Cuban Diary: Public Art

This post features some public art we saw on plazas and streets of Havana. By public art, we mean art that was available for public viewing without paying a fee. Some was religious, some was political, some was traditional, and some was contemporary. The photographs shared here include only statues and street art (graffiti).

Religious Art

The two religious statues that are seen by almost every tourist in Old Havana are the Christ of Havana and the statue of the priest and young boy.

The Cristo de La Habana (Christ of Havana) statue is located  on top of La Cabaña hill overlooking Havana Bay. The statue was carved in Italy of white Carrara marble; after its blessing by Pope Pius XII in Italy, it was unveiled here on December 24, 1958, only 15 days before Fidel Castro entered Havana during the Revolution. At 20 meters (66 feet) tall, standing 51 meters (167 feet) above sea level, it is visible from many places in Havana. It is also possible to view Havana from the base of the statue.

Christ of Havana

The statue of the Franciscan friar Junípero Serra y Ferrer with a Juaneño Indian boy is located in the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis in front of the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis. On September 23, 2015, Pope Francis conferred sainthood on Junipero Serra, who founded missions in Baja California and in California.

Political Art

Four political art works honor Antonio Gades, Abraham Lincoln, Yasser Arafat, and Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

Antonio Esteve Ródenas (Antonio Gades), best known as a Spanish flamenco dancer and choreographer, co-founded the Spanish National Ballet. As a member of the Central Committee of the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Peoples of Spain, Gades was also a political activist during the Spanish transition to democracy (The Transition) following the death of Spain’s military dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.  Fidel Castro decorated Antonio Gades with the Order of José Martí, a state honor, shortly before Gades’ death in Madrid in 2004.

The statue of Antonio Gades is located on the Plaza de la Catedral in Old Havana, in front of the Palacio de Lombillo.

Abraham Lincoln is honored in Havana with a miniature sculpture in the Vedado neighborhood, a bust in the Museum of the Revolution, and a bust near the Capitolio. The statue of Lincoln standing in front of a chair is located on the Avenida de los Presidentes in front of the Abraham Lincoln Escuela de Idiomas, a foreign language school.

Slaves were brought to Cuba beginning in the 1500s to work on Spanish sugar cane plantations. Abraham Lincoln is important to Cuba because he issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 to free slaves in the Southern US. The  Emancipation Proclamation helped put pressure on Spain to end slavery in Cuba; the Cuban slave trade ended in 1867.

Abraham Lincoln

This statue of Palestinian leader Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa ( Yasser Arafat) is located on 7th Avenida in Havana.The statue is 1.95 meters (6’5″) tall; Arafat was 1.57 meters (5’2″) tall.

The statue was unveiled on November 24, 2012, by Akram Samhan, the Palestinian ambassador to Cuba. Formerly the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) opposed to Israel, Arafat was instrumental in a series of (ultimately unsuccessful) negotiations for peace with Israel; for this he (along with Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israel President Shimon Peres) received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

Part of the special connection between Yasser Arafat and Fidel Castro is this: Palestinian soldiers were trained in Cuban guerrilla training camps under the direction of the KGB in the 1960s, and Cuban soldiers fought in support of Syria during the Yom Kippur War in the 1970s.

Arafat was revered by Fidel Castro and awarded the Bay of Pigs Medal during his first visit to Cuba on November 24, 1974.

Yasser Arafat

Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary originally from Argentina, was one of the three most recognizable figures (along with Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos) in the Cuban Revolution. An expert on guerrilla warfare, Che left Cuba in 1965 to continue (unsuccessfully) his version of world revolution, first in the Congo and later in Bolivia, where he was executed on October 9, 1967.

Che Guevara is idolized in Cuba as a martyr, and his image on a t-shirt is one of the most popular souvenirs of Cuba. The street art (pictured below) is a highly-processed version of a photograph taken of Che on March 5, 1960, by Alberto Korda.

