Things like this still happen in Havana
The thing about Cuba is all the streets are so…Cuban. Roaming about, I often feel like large cities belong to the country of Citylandia, removed from the nations that surround them, but Havana? Havana is Havana, pure and simple and fragrant and musical and crumbly in the most beautiful way imaginable. To be honest, it’s rather preposterous, how Cuban la Habana is.
A piece of that (shall we call it Cubanity?) is that prime locations in city centers have not been monopolized by the monied class, especially not the international set of extra-home owners who are rarely even there (no offense, London) or chain-stores that feed without fertilizing. So along the Prado you find abuelas and abuelos, tio and tia live down near Obispo, and lining the malecon…well, those buildings are too salt-devoured to support much accommodation at the moment, but the point stands. It was on one of these streets in Havana, Cubanic in every unconscious detail, that we stepped into an average-looking house and found the studio of an internationally renowned artist.
Was he pretentious? Distant, too busy to talk, or irritated by our distraction? Not remotely. He was friends. For years with our organizer, and now with us as well. We mused about his studio and gathered around his table, having a shockingly normal conversation that just happened to touch on art, culture, and what it means to be Cuba.
Of course, we’re not the only outfit down there. Not by a long shot. Just a couple days ago I got an email from The Nation Magazine advertising their trip, which runs at nearly the same time as ours. Now, I love The Nation, and I’m sure they’ll have a great time, but I couldn’t help noticing that their trip doesn’t seem as connected as ours is. And in case you were wondering, theirs is substantially more expensive, for less days.
I don’t mean this to be a salespitch. My goal was to tell you more about that artist, but I’m overflowing with gratitude that I get to go back down there with this group, deeply honored at getting to lead it, and eager to see who is coming with me.