Friday, September 18, 2009

Cuban Invasion at Canada's busiest intersection

It felt like Blade Runner invaded Yonge-Dundas Square Labour Day weekend. Flashing Times Square sized billboards and a squadron of Blue Angels thundered overhead leaving their vapor trails as the jets banked towards the CNE’s International Air Show.

But you didn’t have to look further than the vintage Havana Club Rum car parked on T.O’s new urban plaza to know that Cuba was calling.

There were no Fidel sightings but if you popped by the Cuban Photo Show, part of the Viva Cuba Festival that took place last Friday, you would have seen a photo of a young Generalissimo from his Revolution days.

Photographer Roger Humbert explained how his image depicts a life-size poster of Fidel hanging in a crumbling room in the Museum of the Revolution. “I really liked the wall colour and the way the light was streaming in from the windows,” he said.

The photo show’s producer Stephen Smith invited an ensemble of photographers among them photographer duo Bill and Kris King to showcase the best of Cuba and judging by the crowd’s reaction they didn’t disappoint.

Many stopped by the al fresco photo exhibition tent to catch the images of of dancers, musicians, landscapes and wildlife. “You brought us down memory lane,” smiled one visitor. Another man, an architect from Iraq was intrigued by the island’s beauty. “I would love to go there,” said Basil Orfali and added, “These photos help me see just how beautiful the people are.”

When Mr. Smith was approached by the Cuban Tourist Board to produce this photo event, he was more than delighted. “I really wanted to give back to the people of Cuba. I wanted to highlight the uniqueness of the Cuban culture in all its colour, complexity and diversity. The independence of the Cuban spirit is inspiring and humbling.”

Organized by the Cuban Tourist Board in partnership with the Dundas Square Management, the Viva Cuba Festival also had sponsors from Air Canada Vacations, Barcelo Hotel & Resorts among others.

Over 800,000 Canadians visited last year. The Cuban Tourist Board reports so far this year looks pretty good with 567, 626 arrivals till the end of May showing an increase of 11.8 % compared with the same period last year.

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