Graffiti of Ernesto “Che” Guevara

Traditional Art

A traditional piece of art, the sculpture of Polish pianist-composer Frederic Chopin sitting on a bench, is located in the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis in front of the Hotel Palacio del Marques de San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal.

The sculpture was unveiled on December 21, 2010, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth.

Frederic Chopin

Contemporary Art

We saw several pieces of contemporary art in Old Havana, including The Conversation, Fantastic Voyage, Nature, Xico’s Travels Through Latin America, and three examples of street art.

The bronze sculpture La Conversación (The Conversation) is located in the Plaza San Francisco de Asis in Old Havana. Created by the French sculptor Etienne, it shows two figures in an intense discussion. It was unveiled on May 25, 2012, with Etienne and French ambassador Vittorio Perrota (the donor) in attendance.

(Note in the photo on the right the statue of Junípero Serra and the Indian boy in front of the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis (the building with the tower) on the other side of the square.)

The bronze sculpture Viaje Fantastico (Fantastic Voyage), by the contemporary Cuban painter, sculptor, and illustrator Roberto Fabelo, was unveiled on January 20, 2013. Similar to many of the artist’s paintings, the sculpture depicts a woman wearing only shoes and holding a gigantic fork as she sits astride a giant rooster. This sculpture is one of a limited edition of only five. Fabelo, who was the 2004 winner of Cuba’s National Arts Award, donated the statue.

El Gallo (the rooster) is an important symbol in Cuban life, representing strength and power.

The statue is located in Plaza Vieja (Old Square) in Habana Vieja (Old Havana). (Fun fact: The Plaza Vieja (Old Square) was originally called Plaza Nueva (New Square) in 1559.)

Also located in Plaza Vieja in Old Havana is a 10 meter (about 33 foot) tall  flower sculpture named Escultura Natura (Nature).  Natura was created of Cuban marble by Cuban sculptor Juan Narcisco Quintanilla in 2010.


 Another exhibit in Plaza Vieja is part of the Exposicion de artistas latinosamericanos: “Crossings Xico Latin America” (“Xico’s Travels Through Latin America”) is  a series of 16 stylized dogs standing around the fence that surrounds the fountain in the middle of the square.  These are the mythical pre-Columbian god dog, Xico, as envisioned by eight Cuban artists and others in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Panama. Each cartoon xoloitzcuintle (Xico) is made of reinforced vinyl, stands 1.8 meters (5’11”) tall, and is covered in colorful designs. From November 12 until  December 12, 2015, the pieces were on exhibit in the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis, after which they were moved to Plaza Vieja.

The project coordinator, Mexican artist Cristina Pineda, conceived this representation of Xico as a legacy of Aztec culture. Recognizing that foreign characters (e.g., Mickey Mouse, Powerpuff Girls) are popular with Latin American children, Pineda would like to further the Xico initiative with programs in which children are encouraged to create their own versions of Xico from clay.

(The fountain, somewhat visible inside the fence, is a replica of the original Carrara marble fountain with four dolphins that was destroyed under Batista in 1952 to make way for an underground parking lot, also now demolished. Renovation of the buildings around the square, damaged by the parking lot construction, was begun in the 1980s.)

The last photo of contemporary art is actually three pieces of street art (graffiti) on the side of a low building.

The image on the left is signed “atomiko en la habana” and was created by the street artist self-named as atomiko. Atomiko, a native of Miami, Florida, created the first version of the orange character in 2008 in reaction to the demolition of the Miami Orange Bowl.

The image in the middle was created by the street artist “Abstrk,” also a native of Miami, Florida. His art is distinguishable by the eyes of the subject, which create an intimate connection between the viewer and the soul of the subject.

The image on the right was created by the Cuban street artist “5 Stars.” His graffiti can be found on many walls in Havana, especially in Centro Habana, the municipality (borough) bordering Habana Vieja to the west. Some of his artwork can be viewed on the Facebook page for 5stars.


