Censorship + Political Propaganda in Havana

Censored Image

I can't remember a time that I've ever seen something explicitly censored by our government.  Which is why when I saw it happen in Havana I almost couldn't believe that what I was seeing was real.  I had to stop and really look at it.  "Maybe the paint has smudged?" I thought, but couldn't fool myself.  THAT IMAGE HAD BEEN CENSORED!!  

Censorship in Vedado

(You know how it goes fellow architect friends, the strange looks you get when you take a dozen plus photos of some mundane thing....sometimes people want to help out your pitiful eccentric self.  But really though, I thought everyone I met was incredibly friendly and easy going!)

I never saw any of these images again so I'll maybe never know what they originally had said.  I did however see the image of a man wearing a t-shirt with the writing, "I Love ------" on a number of occasions.  For a while I was left wondering who the image of this man was based on but I quickly figured it out.  It was an appropriated image of the historical and cultural figure, José Martí.

What does your shirt say?  And who are you!?

José Martí - January 28, 1853 – May 19, 1895

I still can't see what your shirt says little man...

I kept an eye out for him wherever I was walking, hoping to find out what his shirt said.  Finally I stumbled upon an undoctored image!

Street art by two different artists on the edge of the Vedado - Centro neighborhoods. 

The highly recognizable historical and cultural figure, José Martí, wearing a t-shirt that reads "I Love Free Wifi."  This was the only instance of this image that I was able to find that had not been censored. 

"I Love Free Wifi" - José Martí

Me too good sir, me too.


Political Image

On the other side of the coin were the images I found of state and individually sponsored political imagery and messages.  Many times it was difficult to tell the difference between the two.  The strangest thing here, and this comes up in many other forms, is that Cubans and the Cuban government are STILL celebrating the Revolución.  I found newspapers and other publications with photos of Che and Fidel taken in the 1950s and 1960s!  The equivalent is if our media continued daily to write about the assassination of JFK.  This is one of the few ways I'd argue saying Cuba is "stuck in time" might actually be slightly accurate.

"Por Cuba con Fidel y Raul"

“Continue defending the Revolution"

“For unity in my neighborhood, we follow in combat”

"Recorrido del Yate Granma" - which Google translated as "Granma Yacht Tour"...ehhhh

Callejón de Hamel

[ 27 July 2016 - Wednesday ] 


Located in the Centro neighborhood of Havana and begun by Salvador Gonzáles Escalona in 1990, the Callejón de Hamel is a short alley that operates as a public art and performance space.  Filled to the brim with painting and sculpture (and many times rumba music!) it was one of the first acts celebrating Afro-Cuban culture.

More info here.

Vedado & Centro Habana

[ 27 July 2016 - Wednesday ]

I walked around Vedado again in the morning and Centro this afternoon, wanting to eventually get to the Callejon de Hamel.  Tom mentioned that I’d probably want to go there with other people not solely on my own so I decided to walk as far as I felt comfortable.  Centro definitely has a different vibe than Vedado which feels more youthful and more like a “single family” house neighborhood (although I highly doubt a single-family occupied house exists anywhere in Havana nowadays).  


Vedado Neighborhood

Three little snubbed nose dogs guarding the gate.  The cutest thing I’ve seen so far but then in the next yard I saw four starving kittens and wished so badly I had something to give them.

Teatro Bertolt Brecht

So deco...

Three Flags

An aging private pool.


Centro felt a little rougher around the edges although all the guidebooks say it’s just as safe as anywhere else, e.g. it’s safe.  But the density of living was higher as there were more apartment buildings so I’d guess that’s what makes it feel different.  Anyways, on the way to Callejon de Hamel an older man, named Leo, introduced himself to me and was explaining that he played music in the Callejon, he showed me his calloused hands to prove it.  To be honest the alley felt a little touristy, if you can call anything “touristy” in Havana, and I felt like if I lingered too long I’d be trapped in a conversation with “my friend” that cost me a CUC or two by the end of it.  That’s actually one of the hardest parts of traveling for me, not knowing or understanding people’s intentions.

A small park at the edge of the Centro neighborhood.

Possibly the Parque de los Mártires Universitarios...

One of the first things i noticed in Havana was that the streets are fairly empty of cars.  

I’m dying to figure out who “Julien P” is because I see his street art everywhere in Vedado and Centro.

More Julien P street art.

Playing in the streets of Centro.

Monumento a Antonio Maceo

Along the Malecón

A store in Centro selling laundry detergent.

Souvenirs for sale

More deco!