Friday, March 10, 2017

Day Eight - Cuba

We watched a music video being filmed. You can see Scott
in the background watching the dancers inside the bar through
the window. Outside camera men are shooting a young
singer on his motorcycle.

People lining up to buy flowers - Cubans live in lines! If
there is a really big one, say at the bank, when you arrive
you say "Ulitima" and the last person in line identifies
themselves. Then everyone knows where you are (sometimes
they aren't really lined up). You can then go get a coffee
or find a place to sit down - and come back nearer the time
when your turn is up!
Today we decided to visit several museums and after discussion, picked the Museum of Art and the Museum of the Revolution. On the way there we saw a large crowd gathered and joined them. It was a film crew for a new music video for a popular Cuban singer. He was on a motor cycle in front of a bar being prepped by a "style" person and a few camera men. Signs were posted around saying by staying you were agreeing to be photographed. Scott managed to get himself over in the midst and watched dancers practicing their routine in the bar. I assume the singer was going to join them. He was throwing kisses to the crowd - very cute guy! It was obviously going to be a long time before anything more happened so we headed on.
The streets of Havana are busy with pedestrians, bicycle cabs and few cars (compared to any other city in the world). Lines form in front of the few produce, bakery and meat stores. Alex in Viñales showed us one of the farmer's ration books. You are issued a book for the year and each day can receive (and sign for) your ration of bread and other basic commodities. Foreigners can't buy at these stores. Then there are higher price but still Cuban national stores that sell in pesos to Cubans (and C.U.C.s to foreigners) other products. Then there are the C.U.C. stores that sell things you can't buy anywhere else - a very small variety of things - at higher cost.
The Museum of Art is very modern and interesting. It's huge and contains work from about the 1930's. I didn't see anything old. The newer works were by far the best (for us) and very varied in style and media. There were lots of political statements and installations, especially on the first floor. There is another National Art Museum that is under renovation and I assume contains the older works. I took a few pictures and then was advised it was forbidden.
By then it was time for some lunch and we headed down to the Cathedral Plaza. On the way we stopped to talk to our favorite Infotur advisor  Dariana to thank her for getting us the tickets to the Buena Vista Social Club and Viñales. Scott had seen a notice about a concert that very evening at the Cathedral and wanted to know more. She got to work. It took a half hour and at least 10 phone calls before she finally found out that the concert location and time was changed. It was now at 7:30 pm at the Iglesia de San Francisco de Paola - or at least it was a good chance it was going to happen then. She asked us to let her know what happened and Scott stopped in on our last morning to tell her how amazing the concert was and to thank her again!
We had lunch sitting just behind the Santaria practicioners stands in the beautiful Restaurant in the historic Casa de Marques de Aguas Claras, right in front of the cathedral. It's an amazing people watching opportunity and the food was quite good too.
The Museum of the Revolution is in the old Presidential Palace inaugurated in 1920. Former President Battista's office was there but he wasn't, lucky for him, when a group of young students fought their way in, attempting to kill him. The bullet holes are still very evident. Outside is a collection of vehicles, planes, artillary and the famous boat "Granma" that brought Fidel and his compatriots over from Mexico to restart the revolution.
Inside are many, many rooms with black and white photos and exhibits documenting the revolution and the people who participated. Even their clothing is preserved. To be honest this collection could really use some updating - it doesn't look like a single thing has changed for 50 years. It's a fascinating and riveting story and could be reorganized for better effect. But it was well worth the visit.
After our usual rest at Carmen's we headed out for the concert. First we checked out the location and indeed it was planned there for 7:30. We had time to walk across the street to the fun brewery visited several days before for lunch - this time for a beer and brochettes of pork & shrimp. The concert was fabulous! Really great. First there were two chorus groups from Florida International University, each presenting 3 or 4 pieces. Then a group of musicians from the Cuban National Symphony under the direction of a Argentine composer Martin Palmeri presented some of his pieces - with a concertina soloist from Buenos Aires. These were great but his Misatango, a Tango Mass from Buenos Aires with the full chorus and soprano soloist that followed was outstanding. We have SO lucked out seeing this, the Acosta Ballet and the Buena Vista Social Club review.
This gentleman was specializing in onions
but he also had cucumbers, a few tomatoes
and peppers.

A butcher but with few products to sell - one
forlorn chicken hangs up, mostly it's pork
that's available.

The very charming and helpful woman at the Infotur agency,
Dariana Valdes. She spent a lot of time with us on several visits.

One of the evocative pieces on the ground floor of the Art
Museum - memories of the sugar cane workers.

There was a big exhibit on the sufferings
of Cubans in solitary confinement for long

I loved this colorful imaginative painting - it's the last photo
I got to take as a guide reminded me that photos were forbidden.

A look at a produce market. There is a limited variety of
vegetables available.

Another street vegetable vendor. This one
had bananas - one stalk, very green, And two
of the few squash we saw during our visit.

A typical apartment lobby!

A nursery school having their lunch break.

Santaria practitioners waiting for clients.

I don't think Scott likes my taking his picture,
perhaps he's dying to dig in.

These colorful women are looking for customers for a photo
opportunity - they cuddle up to the men mostly.

The Havana Cathedral, construction was begun by the Jesuits
but completed in 1777 after they were expelled from the
island in 1767. It's a great example of Cuban Baroque
architecture and perhaps the only example with a asymmetrical

I couldn't find the placard for this sculpture
but love it's relaxed attitude.

Another view of Scott, the restaurant and the Santaria
We appreciated the many historic plaques on the walls.
You can appreciate some of the lovely architecture and pedestrian only (and restaurants) streets.
A look at the outdoor exhibit of revolutionary transports 
The dome of the Museo and former Presidential Palace
The imposing marble stairway. We saw very
few elevators anywhere in the city and no
accommodations for handicap access but
unlike other Latin American countries there
are many people around in wheelchairs which
are in good condition.
Vintage cars abound throughout the city and often with
humorous young men inviting you to take a ride.
Scott managed to take one photo during the concert. That's the composer and conductor Martin Palmeri in the dark shirt.

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