We hope you have enjoyed this look at public art in Havana. Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. The last post will provide general impressions of Cuba, based on our look into Cuba’s history and motivated by what we saw during our short time in Havana. If you want to catch up on previous posts, please read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Cuban Diary Day 6: Las Terrazas Eco-community

Cuban Diary Day 7: Music and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 8: Leaving Cuba

Cuban Diary: A Few of Hemingway’s Bars

Cuban Diary: Vintage Cars

Cuban Diary: Night Photography

Cuban Diary: Vintage Cars

This post features some of the vintage 1950s American cars that we saw while we were in Cuba in May, 2016. We also saw older 1940s cars, Peugeots, Hyundias, Kias, and other makes unknown to us. In addition, we saw new and expensive cars (e.g., Mercedes) that belong to the government and can only be used for “government business.” With a very few exceptions, only 1950s American cars are showcased here.

We saw these cars in lines at the airport …

Cars in Havana Airport parking lot

at taxi stands …

Havana taxi stand

along the curbs (what colors! are those original?) …

Line of vintage cars

and in strategic spots around Havana, inviting admiring stares …

and paying customers.

Thunderbird for hire

Some cars offered views from all sides …

as well as from the inside.

Some cars were only visible for a few seconds, seen from a bus window …

while others obligingly posed for a closeup portrait …

(look at that hood ornament!)

and others showed off for diners at a restaurant beside the Malecón. (Oops. One of those is not a car.)

Here is a vehicle we did not recognize, but it was too interesting to pass up.

Likewise, the Cuban taxi for tourists is eye-catching. (The version for Cuban passengers has the reverse color scheme, a yellow checkerboard on a black body. We didn’t see any of those.)

Cuba Coco Taxi

Coming from today’s America, where the top four car paint colors are white, silver, black and gray, in that order, it was a bit of a shock to encounter the amazing colors on those old cars in Havana. We forgot (or never knew) that car colors before the 1950s were drab, barely more exciting than Henry Ford’s any-color-you-want-as-long-as-it’s-black. Color became important in the 1950s, with pastel shades of blue, pink, and green being especially popular. In the 50s, a car buyer could choose among paint colors to be applied to his car. In fact, the 1958 Oldsmobile had 22 color choices for the car body and the same 22 choices for the car roof. In addition, color choices for that Oldsmobile could be specified for the wheel and cap, convertible top, carpet, seat (cloth or leather), and headliner. So even if a car we saw did not have its original color, it still had an authentic color.

There are discrepancies in some of the cars we saw. An original steering wheel might be replaced with one from another make or model of car (e.g., a Peugeot steering wheel in a Buick). Frequently, it was the original motor that had been replaced (e.g., by a Toyota diesel engine). In addition, parts that don’t affect how the car runs might be missing, such as the lock knob on the door lock (only the interior pin was still visible), the chrome porthole covers on the sides (although the portholes were still there), or parts of the chrome body side molding. A man who was in line ahead of us at the airport told us that Cuban car mechanics can make almost any part they need as long as they have supplies – which they frequently don’t have. This man was carrying a worn-out cylinder head in his carry-on luggage, to use in selecting the right size of plumbing pipe in the US to take back to Cuba, where the mechanics can turn the pipe into new cylinder heads. It is astounding that so many cars have survived for so many years with almost no supply of original parts other than cannibalized cars of the same era.

Of all the sights in Cuba that we wanted to see, these vintage cars were at the top of the list. We were not disappointed.

