sunday to perform in a place with a lot of tourists, reviving her past. “She was the queen of salsa and it ended in misery”, Tubbeh recounts. Or that of a widow, exchanging a gaze with the fixed eyes of her late husband, whose portrait hangs in the living room. As if in their past were clues to understanding their current love for animals.

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Cuba – Amor del bueno

Esta historia retrata el diario de algunas mujeres cubanas que viven enteramente a través de sus animales muy por encima de la miseria y pobreza en la que viven considerando las limitaciones del país. En casi todos los casos, son mujeres solteras, sin marido o familia para atender. ¿Se sienten solas o felizmente acompañadas? ¿De qué se trata este amor?

Violeta tiene 66 gatos y 5 perros; Sonia 30 gatos y 6 perros; Raysa 28 perros y 6 gatos. Y la lista continúa. “Yo no tengo hijos. Yo vivo para ellos. Yo vivo para sobrevivir.”

Estas mujeres tienen que trabajar de mes a mes, mendigando en las calles, pidiendo apoyo en el vecindario, vendiendo las pocas cosas que poseen, y varios sobreesfuerzos, ya que el apoyo (aproximadamente $10 dólares) que el estado les provee no alcanza.

“Hay pobreza pero hay mucho corazón.”