Havana – The Disaster Within

Havana has been sooo frustrating. Where is all the contemporary art? For our first day, Damian plotted a day of galleries, because “apparently” I wasn’t really satisfied inMexico until I found contemporary art. We searched high & low, but almost everything was either closed for renovations (which is reassuring), closed down, moved who knows where or perhaps just closed to us?

Most of the art we’ve encountered has been geared directly for tourists, every now and then, there’s some expressionistic work with muted colours, but that’s it! What the hell’s going on?? Thank God for the Camara Oscura at Plaza Vieja, it rescued our first day from a personal hell.

We were later frustrated with trying to purchase a train ticket out of Havana.  We quickly realised that transport generally in Cuba is heavily stressed and can be very difficult to negotiate. This is not to mention the rapid fire abbreviated Cuban version of Spanish. Eventually we learnt that using tourist agencies for reserving bus tickets, well in advance is the surest way to get around.

Periodically we would have happy moments, like dinner in Chinatown – an ode to familiarity (I start a grocery list for my return home), hearing fabulous music being played live almost everywhere (including over breakfast) and the Bellas Artes – Colleccion de Arte Cubano. This was the only visual arts institution that provided us any insight into Cuban art. The drawing and printmaking were particularly sophisticated. Unfortunately they had the saddest little museum store, that I could never have dared to imagine – with no catalogues to speak of!

In our last days, we finally chilled out, booked our bus tickets out, spent Cuban pesos on deep fried treats from a hole in the wall and caught a ferry to Casablanca to drink cheap mojitos while watching the sunset over Havana.  It turns out that Cuba is like a dollar store that Cuban’s can’t afford and settling with the no-brainer tourist options makes for the most pleasant time.

On the morning we were to leave, Damian went out searching the streets for breakfast and was arrested by a mute Rastafarian’s inescapable conversation, nearly causing us to miss the bus! Only Damian could manage this!!  (Cuban people are very friendly says Damian!)


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