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Cuba, The Teaser, Redux

December 18, 2014
tags: ,

[Howdy strangers!! Seems a reasonable time to come out from under the I’m Done Blogging cobweb to repost the Cuba photos and comments that my sister shared from her trip there in 2012. There were five posts altogether. I’ll put them back up in order.]

 Originally posted February 8, 2012:

As my sister uploads all the photos from her week in Cuba and decides which ones are worthy of blog posts, here’s a sneak peek of what is to come! Art, cars, architecture, The Hemingway House, peeps, (yes, they got alot of photos of people) and a video or two of musicians.

The Neutra House, now the Swiss Embassy

Cuba: Cardenas

December 18, 2014

Second in a series from my sister.

Originally posted February 13, 2012
Cardenas

About 2½ hours east of Havana, population 104,000, founded in 1828 and the town where Cuba’s first flag was first raised.

Cardenas is the home town of Elian Gonzalez who was at the center of a heated 2000 controversy involving the governments of Cuba and the United States, González’s father, Juan Miguel González Quintana, González’s other relatives in Miami, Florida, and in Cuba, and Miami’s Cuban-American community. There is a statue in Havana with Marti holding Gonzalez that I will share in another post.

A small, dusty, but SPOTLESS, town with horse-drawn carriages and carts that seems as if you’ve stepped into the mid-19th century.





“The government pretends it pays us and we pretend we’re working”, quoted our guide about these men on the streets.

Cuba: Old Havana

December 18, 2014

Third in the series from my sister.

Originally posted February 13, 2012

Many of the buildings are built from coral stone. Old Havana is built around a system of Squares, the main ones, Plaza de Armas (below), Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza Vieja, and Plaza de le Catedral.



The architecture has a strong Moorish influence with wooden balconies, corner balconies, high ceilings and often a mezzanine floor built for the slaves; the owners would take the upper floors.

Most important feature was the courtyard which allowed for ventilation and light.

The streets were narrow and the buildings were tall which allowed the streets to stay shady all day. Many streets were created so that all the buildings on that street had a covered columned arcade which runs from house to house on both sides of the street so that pedestrians could walk down those streets in complete shade.

The street in front of the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales is made of ironwood (tree) bricks, rather than cobblestones so that the Governor General (can’t remember which one) wouldn’t be disturbed by the noise of the carriage wheels on the cobblestones during his afternoon siesta! Cuban presidents lived there until 1920.

The Art Deco influence…

Havana was spared the urbanization of the 1960s when other major urban areas underwent “urban renewal” and most of the older architecture was torn down. Havana’s beautiful architectural history is preserved in its urban center in a unique way.

Cuba: Art and Artists

December 18, 2014

Fourth in a series by my sister.

Originally posted February 13, 2012

Artists in Cuba are the most favored class of citizens. They are the only group to have access to the internet. They are allowed and encouraged to perform or show their work overseas and any monies earned overseas may be brought back to Cuba tax-free.

The artists live in the best houses and have the freedom to criticize the government openly and freely in their work and virtually all the art we saw was based on themes of repression and lack of freedom.

One artist told us, however, that this system is actually not good for their art. An artist will tend to develop a formula that will sell and then keeps at that formula and eventually loses the subversive quality that his art had in the beginning.

No art institutions are on the internet, but many are creating websites and making them ready for when they will have a global presence. Right now there websites are only for use within their own institution. They do create CDs and DVDs which they aggressively sell as a way to get their message out and publicize their institutions.

One local artist collected old metal signs onto which he superimposed photos. This is one of a student protest at the University of Havana against Battista’s dictatorship.

Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA)

On the site of the former Havana Country Club which Fidel appropriated after the revolution, designed between 1961 and 1965 by three architects, lead designer, Cuban-born Ricardo Porro and two Italian architects who had been living in Venezuela, Vittorio Garatti and Roberto Gottardi, the Instituto Superior de Artes is the national art school that houses five schools of art, each with its own faculty.

The ISA resembles an African Village and designed to portray the organic nature of the creation of art, the buildings are designed to show the female body ~ the domes at the top are female breasts. There is a sculpture in the center (not in my photos) of a vagina to symbolize the “birth of art”, its creativity. The buildings are made of brick due to a lack of steel and concrete during the U.S. blockade.


