Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Lazy Girl Goes to Cuba: Part Two

La Arquitectura Cubana
I was on an Art and Architecture tour of Cuba sponsored by the Katonah Museum of Art. I feasted my eyes on buildings from the Spanish Colonial era, to the 20s and 30's, to Art Deco, Soviet style and modern edifices.

Since Cuba has had no money for rebuilding or renovation for many years many buildings are crumbling or in severe disrepair. Cubans can thank the United States for their poverty, because we have had an embargo in place, but also they can thank the idealism of Fidel Castro and the break up of their supporter, the Soviet Union in the 90s. Communism did not work in Cuba. It just made people poor and took away their rights.

Now we hope that there will be a new day dawning in Cuba. President Obama will visit in March. Capitalism will begin to make inroads -- albeit with all its attendant evils -- but also with good things, among them the chance for a better life and personal freedom. A Cuban man approached my sister, Jeanne, in the street and said, " Tell Obama to come. We want "The Change".

Meanwhile, if you love quirky architecture, never mind the economy lesson and go to Cuba to drive and walk around, and you will see unfettered creativity in color and form.
Sky over Havana.
Photo by Jeanne Markel
 On our first day in Havana, we visited  the
tiny village of San Francisco de Paula,
where Hemingway lived for 20 years on the hilltop,
in his house Finca La Vigia.
This is one of the diminutive
bungalows on the road up to
the Hemingway house.
Hemingway took an interest in the village dwellers,
and often helped them out with small
Jeanne Markel at Finca La Vigia, which
means "Lookout House".
Hemingway did not want to buy the house
because it was too far from the
bars of Havana, but his wife
 Cuba has begun to restore some of  Havana's
fine old homes. This is one in the square of
the Plaza de la Catedral.
 An impressive sculpture in
the Plaza de la Catedral.
 There are more tourists in the restored squares.
Note the painted dogs.
We have similar art projects in our cities.
I have seen painted cows here.
 More beautiful restoration work.
In the Plaza de la Catedral,
a woman selling peanuts chose the most
handsome man, Chris Wedge, and
sung a love song to him.
One could do an entire photo essay
on the laundry of Havana.
In the restored areas, there
is a prohibition against hanging out your
 Doors were often open and one
could peer in at the stairways.
 Modern buildings, but always with color.

 A colorful building with a
cafe on the first floor.
 An aqua hacienda look.
 Eccentrically modern building.
Jolt of color with red door, and geometric structures
on the railing.
 The modernist, constructivist buildings of 
Havana sung to me, particularly when they
used color in this inventive way.
 Color and grill work
 Apartment buildings
 Could be a school with a school bus.
 A monument to Jose Marti,
the Cuban national hero.
It's big.
 Ellsworth Kelly could have 
designed these gates.
A street in Havana.
 No parqeo.
Don't even think of parking here.
Same as in New York City.
Love the railings.

 A glimpse of an interior stairway.
A splendid gate.

Nos vermos pronto amigo!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Lazy Girl Goes to Cuba: Part One

Viva La Cuba!
I have just returned from a thrilling adventure in Cuba. I traveled to Cuba under a General License issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Division of Foreign Assets Control. In the United States, there are 12 sanctioned reasons to travel to Cuba. My way was a People to People educational exchange program sponsored by Museum Travel Alliance.

These travel restraints were imposed on Americans around 1960 when the United States put an embargo on exports to Cuba. In 1958, Fidel Castro had engineered an overthrow of the American-supported government of Batista, and our hated foe, Communism, was imposed on Cuba.

The history is complicated, and I do not pretend to know anything except the most sketchy outline about it. But you cannot travel to Cuba and remain ignorant of the political and social circumstances of the country.
Carol on the roof terrace of the
Hotel Parque Central in Havana,
with the Bacardi building behind.
Photo by Jeanne Markel
Chris Wedge, Carol Markel and Jeanne Markel
in a vintage car in Havana.

I traveled with a group of 32 people, plus a Cuban guide, on a tour sponsored by the Katonah Museum of Art. Our tour focused on the art and architecture of Havana, Matanzas and Varadero. My sister, Jeanne, and her husband, Chris, were also on the trip.

In 2014, President Obama and Raul Castro, re-established diplomatic ties between their two countries. The Cuban Embassy opened in Washington, and in March 2016, Secretary of State, John Kerry, and possibly, President Obama, will go to Cuba to formally open the U.S. Embassy.
Cuban soldiers raise the Cuban flag in Washington, July 2015.
Yes, Obama re-established relations in 2014, but
Jimmy Carter visited Cuba as early as 2002,
criticizing the embargo.
Left to right, President Jimmy Carter, Rosalynn Carter and Fidel Castro.

Americans in Cars Getting Rum 
From the moment you arrive in Havana, you feel as if you are
on a movie set. And one of the most exciting sights are the  vintage
cars all over the streets, driven by Cubans and used as taxis.
Photo by Jeanne Markel
This symbol of capitalism survived the revolution.
Photo by Jeanne Markel
 At a little market outside the home
of Ernest Hemingway where he lived for 20 years.
Cubans are proud of their cars
and have taken meticulous care of them.

 Everyone loves riding in these cars.
You are like a kid again.
Seen from our tour bus window.

Yes, it's an Edsel.
 For our Farewell Dinner our tour had
arranged for us to ride in a fleet of vintage taxis 
to our paladar (a Cuban restaurant).
Leaving from the Parque Central we
caused a sensation with a
symphony of horn honking.
Our drivers took a grand loop on the seaside Malecon boulevard
before arriving at our destination.

Te veo pronto!
More to Come.