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Cuba photo exhibit opens at Art Museum

Mujeres Unidas hosted the opening reception of Mills College trustee Vivian Stephenson’s photo exhibit Cuba: Beauty and Decay to a diverse crowd on Sept. 3.

Carlota Caulfield, professor of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies, leads a tour through exhibit of Cuban photography. (Lupe Cazarezs
Carlota Caulfield, professor of Spanish and Spanish-American Studies, leads a tour through exhibit of Cuban photography. (Lupe Cazares)

The exhibit is on display at the Mills Art Museum, where it will run until Dec. 13. Mujeres Unidas, a student-run organization created to serve the needs of the Chicana-Latina population on campus, hosted the event as part of Latina Heritage Month.

The photographic journey spans a 400-year history of Stephenson’s native Cuba, showcasing the history of its first seven colonial towns. The collection of black and white photographs are accompanied by dates and descriptions of each photograph, written by Mills Professor Carlota Caulfield, who has taught courses in Spanish and Spanish-American studies at Mills since 1992.

Caulfield, also a Cuban native, walked one hundred excited students, professors, alumni and community members through the exhibit.

“Writing the text was writing a part of my life, it was returning to my history. Each [photograph] has its own history,” Caulfield said as she looked at the photographs. “It is a celebration of La Havana, Trinidad and Sancti Spiritus.”

The photographs depict structures built from the early 16th century to 19th century; the buildings all contain North American, Italian and Spanish architectural influences, which demonstrate the cultural uniqueness of not only the buildings but of the time periods in which they were created.

Student peruses exhibit materials. (Lupe Cazares)
Student peruses exhibit materials. (Lupe Cazares)

For instance, the photograph entitled “The Capitol 1929,” taken in 2002 by Stephenson, resembles the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. but it is located in the old village of San Cristobal de La Habana.

Some students present said the exhibit’s reception gave them a sense of cultural pride.

“I felt good and identified,” said senior Angelica Arechiga. “It is an exhibition I can relate to with other Hispanic students like myself.”

Arechiga appreciated how many different cultures have left their mark on Cuba, leaving behind architecture that is now part of Cuba’s history. To Arechiga, the diverse cultures captured in the photographs mirrored what she called the “many different backgrounds present at the reception.”

Stephenson was unable to attend the event, but her collection of photographs was welcomed with enthusiasm.

“I am flattered that Stephenson chose our Art Museum to display her photos. I think it is an honor,” said Yuritzy Gomez, President of Mujeres Unidas. “I think she knew that Mills College students would appreciate them, and the turnout showed that we did.”

In an ongoing celebration of Latina Heritage Month, there will be a screening of the film “Krudas” in the Faculty/Staff Lounge on Friday, Sept. 18 at 7:00 pm. “Krudas,” which tells the story of a Cuban lesbian couple in a hip hop group, is the first film to be shown in the year-long Queer/Transgender People of Color Film Series.