This photo was taken of Eliot and me October, 2013 in Cuba. It seems so appropriate for today. We were visiting the home of Jose Rodriguez Fuster, a Cuban artist who produces ceramics, paintings, drawings, engravings, and graphic designs.
I fell in love with his work. Please watch the videos because it will show you what he did to rebuild the fishing town of Jaimanitas, just outside of Havana. He turned the entire town into a huge public art exhibition. He is considered as great as Gaudi.
I would go back to Cuba over and over just to be in the company of Fuster’s work.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
After today, I will get back to talking about tech. Before I do, I have to tell you about a fantasyland we walked into in the fishing town of Jaimanitas, just on the outskirts of Havana. Our tour guide told us he wanted us to see the works of José Rodríguez Fuster, who is my age, born in August 1946, in Villa Clara, Cuba. Fuster is an artist specializing in ceramics, painting, drawing, engraving, and graphic design.
Everyone in my travel group couldn’t believe their eyes when we entered Jaimanitas, Fuster’s hometown. He turned it into a unique work of public art. It took him over ten years to rebuild and decorate the houses with ornate murals and domes to suit the personality of all the neighbors. Fuster even installed a chess park with giant boards and tables. Watch Fuster’s video.
We might not know him in the United States, but Fuster’s art is right up there with Gaudi in Barcelona or Brâncuși in the Romanian city of Targu Jiu. His work makes you happy. You don’t have to love contemporary art to love Fuster. You only have to love life.
Our Cuban tour guide warned us upon arrival last Tuesday that no one in Cuba ever heard of Desi Arnaz, or his alter ego Ricky Ricardo. Arnaz left Cuba in 1934 and became famous in the United States a decade later. That somewhat disappointing piece of information was one of many misconceptions Americans have about Cuba.
The Chevy that the “I Love Lucy” show made so famous in the ’50s is one of an estimated 60,000 pre-1960 American cars now in use in Cuba. Other than some newer models infiltrating from Europe and South America, Cuba looks like a movie set with 50-year-old Chryslers, Plymouths, and Chevys lining the streets. Most of them have been repaired with Asian parts. Don’t look too closely. They are being held together in creative makeshift ways.
Americans believe that Cubans love old American cars. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cubans love new American cars, but they can’t get their hands on them. Shortly after the 1959 revolution, American automobile manufacturers were forced to stop selling to Cuba in order to conform to the embargo established by the United States. It has never been lifted.
The vintages cars, known as cacharros (translation: pieces of junk), sell in Cuba for around $10,000. You are basically buying a piece of tin for that money because the inner workings all have to be repaired. Our tour guides arranged transportation for us a few times in these precious beauties. Fortunately, a government agency or a private concern reconditioned the ones we rode in. They still lacked the safety and stability we are used to.
I am writing this to you on Monday night. It will get posted Tuesday and most of you won’t read it until Wednesday. Eliot and I went out with five members of our Cuba-bound group tonight for dinner before all twenty of us meet at the plane at 6 am Tuesday morning.
This fancy French restaurant in South Beach, Florida, was selected because everyone heard that the food in Cuba is awful. We chowed down.
Several of us admitted that we packed lots of snacks. Eliot packed sixty bars of Medifast, so we are totally covered. I am willing to bet that Eliot and I will love the food. We were also told that no matter how much we dress down, the Cubans will know we are tourists. I am not sure what that means, but I’m planning to wear my typical black and gray attire.
Of course, the discussions at dinner focused on no cell or Internet activity for the next six days. That is not stopping any of us from bringing our gear. Everyone wants their camera rolls with them so they can sneak peeks of their grandchildren and pets. It was also interesting to hear how some folks had loaded their tablets with movies while others had downloaded books to read.
I am not exactly sure when they think we will have any time. The agenda is jam-packed with art hunts, visits to art studios, art lectures, and visits to the homes of artists. The entire tour was put together by an art organization from Provincetown, Massachusetts, affectionally known as P-town.
I plan to take a lot of pictures on my iPhone, so at the first sign of a wireless connection, watch out!
Till then . . .