We hope you have enjoyed this look into the past at America’s vintage 1950s cars as they have been preserved in Havana. Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. Remaining posts will highlight public art, night photos, and general impressions. If you want to catch up on previous posts, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Cuban Diary Day 6: Las Terrazas Eco-community

Cuban Diary Day 7: Music and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 8: Leaving Cuba

Cuban Diary: A Few of Hemingway’s Bars

Cuban Diary: A Few of Hemingway’s Bars

While we were in Cuba, we visited three bars because of their famous connection with Ernest Hemingway. On our second day in Havana, as we were standing at the corner of Calle Obispo and Mercaderes, beside the Hotel Ambos Mundos (where Hemingway lived from 1932 to 1939), the guide told us about a bar around the corner that was (supposedly) frequented by Hemingway.

La Bodeguita del Medio

La Bodeguita del Medio is extremely popular with tourists, who fill the street to look inside and to buy mojitos.

One wall of La Bodeguita del Medio is covered with photographs of Hemingway.

Wall of La Bodeguita del Medio with photographs of Ernest Hemingway

Sloppy Joe’s, on the corner of Calle Animas and Zulueta in Old Havana, has been a landmark of Havana since Prohibition in the US.

Sloppy Joe’s

Sloppy Joe’s was extremely popular with American celebrities (e.g., John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, and Clark Gable) and their fans, who accounted for 90% of its business, until the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Nationalization, lack of business, and a fire closed Sloppy Joe’s in 1965 for 48 years.

Exterior of Sloppy Joe’s

Restoration of the bar in the same building was begun by the Cuban government in 2007, and the bar reopened on Friday, April 12, 2013.

The original bar can be seen in the 1959 movie Our Man in Havana, starring Alec Guiness.

60 foot bar in Sloppy Joe’s

Many of the same foods and drinks that were offered before are on the current menu. (Fun fact: The sloppy joe sandwich was supposedly inspired by this bar.) However, the menu items are too expensive for most Cuban citizens.

The third Hemingway bar that we visited is El Floridita on the corner of Calle Obispo and Monserrate (across from the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana).

Exterior of El Floridita

There are many memorabilia of Hemingway here, including framed photographs on the walls, a bust, and a life-sized bronze statue sitting on a bar stool at the end of the bar, with a book and glasses resting on the bar in front of it. The spot next to the statue is popular with tourists, for posing with the famous author.

Statue of Ernest Hemingway

There is a small enclosed area for a five-piece band playing (and singing) Cuban music.

Band at El Floridita

The specialty at El Floridita is the daiquiri.

Special daiquiri at El Floridita

Supposedly, Hemingway and his wife continued to drive to El Floridita for drinks even after their move to Finca Vigia outside Havana.

Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. Remaining posts will highlight vintage cars, public art, night photos, and general impressions. If you want to catch up on previous posts, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Cuban Diary Day 6: Las Terrazas Eco-community

Cuban Diary Day 7: Music and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 8: Leaving Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 8: Leaving Cuba

Saturday, 14 May 2016

This morning we got up at 5:15 am, gathered our luggage, and were checked out at the front desk by 5:50. When we tried to leave the hotel by the front door (to wait on the outdoor veranda), we found it was locked. The guard agreed to unlock the door when our bus arrived. Eventually, other tour group members discovered that the door to the veranda on the side of the building was open, and so we went out that way. The bus was parked in its usual place, and we were seated at 6:01 am for the scheduled 6:15 departure. Our guide went to the hotel to collected the other six group members. Here she found that the front desk had not given us the sandwiches and juice boxes that they were to provide for us due to checking out before breakfast was available. Lazaro collected our two ham and cheese sandwiches, but no juice was offered. Finally, everyone was seated and the bus left for the airport at 6:30. (Our guide had originally said we should leave for the airport by 6 am but relented to 6:15 when she heard groans.)

We ate our sandwiches on the way, drinking our bottled water to force down the dry bread. The cheese spread on the last half of Caridad’s sandwich had a spoiled taste, so it was thrown away at the airport.

As we entered José Martí Airport for check-in at 6:45, we were greeted by a huge line snaking back through the large room. There was a shorter line which we did not seem to be entitled to enter.