“Cultural identity is the fragrance of the earth; the myths we live on and the legends that sustain us.”
Below are some of the art works we saw.




Cuba: Havana

December 18, 2014

Fifth in a series by my sister.

Originally posted February 15, 2012

Images of Che are EVERYWHERE… on t-shirts, posters, graffiti, books. It seems that in the 1970s when Mao created a cult of personality around himself, the Cuban communist party decreed that no monuments would ever be erected to a living person and all images in Cuba are hence, of Che.

In the gift shop in our hotel, the ONLY books that were for sale, on a rather large rack, were either written by or about Fidel or Che. NOTHING else!!

Bookstalls on the Plaza des Armas
These second-hand book stalls sell predominantly revolutionary material in several languages. There are also vintage trinkets and American coins for sale and an occasional Hemingway book or art book at some stalls.

The period following the collapse of Communism in Russia and the loss of all Soviet support to Cuba was the worst period in Cuban history since Columbus arrived and began exterminating the Indian population. There was no food, hospitals were closed and Cuban society became broken into a kaleidoscope of different languages.

In the period from 1990-1994 after the Russians pulled out, there were no food, no cars and overnight they had nothing.

In 1991 the government allowed the freedom to practice religion. Catholicism and Santeria (based on an African tradition) are the most prevalent.

By 1995, they began to allow foreign investment in tourism, allowed corporations to lease land from the government, reopened some farmers markets and allowed for the creation of the “paladar”… a restaurant that could operate in a private home. To that point, all Cuban restaurants were government-controlled. There is a concern now in the Cuban government about what to do if the successful paladars begin to make a lot of money and the owners begin to accumulate wealth.


In 1994, Havana came close to staging an uprising, not of political dissidents, but demonstrations by the average, ordinary citizens who were frustrated at having nothing. It was during this period that there were large numbers of Cuban boat people trying to get to America. If you walked on the Malecon, you would see people building boats as the Cuban government finally said that anyone who wants to go could go.

It was at this point that Clinton eased the immigration agreement and allowed remittances from Cuban Americans to their families in Cuba to ease the economic hardships. By 1996, the economy started to improve.

In 2003 there were still power blackouts and in 2012, during our stay, there were a few blackouts at our Havana hotel and at the hotel out on the beach in Varadero.

Under the Bush sanctions in 2003, Cuba forbid the U.S. dollar to circulate. Today you can bring U.S. dollars to Cuba, but you will pay a steep (13.5%) penalty on converstion. It is best to bring euros or Canadian dollars.

When the U.S. maintained an Embassy in Cuba, there was a period when we would disseminate information from an electronic billboard on the outside of the building. In response, the Cuban government erected 138 flagpoles in the plaza directly in front of the Embassy and when they raised the flags the messages were blocked.

The United States still maintains a U.S. Interest Section Office in this building. Long lines are a daily occurrence for Cubans to apply for an interview for a visa to emigrate. Those interviews are scheduled for the year 2015.

The statue at the end of the plaza, of Jose Marti holding a child and pointing an accusatory finger, is to represent the U.S. “terrorist” actions in “kidnapping” Elian Gonzalez.

Cuba: The Hemingway House

December 18, 2014
tags: ,

Last in the series from Cuba by my sister.

Originally posted February 16, 2012

Ernest Hemingway went to Cuba in 1928 where he wrote the first chapters of “For Whom The Bell Tolls” from the Ambos Mundos Hotel in Havana.

He was forced to leave Cuba by the American ambassador in 1961 and his home, Finca Vigia (Farm Lookout) was nationalized by the Cuban government shortly thereafter. The house sits untouched since Hemingway’s departure.






Our guide told us that there were over 9,000 books in the home. Some even in the bathroom!

Books in the bathroom


Hemingway’s cat killed a lizard and Hemingway decided to preserve it!

Hemingway’s Tower writing office




Hemingway’s boat, Pilar, sitting on the remains of the tennis court

America The Beautiful

July 4, 2013

Happy Independence Day, from our home to yours.

fourth2013

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine.
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

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