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Carlos Jaramillo

Erislandy's Pigeon, Cuba, 2016

on reverse: a statement about the project and two photos of Erislandy

Carlos Jaramillo is a New York based photographer currently working on documenting life in and around prisons in Lima, Peru. His work was featured in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Bloomberg Businessweek, It’s Nice That, Vice, and Juxtapoz Magazine. His project Passengers focuses on Cuban racing pigeons and is featured on his poster.

While exploring Cuba I met a pigeon racer, named Erislandy, on a rooftop in Old Havana. He agreed to let me shoot him and his pigeons. Erislandy has always kept pigeons on his roof, part of their natural breeding grounds. Pigeon racing is a very popular sport in Cuba, where each neighborhood and city has notorious racers and breeders. I spent a lot of time on that rooftop with Erislandy and his cousin Yohany, who also races pigeons. I learned about them, the sport, and their birds.

In this sport, team tournaments are divided by different criteria, such as pigeon breed. Messengers take the birds by crate to a starting point, at least 100km from the dovecote. At the dovecote, a judge has a stopwatch and tracks the shortest arrival times for the top three pigeons. Those with the strongest backgrounds race from at least 400km-500km away. Erislandy also works meticulously to breed the best genes between different pigeon communities, taking at least five months to observe a potential male suitor for his female birds. One of his birds is the third fastest pigeon in Cuba.

Erislandy, and his passion for his birds became a fascination of mine while visiting Cuba. With Old Havana as the backdrop, the beauty of these pigeons and their stories came to life.