Once we were in the long line, our guide explained the procedure for check-in, saying that we would be in that line for 1.5 hours. She left us then, because the rest of our group would be leaving in two separate groups later this morning and she needed to make sure that they also got to the check-in line. Her estimated wait time was low, because we were in that line for 2 hours and 5 minutes. (Tip: If your guide says you need to leave for the airport at 6 am, don’t try to talk her out of it – just do it.) This was more than a little nerve wracking, because our scheduled flight time was 9:40 am.

Ahead of us in the line was an interesting man with dual Cuban-US citizenship. He was born in Cuba, taken to the US when young, and has now bought property in Cuba that he is developing into rental property that he will list on airbnb for tourists. The name of the rental will be Paraiso17. He will have several units for rent. It is in the country and he plans to provide the old 1950s cars as transportation for his guests. While we can’t vouch for his enterprise, he certainly sounded sincere and highly ethical. His scheduled flight time was 9 am, and he was even more nervous than we were.

When we reached the front of the line at 8:50, the check-in clerk did not weigh our bags, possibly because there were many, many more people to check in, only two clerks assigned to do it, and several flights due to depart. We knew our bags were under 20 pounds, so we did not worry about carrying them on board with us. There were no baggage fees for the outbound flight, anyway.

We reached the immigration line at 8:51, and both of us had our passports stamped to show that we had been in Cuba. Passport control was followed by security, which we completed by 9:05.

After security, we found ourselves in a large room with two gates, lots of seating, and shops on the two long sides of the room. If anyone has forgotten to pick up the obligatory Cuban cigars and rum (or handicrafts or straw hats or t-shirts sporting Che Guevara’s face or …) , then they are available here at the same prices as elsewhere in Cuba. Also, US dollars can be used on this side of the terminal (after security). However, for tourists who still have CUC in their possession, this is the place to spend them. (Important note: By Cuban law, the CUC may not be exported in any denomination and quantity.)  Keep in mind that, for US passengers, the limits on what can be brought back through US customs are:

$100 USD total for tobacco and alcohol

$400 USD grand total (including tobacco and alcohol)

Prices that we observed for individual cigars in the shops ranged from 6.95 CUC to 40 CUC. The price of a complete box of Cuban cigars could easily exceed the $100 USD limit. We did not observe the prices of Cuban rum, but, like the Cuban cigars, Cuban rum is only available to buy in Cuba.

Cuban cigars at Ron’s Tabaco Cafe

The photo above was taken in Ron’s Tabaco Cafe, the cigar store in the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabana (not in the airport).

One of the group members had asked our guide whether smoking was permitted in this room, but our guide didn’t know because she had never been in this room. The answer is no, smoking is not permitted anywhere in the terminal. Smoking is also not permitted on the tarmac between the terminal and the aircraft. (We do not smoke, but this information might be of interest to someone.)

Two separate flights were boarding when we got into this room. After looking around at the shops, we sat down to wait for our flight to be boarded. We guessed which gate would be ours, and waited nearer that gate. Finally, at some time after 10 am, boarding began. The flight departed at around 10:50, and we arrived back in Tampa sometime after noon. (These times are approximate. Once we were on the airplane, we stopped worrying about times.)

We went through passport control and customs easily.

We then picked up our rental car and headed out of the airport in search of an American breakfast (or at least American food). We headed west on Route 60 toward Clearwater and stopped at the first appealing restaurant, which was Joe’s Crab Shack. Here we had crabcake sandwiches, string onion rings, and iced tea. Not breakfast, and not our usual fare, but very American! Continuing down the road, we saw a Mellow Mushroom restaurant and wished we had waited a few more minutes before selecting a restaurant. Joe’s Crab Shack is good, but Mellow Mushroom is better.

