Ramiro Fernandez is one of the lucky ones whose passions intersect with their professions. Fernandez, a photo editor in our picture department since 1983 and an avid dog lover, never misses the annual Westminster dog show at Madison Square Garden. He took special pleasure, then, in finding archive photos of pit bull terriers for this week's story on that disturbing breed (page 72). In addition to scouring old-print shops, Fernandez spent an afternoon in the American Kennel Club library perusing pictures of the breed in dignified show poses. "That's the way I like to think of pit bulls," he says, "not the violent pictures of them fighting."
Fernandez makes the photo assignments for the brief articles that run in the front and back of the magazine, and for most water and motor sports stories as well. He also happens to be a nationally recognized collector of 19th-century Cuban photographs. "I promised my grandmother Cuca I would stay with it," says Fernandez, who was born in Havana in 1951. "Cuca was married to a relative of Gerardo Machado, Cuba's notorious dictator in the early '30s. She died in 1982. She was obsessed with Cuban history, and it was she who encouraged me to start the collection." Ramiro's collection, which he began in 1980, will tour museums all over Florida starting in November. "The pictures are of landscapes, buildings, social scenes," says Fernandez. "They were taken with large box cameras. When you took a picture in those days, it was an event."
The most memorable event in Fernandez's life came on Oct. 29, 1960, two weeks after the Castro regime confiscated his father's pharmaceutical business. That morning his mother, Sara, a Cabinet aide in Castro's government, told Ramiro, 8, and his sister, Sara, 12, they were going to visit relatives in the country. "She told me to pack my favorite things. When we got to the airport, she kept putting jewelry and money in my pockets. Security guards did not frisk children. I knew what was going on." They were fleeing the country. Ramiro and his mother flew to Miami to start a new life, and Ramiro Sr. caught up six months later. Ramiro's parents now live in West Palm Beach.
A high school swimmer, Fernandez graduated from Florida State, majoring in art history and film. "I got bored with swimming and started watching movies," says Ramiro, who sees three films a week. And when he wants to be reminded of Cuba he has only to glance at an object prominently displayed in his apartment—a seven-foot banana tree.
A tree grows in Manhattan for Fernandez.