A fantastic way to really see the scale of a city is to leave it and see it from another perspective. Havana has 2.2 million people in about 281 square miles which is roughly the same size and population of Chicago. We went up to the Havana Harbor on a beautiful day and were gifted with a beautiful view.
To understand Cuba here is a quick history lesson starting in the 1900s:
1902-1925: After the Spanish-American War Spain ceded Cuba to the US. Cuba boomed with tourists from the US investing in tourism especially with casinos and prostitution. This was during prohibition which makes a lot of sense!
1933-1958: Batista comes into power and the revolution begins.
1959-Present: Fidel Castro rises to power. The CIA trains Cuban refugees to overthrow Castro. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurs. Che Guevara comes into the scene. The Soviets assist Cuba. Cuba becomes Communist. The Soviet collapses and Cuba is working on recovery.
There is a lot more in between but one could see why Cuba has had some turmoil.
Once we were done with our hillside view we were taken through Old Havana. We had the opportunity to stop at a bodega where locals go in to receive their monthly ration. They will go in to receive cigars, rice, sugars, oil, milk (under 7 years old), eggs, potatoes/bananas and matches and the amounts are based on per person per month. An example of a ration is 6 pounds of rice for a month!
Those with a bit more money can go the farmers market and pick up fresh fruits and veggies. I loved the way the lettuce was delivered! The average cost of the rations is about $16/month but remember the average income is only $30/month. The fruits and veggies at the market were not expensive in terms on the US but for someone on an average income, this would be quite a treat.
Next stop was to visit the studio of artist Esterio Segura. With a background in sculpture, Esterio has become equally known for his drawings, paintings, and, more recently, prints. Segura’s compositions are witty and wry combinations of recognizable and iconic images borrowed from mythology, popular imagery, religious art, and art history, particularly from the Counter-Reformation, the Spanish Baroque and the work of Caravaggio. Recurring themes in his work include eroticism, religious rituals, and the use of symbols. Lately, Segura has also incorporated text elements into his works. Text and titles have always been highly important for Segura, who believes that “titles are my thoughts getting concrete,” saying they offer the viewer an entry point into the work.
What is an art tour without another stop for art? We stopped at Fabrica de Arte Cubano which is a great open space to display all types of art. There are bars and places to buy food throughout and at night, this is a hot spot to be. We were there in the middle of the day so I was able to explore and find some art that I enjoyed.
It isn’t always ALL about the art. This is the bartender and our guide. The bartender grabbed my phone and snapped a selfie of all of us. Now it is forever a memory with photo evidence.
Still, we were not done with art for the day. We stopped by a studio that displayed the art of Kadir Lopez. I thought his pieces were very interesting and had a lot to say. I believe art is completely open for you to interpret on your own. The pieces are titled: Star War – V.Putin, Star War-Uncle Sam and Fallen from heaven. I don’t have the title of the last piece.
As if it didn’t seem that our day was long enough we went to La Zorra y el Cuervo for a little jazz. $10 entrance fee includes 2 drinks. It was nice to sit and listen to some great music to end a very long day!