Experiencing Cuba’s culture: Art, art and more art

December 17, 2013 2 Comments

Editor’s Note: The Culver-Stockton College group is back from their Cuba trip, but we’re still bringing you updates and photos on this blog because Jen Roberts was unable to provide daily updates during the last part of the trip due to lack of Internet access. This is her post from Dec. 9:

C-SC's Sean Mitchell discovers the artwork at Regla's Municipal Museum.

C-SC’s Sean Mitchell discovers the artwork at Regla’s Municipal Museum.

Art, art and more art. During the last week, students experienced the amazing arts of Cuba. Everywhere we went in Havana, we saw beautiful art work. There are artists in the streets everywhere, creating, selling and showing off their beautiful work. After the revolution in the 1950s, many artists and wealthy people left the country. To supplement the culture, Fidel Castro decided to offer anyone who wanted to study art the opportunity to live in the mansions that were left behind. This provided unique opportunities for young aspiring Cubans.

On Monday, Dec. 9, we started the day by taking a ferry to the municipality of Regla. This is where Africans, and later Asians, first stepped off the boats when immigrating to or being sold in Cuba. Students walked their path from the dock up to the Catholic church that was their first stop. The church was stunning, and filled with people coming to pray before heading off to their busy days.

Next we toured the Regla’s municipal museum to learn about the Santeria and other religions practiced by the Afro-Cubans. Santeria is a religion that blends Yorὑba, a religion brought to Cuba by West Africans, with Roman Catholicism. The museum also houses the largest collection of Afro-Cuban art.

Next we went to the home of Jose Fuster, Cuba’s most famous artist.

Students participate in a tour of the home of Jose Fuster, Cuba's most famous artist.

Students participate in a tour of the home of Jose Fuster, Cuba’s most famous artist.

Fuster’s home is a living art work in itself. He has started an initiative to help the people around him improve their homes with tile artwork. We toured his home and then dined on lobster, fish, beans and rice. After seeing how the people of Cuba live, the students are very aware that this was a meal fit for kings. We felt very humble to be treated so well by Jose.

Next we went to the home Yamilis and Jacqueline Brito, two sisters who are also famous Cuban artists. One of the sisters is a painter and the other does printed press art. Their home is covered in antiques, some dating back to the 1600s.

The group visited Yamilis and Jacqueline Brito's home, sisters who are artists.

The group visited Yamilis and Jacqueline Brito’s home, sisters who are artists.

After that we headed back to the hotel, where the students had a discussion of their thought of Cuba so far. The most common thing I heard was students were extremely influenced by the lack of technology, and surprisingly not in a bad way! They have noticed how much they bury themselves in television, video games, Internet and text messages. All seemed to have an awakening that technology isn’t as fulfilling as personal interaction with others, something that happens all day, every day in the Cuban society. Most students also felt very affected by the upbeat, positive attitude of the Cuban people, even with the extreme poverty.

“They have nothing and yet are so loving and happy,” said Lisa Button. “I wonder if we are truly the unfortunate ones.”

We went to dinner at Sloppy Joes, a restaurant that serves American food. There the students had hamburgers, sloppy joes and Cuban sandwiches. The restaurant’s name was very deceiving, because it was an extremely fancy establishment.

After dinner we went back to the square in Old Havana, where we were led to a rooftop apartment for our Cuban dance lesson.

C-SC student Lina Schiel-Madsen, right foreground, takes in a Cuban dance lesson with fellow students.

C-SC student Lina Schiel-Madsen, right foreground, takes in a Cuban dance lesson with fellow students.

Students were taught how to do the Cha Cha, the Rumba and the Salsa. At the end, our own Craig Bastert was invited up to perform the traditional couples dance.

Once we felt like we had our Cuban moves down, we headed off to the Fox and the Raven where we enjoyed live jazz music. There the men smoked cigars and the ladies sipped on daiquiris. The Cuban spirit has definitely infiltrated us all.

Students attend class on the patio of the Hotel el Presidente.

Students attend class on the patio of the Hotel el Presidente.

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  1. Deborah Owen says:

    Glad to know you are back safe and sound. Thank you again for the photos and articles!

  2. Jodi Birkmann says:

    Wow! You really have a wonderful way of sharing your experience in an educational and personal way. You are really fortunate that you got to experience Cuba so intently. Can you imagine an American artist inviting you into their home and feeding a bunch of college students a gourmet meal? I want to visit Cuba now!

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