There is a scene in the incredible and heartbreaking Cuban movie “Viva” where the father of Jesús, the main character, visits an old Havana boxing gym. When I saw the movie I thought: Wow! THAT is a place I’ve got to photograph!

The Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym is the oldest boxing gym in Havana. It was named for a Cuban law school student killed leading protests against the Machado presidency in the 1930’s. The gym has got some serious personality. Folded between deteriorating apartment buildings, the plaster on the wall is crumbling and cracks run throughout the concrete floor. The equipment has been well-used. The ring sits in the middle of the gym under a canvas cover and is surrounded by broken but colorful stadium seating on two sides.  Despite the somewhat post-apocalyptic, Spartan-like setting, the gym is spotlessly clean and freshened by a light breeze.

Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym

Coach Nardo Mestre Flores, a member of the Cuban national boxing team for nine years welcomed our group of photographers with a big smile. Then he set his students to work.  And Coach Flores works these boxers-to-be very, very hard.  Before long they were drenched in sweat.

Cuban athletes have been a dominating force in international athletics for decades. Between 1968 and 2000 Cuban boxers won more medals in the Olympics than in any other country. And many of them trained right here at the Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym.

Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym

Coach Nardo Mestre Flores

 

Now, Cuba’s female boxers are punching their way in on the action. Two of the boxers in the class we photographed were women. They are part of a group pushing the Cuban government to allow an all female team to attend the 2020 Summer Olympics. Good on them. I hope they get it!

Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym

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Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym

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Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym

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Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym

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Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym

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Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym

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Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym

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Check out images from our tour participants here and vote for your favorite!

More of my captures from the 2017 Havana Imagined Photography Tour are here:

Cuban Ballet Dancers

Havana Fishermen of the Malecon – Survival in Cuba

The Green Wall

From Economist to Millionaire – Cuba’s Tourist Industry Changes the Economy

Finally, I’m posting portraits of Cubans on my InstagramThe next Havana Imagined Photography Tour is April 7-14, 2018. Only 6 spots available so contact me ASAP if you’re interested.

2 comments

  1. Comment by Brian Norman

    Brian Norman Reply January 8, 2018 at 5:15 am

    It is It is looking interesting and great read for me. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  2. Pingback: Tours to Cuba - Havana Imagined Photography Workshop November 2018 | Around the World in Eighty Years

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