We followed Route 60 as far west as we could without going over the bridge to Clearwater Beach. We had thought we might visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on the other side of the bridge, but traffic was backed up, probably by beach-goers, and we were afraid we would not get back to the airport in time for our next flight. Instead, we visited the town library, where we could use the internet for free, and binged in surfing the internet, catching up on the news, and reading a week of emails.

Heading back to the Tampa airport, we worked our way around a traffic backup due to a four-car accident and were back at the airport, with car turned in, by around 4:30.

At check-in, we both received boarding passes denoting that we were TSA pre-checked. However, after our carry-on luggage was scanned, TSA decided that our mosquito repellent in a 3-1-1 bag violated their rules and confiscated it. We had taken it to Cuba because of the travel warnings about the mosquito-borne Zika virus. We had used it faithfully, and the instructions are to avoid mosquito bites for three weeks after travel. Luckily, it had not been confiscated on the way into Cuba, since there have been cases of Zika in Havana.. It isn’t a good idea to argue with TSA while traveling, so Lazaro has written a letter to our Congressman instead.

We were seated at our gate an hour before flight time. We will not cover the rest of today, except to say that we did get home safely.

Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. This post describes Day 8, our last day in Cuba. Remaining posts will highlight Hemingway’s bars, vintage cars, public art, and general impressions. If you want to catch up on the first days, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Cuban Diary Day 6: Las Terrazas Eco-community

Cuban Diary Day 7: Music and Revolution

One Word Photo Challenge: Camel

This is my entry in the  One Word Photo Challenge: Camel  hosted by Jennifer Nichole Wells.


Sooner or later you must ride the camel.

– Arabian proverb

This photo was taken near Manvar Desert Camp in Rajasthan, India, in 2014.


Cuban Diary Day 7: Music and Revolution

Friday, 13 May 2016

This morning Caridad woke up at 6 am, a repeat of all the other mornings, except that there was no water pooled on the bathroom floor: the repair was good! There is a slight smell of cigarette smoke again.

Today is Friday the 13th. We can wish that they do not celebrate this day in Cuba.

Down at breakfast, we chose eggs (boiled for Caridad, sunny-side up for Lazaro), toast (with  runny jelly), pastry that was almost soft, dates, juice, and two cups of coffee. The liquid is important.

We stopped at a gift shop in the lobby to buy two postcards, but between the cash reserves of the two gift shops, she could not make change for a 5 CUC note. The cards cost 1.40 CUC. It is hard for a tourist to come up with 1.40 CUC, since the smallest money they like to give us is a 3 CUC note, and usually it is a 5, 10, or 20 CUC note. We told her we would stop by later. She was disappointed, more for herself than for us, we think.

Back at the room, we turned on the TV to watch CNN for a few minutes. The top story was that Russia denied illegal doping at the last Olympics. This CNN seems to be only a subset of what we see, with no real news stories, only feature stories, e.g., lung disease in South Africa.

We waited for the bus on the hotel veranda, and when our guide appeared, got on the bus to wait in the AC.  Another of our group is sick this morning and will miss the day’s activities.

Our first stop was at the Museum of the Revolution. Each school child in Havana (perhaps in Cuba) is brought to visit this museum twice during their school years:  once before high school and once during high school. Here there are three floors devoted to telling the story of the revolution in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The beautiful interior of the rotunda is shown at left, above. On the right is a photograph of an enigmatic artwork on the first floor: a machete fed through a typewriter.

Los Cretinos (The Cretins), Museum of the Revolution

Around the corner from the typewriter/machete is a large famous mural, featuring Fulgencio Batista, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. (We saw a parody of this mural in the artist’s workshop yesterday, except that the featured characters were Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, and a prostitute with AIDS on a horse.)

On the second floor is an impressive statue of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos riding a wave (photograph above left). On the right is a famous poster of Fidel Castro.

Map explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis

The coverage of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs was limited to one showcase about 6 feet wide by 7 feet tall.  Above is a map from the display.

