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Mayito (Mario Garcia Joya, * 1938)
Cuban militia unloading a truck
From a 9-part series on the invasion at the Bay of Pigs
Cuba, 1961
Gelatin silver print, ca. 33 x 22 cm
Signed, titled and dated in pencil on the reverse

After political reorganisation and nationalisation in the course of the revolution, many Cubans, especially former big land owners and parts of the bourgeoisie, had left the country. The expropriation of sugar cane plantations that were mainly owned by US-Americans, was followed by an embargo imposed in Washington and - in the last days of Eisenhower’s presidency - by suspension of all diplomatic relations. In search for allies, Cuba turned towards Moscow, a fact that marks the beginning of an especially problematic Cold War period.

Although the newly inaugurated US president Kennedy had originally intended a policy of non-interference, he authorised CIA plans for an invasion of the Caribbean island aimed at an overthrow of Castro’s government. Bombings by the US Airforce were followed by a ground invasion that lasted for three days, starting in the morning of April 17 and carried out by exile Cubans trained in Guatemala. But soon these attacks financed by the US secret service were smashed by the Cuban military. Therefore, the Bay of Pigs Invasion is regarded as the biggest failure in foreign policy of the Kennedy era and marks an early climax in the decade-long hostility between the United States and Cuba which has been defrosting only very recently.

From a historical perspective, this motif refers to a peak phase of the Cold War which would culminate in the Cuban Missile Crisis only one and a half year later. Several men, their faces averted from the viewer, are grouped on and next to a lorry. The Cuban soldiers, viewed from behind or the side, can be observed from a distance while unloading military equipment for the combat near the village Playa Girón in the south of Cuba.

The dynamic scene is part of a series by Mayito alias Mario Garcia Joya, who documented the Bay of Pigs invasion as a photographic correspondent. Apart from major political events, Mayito’s oeuvre is mainly concerned with the everyday-life of ordinary people in its various facets. As a representative of a younger generation of photographers, he is, together with his wife Marucha, one of the founders of the Fototeca de Cuba, an institution that acts as an archive, museum and gallery and promotes photography as an integral part of the fine arts.

Isabella Riedel © WestLicht