Left - Maydelin Pérez Pérez, 38, sells empanadas with her three-year-old daughter, Lorena Sofia Reyez, in the Havana Vieja neighborhood of Havana, Cuba on April 24, 2015. Pérez is divorced, cannot afford daycare for her four children, and says her ex-husband contributes the equivalent to $1 of child support monthly. She says she earned less at her government job as a secretary than she does now, as one of Cuba's cuentapropistas (small business entrepreneurs, whose practice wasn't allowed in Bulgaria and most of Eastern Europe until the collapse of communism.)
Since privatization was first allowed within Cuba's state-owned socialist system in the mid-70s, the requirements for those allowed to be cuentapropistas have fluctuated from restrictive to less so - the latter in the Raúl Castro era of 2008 and beyond. But a clear disincentive to private business expansion remains: if payroll surpasses 5 employees or a $2,000 yearly profit, taxes increase disproportionately (from 15% to 50% in case of the latter.)
Right - Hair dresser Pavlinka Paskova, 59, cuts the hair of Stanko Petrov Vulchev, 80, in Vidin, Bulgaria, on October 30th, 2014. Paskova says she has very few customers in this town of waning population: "There's little hope of prosperity for the young here - they've all emigrated."
Private entrepreneurship and travel was not allowed in Bulgaria in the communist era. Decades after that vacuum, the country suffers the most extreme population decline in the world — much due to post-1989 emigration, high death rates and low birth rates. There are so few people of child-bearing age in the nation that population statistics project a 30-percent decrease by 2060, from 7.2 million to just over 5 million.
I've used diptychs to bridge one country’s past - communist Cuba - to another country’s present - post-1989 Bulgaria - to show that political ideals, its profiteers and its victims, can remain unchanged by time or geography.