Cuba Day 1

Since I had no computer, no internet while I was in Cuba (there was a business center at the hotel, and wifi was available for about $10/hr, but my friend said it was only up for about 20 minutes/hour so I chose not to use it), I took notes by hand.  Here they are, day by day.

22 May 2012

Tuesday got up at 5 am to fly to Houston, half an hour to grab a pre-packaged salad, then on to Miami.  Read Hunger Games.  Fun teen book.  Early dinner with roommate N at food court (hotel in airport), then to bed early.

23 May 2012

Wednesday up at 4:30 (!) to meet group at 5 am for our Cuban visas.  Woman with visas expected at 5:30.  Time for a quick sweet roll and coffee at a Starbucks.  Then processed and on to the gate to wait.  The plane (Delta) was being repaired!  Had a banana, almost finished book.  Finally boarded at 10+ to wait on the tarmac.  Paperwork.  We were “only” two hours late arriving in Havana.

This billboard at the airport: “You see every day pure as a child or as a pure man, Che Commander, friend.”

We have two guides.  Geo Darder is with the Copperbridge Foundation (which he started) out of Miami.  He was born in Cuba, raised in Miami, and returned to Havana 19 years ago, at the age of 30.  He has both passports.  He seems to know all of the artists and curators in Cuba.  (Photo of him giving us sunflowers on the bus.)

Our other guide, Elizabeth, is 28, and lives with her parents, who are retired Cuban diplomats, in Havana.  She learned English in Zimbabwe and Russian during her family’s ten years in Russia.  She is very serious (except when we ask how something like catering to well-to-do tourists jives with communism and she answers, Well, it’s complicated…), and party line, where Geo is flexible, kidding, very American.  She has a degree in Sociology, but can earn much more money as a tour guide.  She is with Havana Tours, the only Cuban tour company for English-speaking tourists.

Café Oriente

First we had lunch at Café Oriente, a very fancy restaurant that you know Cubans never eat at.  Really, smoked salmon for appetizers?  But all of your lunches and dinners start with a mojito, Cuba’s national drink.  Then Cuban beer.  (After this I drink water for lunch, following the mojito, of course.)

10 fresh mint leaves
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
2 tablespoons white sugar, or to taste
1 cup ice cubes
1 1/2 fluid ounces white rum
1/2 cup club soda

Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center

On to the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center.  My favorite exhibit consisted of awesome tapestries creating granite walkways, including cracks in the granite (yes, this is woven in!), and shadows.  (Photo here has woven-in shadows tending left, our shadows are at the bottom.  You can click on the photo and blow it up to see the detail.)  Some with sayings in Spanish, each letter outlined in gold.   (El Pensamiento = The Thought.)  Totally looks like granite.  We had to doff our shoes upon entering; then we could walk on the carpets.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Then check-in at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba which is beautifully restored from 1930.  It is on a hill above the malecón (the walk along the Gulf of Mexico).  Yes, the hotel has at least one peacock.





Tucson Museum of Art’s Contemporary Art Society has planned this trip because of the 11th Havana Biennial, which actually happens every three years.  (Geo said that after the first Biennial they didn’t have enough money for another in two years.  Kinda like authors publishing book four of a trilogy.)  It is organized by the National Council of the Visual Arts and 30 other institutions and is spread over galleries, museums, exhibition spaces, plazas, streets, parks, etc.  We’re also here to see other contemporary art, of course.1

Paladar Vista Mar

Dinner at a paladar (restaurant in a private home), Paladar Vista Mar, with the first group from Tucson, which is leaving Friday.  (We are the second group which overlaps by two days.)  Mojitos.  Pleasant food (fish) overlooking the Gulf.  It was K’s 85th birthday, so before dessert we watched a water ballet (both men and women and a bit corny) in the pool beneath our balcony.


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3 Responses to “Cuba Day 1”

  1. Jim Says:

    From that article I sent you out of The Economist magazine, which mentioned the returning of democracy, capitalism, and Catholicism to Cuba, I suspect that the Cuban People now have a brighter future ahead of them – if they can manage to restrict ownership of assets to Cubans.

    And if they develop their great wildlife viewing areas into tourist destinations, it will certainly provide them with a large additional source of income.

  2. Jim and Erda Matheson Says:

    Reminiscent of my visits to Havana in the late 40’s while stationed in Key West Florida. We often went on Friday, returning on Sunday night with emptied magazine occupied by pre-Castro rum. Jim

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