[Various locations, including Havana and San Juan: ca. 1957-1960]. Thirteen leaves, illustrated with 104 photographs, the great majority with manuscript annotations. Oblong folio. Contemporary brown textured padded leatherette. Most photographs in mounting corners, but a few loose or detached. Very good. Item #2568
A unique record of mid-20th century travel in Cuba and Puerto Rico just before the outbreak of revolution in the former country, and with interesting views and observations on the local citizens of the latter location. The album was compiled by Jose Bornn, a one-time staff member with the New York Times and executive at IBM who was known for championing liberal causes and disadvantaged peoples in Norfolk, Virginia. He apparently compiled the current album during trips to both Cuba and Puerto Rico between 1957 and 1958, and may have gone there to research investment opportunities in addition to vacation activities. Many of the photographs feature Bornn's fellow travelers in various settings on the two island countries.
The early portion of Bornn's album contains eighteen images of Cuba. The locations highlighted include Havana, the Linias(?) Airport, and Santiago de Cuba. The images feature elevated views of Cuban sugar fields, the Hotel Nacional in Havana, and the Casa Grande Hotel in Santiago de Cuba, from which Bornn snaps two bird's-eye views of the city. The final shot from Cuba shows a "View of the farm they wanted to sell us for $27,000. We did not bite."
The preponderance of the album documents Bornn and his traveling companions' time in Puerto Rico. Featured locations include San Juan, with a street view of "Old San Juan," and Hato Tejas and other locales in Bayamon. Bornn apparently bought or rented a farm while in Puerto Rico, which he observed was "under cultivation" in one of the farm's several pictures. The main crop, seen in at least three images, was okra. There are also several photographs of Puerto Rican farmers at work on Bornn's farm; one is captioned, "Manuel and Jovino working on seed beds of peppers and tomatoes."
The album features numerous other Puerto Rican locals, namely the compiler's maids. The first of these, Maria, was described as "Our maid for a week. Then a factory job got Maria." Bornn also pictures "'Cali' (Calixto) - the jewel of Puerto Rico. She was the best of the maids we had, most efficient, most reliable." There are also four pictures of Frank Rico and his dairy farm and two photographs of a "native belle" who posed for Bornn; the second of the latter images comments on the woman's "Puerto Rican poise. Among the girls and women it's regal." Bornn also includes a picture of Jorge Ortiz Toro, whom he describes as a "lawyer, philosopher, business man, farmer, compadre to the countryside, and friend." Finally, while traveling through the mountains, Bornn and his friends pose with a group of Puerto Rican men, women, and children while roasting a pig. The album concludes with several street views in Bayamon, the inside of a cafe called Las Palmas in Hato Tejas, and a handful of family photos, presumably back home in Virginia.
A unique view of one American's experiences in the Caribbean in the mid-20th century, with numerous interesting images of Puerto Rican locals and the agrarian economy in which they worked.