The boat Gramma, on which Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and about 80 revolutionaries sailed from Mexico to Cuba in November, 1956, was not visible in its glass building behind the museum. Perhaps it was there, but the windows were all obscured.

Our next stop was at the Colibri recording company and Abdala Recording Studios, where recording, mixing, and mastering services are offered. Abdala is run by the Cuban Ministry of Culture.  Here there are 2 recording studies and associated rooms for creating CDs, DVD, and TV programs. We got to watch a group working on creating a recording from several tracks (base, metal, winds, and voice). The first track recorded is the base track, which is the bass, percussion, and piano. The other tracks are recorded to synchronize with the base track. Then we were shown the rooms and booths where the artists perform. Finally, we got to talk with the man who does the final editing on a recording, making the master copy. The guide there gave us a CD of Cuban music to keep.

Our next stop was lunch at the El Aljibe restaurant. We were served a salad of shredded cabbage and slivers of tomato and cucumber, sweet potato chips, rice, black beans, chicken, rolls, orange-flavored ice cream, and espresso. It was good. Two performers played and sang for us; we bought a CD from them, called Havanason.

After this, the bus returned to the hotel, where all but five got off. The rest of us were driven to Old Havana. The two of us finally found Sloppy Joe’s, another Ernest Hemingway hangout, nice but very different from Las Floriditas. It was very near where we were looking last night, but the fellow from last night’s restaurant had marked the wrong location on our map (one street away). After this, we walked back to La Floriditas, where another band was playing. This band was all male except for one woman who sang and collected tips; their music was nice, but not as good as the women last night. A few more pictures, and we walked back to the squares we had visited before, taking some good street pictures.

Along the way, we came upon a concert in the Plaza des Armas, which occurs only once a month.

Then we walked back to the taxi area and hired a fellow with a yellow 1955 Buick Roadmaster convertible to take us back to the hotel to blog and freshen up before dinner tonight.

U.S. Embassy

On the way to the hotel, we passed the US Embassy, as we have almost daily since arriving in Havana.  Missing from this photograph is the forest of approximately 150 flagpoles erected by the Cuban government to block, with their black flags,  a billboard on the top floors of the embassy that broadcast messages in 5-foot tall letters.  An example of the messages displayed is Abraham Lincoln’s words: “No man is good enough to govern another man without his consent.”  The flags and the billboard are not there now; the billboard was operational from Martin Luther King Day (January 16) of 2006 to June 2009. The flagpoles still stand.

We calculated how much money we will need to cover expenses before we leave Cuba tomorrow, and Lazaro exchanged enough US dollars to cover that. We don’t expect to eat tomorrow until we get to Tampa. We will leave the hotel at 6:15 am tomorrow, before the restaurant opens at 7. According to our guide, food choices at the airport include four options: ham and cheese sandwiches, ham sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, and cheese and ham sandwiches.  While our tour covers breakfast at the hotel, we do not expect to be sorry to miss it tomorrow.

We left on the bus at 7 pm for our farewell dinner at the Conde del Castillo Restaurant inside the 5 star (government-owned) Hotel Palacio del Marqués de San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal. The restaurant is beautifully laid out in a private room that seats around 20 people at two large and one small table. We 15 (tour group members plus our tour guide and driver) were the only patrons. The meal consisted of a small salad, fish, vegetables, and rice, with ice cream and espresso for dessert. The fish was overcooked to the point that only the inner parts were edible and had little taste. The servers were pleasant, but service was very slow. There were several toasts to our guide and driver, who took excellent care of us during our stay.

Church and Monastery of St. Francis, Plaza de San Francisco

We left the restaurant after 9 pm, walked through the  Plaza de San Francisco to reach the bus, and were back at the hotel by 9:30, where we bought a 500mL bottle of water to tide us over until tomorrow. After packing and showers, we were in bed by 11 pm.

 Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. If you want to catch up on the first days, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Cuban Diary Day 6: Las Terrazas Eco-community