Photo © Stephen Friedman

Video: A Local Carpenter in Havana

The most powerful tool in Cuba is the human mind.

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By Stephen Friedman


6 Jul 2018 - 7 Minute Read


This carpentry shop was a few doors down from our hotel. All of its tools and materials had to be obtained on the black market, and nearly all the wood was recycled from old furniture and buildings. Because of this, each piece made had its own history and story. We were impressed with the carpenter's initiative in recycling everything, but it wasn’t something they were consciously aware of – it’s just how they do things in Cuba.

Stephen Freidman:

The main reason I came to Cuba was to get lost in time. That's what I heard – Cuba is still stuck in the 1950s. So, no technology that consumes us on a daily basis is to be found here. In the beginning, you feel lost without it, but as the days pass, you start seeing humanity in real life. That's what makes this place so beautiful as it comes to life. As soon as you let go.

Noel Naranjo Montejo:
My name is Noel Naranjo Montejo. I am self employed. I have six employees here. It's like a family here. Everyone gets along very well.

Stephen Freidman:
Most of the tools here, it looked like they could be in a museum, but the most powerful tool in Cuba as the human mind, because at the end of the day, it's your mind that controls the tools. So, it doesn't matter if it's new or old.

Noel Naranjo Montejo:
It was not through any schooling. It was only by testing the equipment.

Stephen Freidman:
The reason that all the wood and Noel's workshop is recycled wood is because there isn't a single store in the country that sells wood. The only way to buy wood in Cuba is on the black market. And that is the word which has been stolen from the state institutions. So Noll just use it for recycled wood from old furniture and rundown buildings.

Noel Naranjo Montejo:
I don't know. We make everything related to carpentry. We make furniture, doors, windows, shelves. Well, for example, those doors there are for the Grand Prado Theatre.

Stephen Freidman:
Noel's workshop is not just for carpentry. It acts as a hangout for taxi drivers, food vendors, and roosters. Spaces like this happen naturally - you unconsciously create them. You see it everywhere in Havana. That's what makes it so unique and so colourful.

Noel Naranjo Montejo:
I don't have any family anywhere else in the world. Everything is here in Cuba.

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Stephen was born in South Africa. A former professional surfer and male model, he made his mark in the television and film industry by creating, producing, and selling his first title ("The Blueprint") to Fox Networks at the age of 23. His production company, Save Your Day Films, has dozens of projects in development and preproduction, covering reality TV, animation, documentaries, and features.

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