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Michael Christopher Brown’s Poignant View of Fidel Castro’s Funeral Procession

In late 2016, photographer Michael Christopher Brown photographed the funeral cortège transporting Fidel Castro’s ashes from Havana to his birthplace, Santiago. The route mirrored Fidel’s post-revolutionary journey from Santiago to Havana in 1959, which helped solidify the leader’s status as a hero and legend. Miraculously, Brown managed to join the military convoy carrying Castro’s cremated remains. Leaning out of the rear window and over the hood of his vehicle, driven by a former Cuban truck driver, Brown photographed hundreds of thousands of Cubans waiting alongside the highway for the caravan to pass.

The images Brown made of the mourners, many holding hand-made signs reading Yo Soy Fidel (I am Fidel), Cuban flags, and various historic photographs of revolution, are the subject of a new book and exhibition, both titled Yo Soy Fidel. There is also an accompanying video of the journey, with Brown’s narration.

In Yo Soy Fidel, fragments of the original – inimitable – image of Castro remain. Yet Castro’s death inevitably leads to the question of what is to come for Cuba. In this remarkable moment, the country faces a choice of whether or not to stay true to Castro’s revolutionary path or embrace globalization and all it entails.

Jon Lee Anderson of The New Yorker, who authored a text for the book, writes of the work, “we see Cubans as they are, in the end, without Fidel, modest people of ordinary appearance in a mostly rural landscape, a Cuba largely unchanged in outward appearance since the days when he came through, promising revolution and a new future, as a young man of thirty-two.”

The book’s editor, Martin Parr, writes, “Despite the ubiquity of Cuban imagery, this is one remarkable event that, I suspect, will become even more valuable as a record of Cuba than any number of photographs of vintage American cars and crumbling architecture.”

Yo Soy Fidel
By Michael Christopher Brown
Published by Damiani

Exhibited at Arles 2018: Les Rencontres De La Photographie
Arles, France
July 2 – September 23, 2018

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