Our first people to people experience was in Cienfuegos. We had the pleasure of listening to a choral group The Cantores Cienfuegos. We were in a fabulous old vaulted plaster ceiling creating just wonderful acoustics.
The performance started with “I wish I Could Die” by Claudio Monteverdi, and included “Oh Shenandoah” and then three Cuban songs. The first with the original title of “Song” and then a folk song” El Manicero”, the Peanut Seller. While Cacahuete is the word for peanut in Spanish the Cubans use the word mani. This song, written by Moses Simons explains the custom of walking up to a large black women in Cuba and yelling mani. Why or what that really means was left to the imagination.
We had a short spell at Museo Cuba Arte in the Los Helechos mountains . This museum was created because much of the artwork that was originally in the local sanatorium needed a place for the public to enjoy it. The building, a 1940s art deco structure housed approximately 64 pieces of art from contemporary Cuban artists.
The most famous of the artists at the gallery was Tomas Sanchez. The top contemporary artists today in Cuba are Jose Villa, Joel Jover and Jose Rodriques Fuster.
When Castro came to power he gave a speech stating to artists that they must move within the movement or give up being artists. In speaking with guides there appears to be a loosening of that dictate and a more free expression is appearing in arts.
Zapata Swamp Park
Another people-to-people experience was Korimakao within the Zapata Swamp Park. Shown around by the director, Yander M. Roche Miralles, it was explained that Korimakao is a co-operative of artists that don’t need to have come from a formal arts education background. They audition and if they make the cut they become part of the family with living quarters on the property. There are presently 125 members of this group.
This group was founded in 1992 and was the brain child of a Commander of the Revolution, Fautino Perez and the actor Manuel Porto. It appears to me that this is much more of a theater group. We were entertained by musicians and dancers, and it appears that should you desire to be a painter or a woodworker you are quickly put to work making sets.
At present Korimakao has a working cultural exchange with a similar group in France so they swap members for one month a year. They are hoping when the US Cuban relations open that they may be able to form a similar exchange.
Here is a short video clip of one of the dances:
The Beatles music was banned in Cuba until the 1980s when Castro decided that John Lennon was a hero. There is a John Lennon Park with John sitting on a bronze bench.
Why the turnaround? “I share his dreams completely. I too am a dreamer who has seen his dreams turn into reality.” – Fidel Castro. When Lennon was harassed by the US government in his later life, Cubans considered him a rebel and therefore a victim, a metaphor for the US Cuban relations?
The eyeglasses of Lennon have been stolen many times, so an older gentleman stands nearby and puts them on when visitors come by.
Art in Cuba has had its ups and downs, there is actually a strong support for the arts, but it runs headlong into lack of funds and cries of elitism. Click here to read an excellent article about the trials and tribulations, or listen to the 7 minute clip here: