Constantino Arias (1920 – 1991) was a free-lance photographer whose photos provide a rare and what is probably the most complete black and white picture of Havana society in the 1940s and 50s.
Arias struggled to make a living in pre-revolutionary Cuba where his only regular job was as house photographer for Havana’s Hotel Nacional from 1941 to 1959. The hotel was a hangout of mostly U.S. tourists and inside the hotel Arias photographed the casinos and shows, the tourists at play; on his own time, he photographed ordinary Cubans at places like the Rumba Palace Bar, the terrible poverty (some of it just outside the doors of the hotel) and the growing political unrest. However, most of his photographic images of the gambling, prostitution and politics were never published because of censorship.
With the Revolution, Arias’ life changed. He graduated from the School of Journalism at the University of Havana in 1961 and worked in the photographic laboratory of Bohemia magazine.
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