Havana, Cuba

Dec 08, 2017 - Harmony V


This morning a group of us visited the Fine Arts Museum, Museo de Bellas Artes. We viewed a collection that spanned the period from the 1950s through the 1980. Our museum guide Omar explained visual references which we saw in the artworks to Cuban issues of the times – politics, religion, race, gender roles and social struggles. The art was impressive, and it was very rewarding to learn so much about Cuban culture while viewing many of its iconic paintings.

Then we visited the headquarters of OnCuba Magazine, an enterprise founded 5 years ago to encourage cultural exchange between Cuba and the United States.  This publication is unique – owned by a Cuban American businessman, with no connection to the Cuban government.  The editor and communications director sat down and met with us – they are passionate, intelligent professionals who are pushing hard for changes, and helping to create more open journalism in Cuba.

Another option we had this morning was to visit two organic farms on the outskirts of Havana.  Lack of access to pesticides and fertilizers has forced Cubans to innovate and become more efficient at organic farming. We visited both a small family farm and an organic farming cooperative, and we learned how they are use organic fertilizers from cattle and worms, natural pest control and crop rotation for more efficient and healthy food production in Cuba.

Lunch was at Casa Abel, a restaurant which was started by the former director of the cigar factory we visited yesterday.  Following lunch, we were treated to a performance by the Habana Compas Dance Company. A colorful stage was the setting for inventive and playful percussion and choreography – it was a delight for the eyes and ears!

In the late afternoon, we had free time to walk in Havana, relax, or have a private tour of the Hotel Nacional, before going to Hotel Parque Central for dinner.  On the rooftop terrace we sipped cocktails, as Grammy-winning band El Septeto Nacional performed for our group. After dinner there was more music, and dancing to traditional Cuban son music.  We’ve had a wonderfully full day, meeting with Cuban people, learning about their lives today, and enjoying a variety of their arts.

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About the Author

Berit Solstad

Naturalist

Berit grew up on the rocky shores of Marblehead, Massachusetts. In the tidal cove behind her family’s home she found horseshoe crabs, eels, and feeding frenzies of fishes and birds. Low tides exposed clam flats, crabs, mussels, and snails. She explored this marine environment through changing tides and seasons, nurturing a love of natural history and marine biology.

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