A Tale of Three Cities...?

[ 30 July 2016 - Saturday ] 

My room was so dark that I slept until 9:15!  Usually I’ve been waking up at 6:30!  The cat, who’s name I don’t know, is sleeping under my bed (:  I’ve been keeping my bedroom door opened just a crack and she’s come in and out.  I bribed her into liking me at breakfast by feeding her some of the lunch meat that was put out for me.

Niña Cat - I found out it's name

Yesterday I bought a newspaper, maybe I already wrote about it, but it was an editorial about the Obamas coming to Cuba.  I also stumbled upon a series of posters, printed using woodcut or linocut likely, that were political.  One showed an army of Fidels and had written on the bottom “Postcastro Cuba,” the other was one of the Obama, one of Imagine, another the Rolling Stones, and the last of the Statue of Liberty riding in the back of an old car in Cuba.  The guy at the store wanted 150.00 CUCs per poster!  But I remembered seeing them at the Plaza de Armas so I might go back there later today to see what price they ask.  While I think that the Cuba - US relationship is really interesting I don’t want the main focus of my work / exhibition to be about that.  It seems to be a part of the “internal Cuban identity” but it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.  

A more appropriate title for the work seems to be “A Tale of Three Cities.”  There’s the external Americanized view of Cuba, where aesthetics require distance from the subject.  And now that I am in country, I’ve realized there are two city identities here.  There’s the one proclaimed from the rooftops by Fidel and there’s the underground one proclaimed by the people through their art and street art.  The external view can be shown through collecting all the paraphernalia of our relationship with the island (the magazine spreads, old travel advertisements, nostalgic photos, tourists in Fidel / Che hats and shirts).  The internal view I’m finding harder to capture in a way that I can bring back to show people.  I could buy large pieces of art (aside from the logistical aspect of how the heck to get that back to the States) I haven’t really found one piece that embodies the spirit of identity.  Although the Times Square vs. Havana one was really interesting.  The movie posters are certainly cool but are just a small hint of the art identity.  I really liked the printmaking studio with it’s Mickey Mouse and life-sized skeleton man with the Revolution cap, cigar, and shirt that read “Working Class Hero.”  Not sure how I’d get that back though…maybe I can see if they have a print to buy of him.  It’s not that I am opposed to spending the money on art but it needs to be the right pieces.  (I’m also not sure what’d I do with it all afterwards, keep them or donate them to a gallery?  Another problem for another day…)

Maybe the exhibition is just a collection of images.  Although I still like the idea of having the external view on the walls around the perimeter and the interior being the internal view.  The internal view being “on hand” but I don’t know if that’s the best way to display things, flat and horizontally.  Perry would probably tell me not to worry about these things yet, to just do the work.  lol.  Okay inner Perry voice…!

I think the publication will be the place for really making a thesis / a polemic.  The images themselves can only “say” so much.  

Street art

Sitting along the Prado

Sanctioned? Unsanctioned?

Puppies in cages awaiting new homes while others starve to death on the streets.



Lots of success today!  And one failure…or hopefully just a postponed desire.  I set off for Obispo street to buy that photograph of the Vogue Man I had seen last week and of course the vendor wasn’t there or he had moved but hadn’t brought that stack of photos.  I was discouraged but kept walking heading back towards Plaza de Armas where I figured I’d ask the price of the Post-Cuba Castro poster I saw yesterday and the stall and man wasn’t where he was yesterday either!  The lesson learned is that if you see it, buy it.  I did eventually find either the same stall in a different location or a different stall selling the same posters.  He wanted 60.00 CUCs for the Post-CubaCastro and 70.00 for Obama.  Still what I would consider a lot of money but the bookstore seller who had the same prints was asking 150.00 each!  So I’ll consider an instant 90.00 CUC discount pretty great.  I probably could have haggled but didn’t bother trying.  I also made friends with another seller by the name of Abraham, who told me I was very pretty and that were are going to be friends…  I bought from him for 20.00 CUCs a screen printed poster of Che and one of Fidel.  Stopping for a drink at Cafe O’Reilly I was approached by a man selling caricatures, to which I turned his offer down.  But then I sat there and thought that it might be fun to include in my exhibition so I figured what the heck and called him back over.  For 5.00 CUCs it was totally worth it!  

I think I’m going to go back for the Obama and Statue of Liberty posters and good grief, hopefully he still has them…should I go back tomorrow?!  I’m definitely going to have to get more cash towards the end of this trip.  I think those two posters play off of each other as a Cuban look at US-Cuba relations.  I was writing in my notebook that although their intended audience is tourists, they came from a Cuban artist and they are faintly positive.  More or less, I think.  

Now that’ve got a better hand on what I’m looking for here I need to take more time when taking my pictures.  For some reason I really liked the ones I took in Vedado but not so much the ones I’ve been taking around Habana Vieja.  I do think some of it has to with the fact that things were quieter and more spread out in Vedado.  In Vieja the buildings are taller, the streets are narrower, and I feel more “put on the spot” to take a quick photo, especially if people are in it.

I almost forgot to write about my black market internet!  When I checked my email this morning I had 9 minutes left on my card and had been dreading having to either wait in line to get another or track down whoever is selling them on the street.  As I was making my way to the Prado Colonial I passed by an Etecsa store that is never as crowded as the one I see on Obispo so I figured, why not stop in a see if they had any cards.  Then I hear a low voice, “Internet?” and I ask the guy, “Tarjeta?”  He ducked behind a column as he passed me my scratch off card for 3.00 CUCs.  It felt like a black market deal which I guess in a way it was.  

Gran Teatro de la Habana

Julien P

2 + 2 = 5

La Moderna Poesía - "The biggest bookstore in town" and look at how empty the shelves are, it was the same every bookstore I went into.  Also, nearly half the books were about the Revolution.

The photo was meant to show the bike conversion but I also loved the innovative use of leftover cannons!  It's a subtle move, but imagine if it was submerged with the other end pointing up...



Uh oh, my cheesy North Cackalacky book is finished…and I think it's too much to hope to find another book in English somewhere else.  Why didn’t I think to buy a Kindle?!  I’m looking forward to being in the Hostal la Gargola for the next 12 days, I’ll get to spread out my clothes and settle in a little bit more.  One thing that has helped me feel less cut off from the world is when I check my email every other day or so my Skimm and NextDraft emails load so I can at least read their headlines and sound bytes of news back in the States.  I was laying in bed one night worried that if something major happened I’d have literally no way of knowing.  Although I realized that isn’t totally true, there are TVs down here and surely someone at whatever house I was staying out would tell me that something happened, right?  The first time I read the loaded emails from Skimm and NextDraft I instantly felt so much more connected.  

A "grocery store" maybe

The entrance to a small Fidel Castro museum.

Haha "Hola!"



I sort of feel like I took a day off and it's got me worried that I won’t come back with enough work done.  Although I do still think coming back for a week around November would be helpful.  I don’t think the exhibition needs to be huge but it needs to be well done.  

"We are Cuba"

One of Hemingway's faves.

Why do caricatures always make you feel so fugly??