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The Beauty of Portland: A Cuban’s Perspective

The perspective of a Cuban photographer exploring Portland, Oregon for the first time

“I love the feeling of being anonymous in a city I’ve never been before.”
__ Bill Bryson

Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Ernesto Herrera Pelegrino)

These two months in Portland have been mostly rainy and cold days, which contrast with the warmth and hospitality of the people with whom we have interacted. It is a city where trees grow next to its buildings and where its inhabitants have learned to go about their lives in spite of the weather at this time of the year.

Yesterday, due to some formalities (which are nothing like those in Cuba) I had to go Downtown. A physical trip that seemed in time and to a dimension not known until now. As the bus moved forward, bridges, skyscrapers, churches, cobblestones, fountains… cafes appeared. My eyes came to life and among so much gray, story-sheltering colors and lights emerged: a man played the guitar in a corner where some girls gathered to wait for the Max, a man changed some old light bulbs on the facade of a theater, two young people talked about God and handed out bibles in front of a Chinese restaurant… a family walked with their little boy, others ran to keep warm… it was the dynamics of a city with life, which moved under my feet.

The process took me -literally- 15 minutes and since I still had some time, I let my boots get wet in the rain, let them lead me aimlessly to where my photographer’s heart was beating the strongest. I shot as a student in his first class, as a novice photographer, as old film, 24 frames per second, taking pictures after so long made me happy… and I let myself be dragged through the city, under the rain, where jazz was also playing, maybe in my head.

I shot until the phone battery brought me back to reality and my bare fingers, -almost frozen-, were already begging for gloves. The bus arrived back and I got on differently, with many photos in my pocket and feeling embraced by a city that every day becomes what we call home.


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