But for every glittering image of a showgirl or candid of singer Celia Cruz in “Cuba Then: Rare and Classic Images From the Ramiro A. Fernandez Collection” (The Monacelli Press, $40), there also are portraits of ordinary life.
One in particular is Fernandez’s favorite: Cuban racecar driver Alfonso Gomez-Mena, depicted during a pit-stop at the 1960 Cuban Grand Prix. In the background is an 8-year-old Fernandez and his father.
Fernandez will appear May 6 at Books and Books in Coral Gables, along with Miami-raised inaugural poet Richard Blanco, whose works are interspersed in the book.
Fernandez says the 288-page book represents a home for his decades-old obsession with old Cuba photography but also devotes space to controversial figures like Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
The West Palm Beach-raised Time Magazine photo editor, who left Cuba for Miami at age 8, says his love of the island is tied to family. He recalls the pill-dust aroma in his father’s downtown pharmaceutical manufacturing business; bus rides from his home to a military academy 90 minutes away; and his grandmother’s flat across the street from Havana’s El Parque Central, a place that led him to collect Cuba photos. He has thousands in his personal collection.
“I have this old photo of El Parque Central showing the same vantage point as where my grandmother’s apartment had been,” Fernandez says. “All of these categories – circus performers, magicians, racecars – they all have a certain resonance with my own memory.”
In the foreword, Blanco admits he remembers much less than Fernandez, having never lived in Cuba. Blanco was born in Spain two months after his parents emigrated.
“Each photo is a portal,” Blanco writes, “a time machine that lets me glimpse my mother’s life, her Cuba, which is also my Cuba in a way — the Cuba I’d want to remember, how I would want to remember it, if I could remember it.”
The free book signing is 8 p.m. May 6 at Books and Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. Info: 305-442-4408, BooksandBooks.com.