Saturday, January 14, 2012


Friday, January 6

We visited a state funded Maternity Home, in a newly renovated area of Havana. 

Our next stop was the Angela Landa Elementary School.

Lunch at La Tabema, a popular, locals and tourists, club with a live band playing salsa music. 

After lunch, we visited the Iglesia de la Merced - Church of Mercy, dating back to 1637.  From the church, we walked to the huge Arts and crafts market. 

We then took the bus to Callejon de Hamel, a neighborhood in Cayo Hueso, Central Havana, with a strong following of Santeria.  "The walls and homes display colorful murals depicting aspects of Santeria.  The Callejon de Hamel is a public temple, open to everybody, which celebrates the presence of African culture in Cuba.  The stated goal is to embrace all Caribbean and American people of African heritage, while celebrating the equality and oneness of all members of the human race."  We met with the community organizer and artist, Salvador Gonzales

A perfect ending to a perfect day--a performance of The Nutcracker by the National Ballet of Cuba in the Garcia Lorca Theatre (The Grand Theatre of Havana). 

Friday, January 13, 2012


January 5, 2012

Day two starts out with Cuban architect and professor, Maria Elena Martin, as our guide for an "architecture and historical site" tour.

The National Theater or Great Theater of Havana where the Cuban National Ballet & opera perform. Neo-Baroque facade of the building designed by Belgian architect Paul Belau, and decorated by other international sculptors, which can be seen in its four sides covering a whole block. 

The National Capitol, now the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment
Nationa Hotel--bullet holes from the revolution
Cafe in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana
Tour guide, Maria Elena Martin, on left; Jane LaFazio, "journaling" (center); Sharon on right 
Beautiful terrazzo work at entrance way of many of the old buildings
Artist's initials
Jose Marti Statue/Memorial
Part of the National Theater newly restored and not yet open.
Photo taken in the Cuban National Museum (before finding out photos were not allowed) A glimpse of the beautiful stained glass domed skylight...
Enjoying a cappuccino...

View from the rooftop of our hotel...

A very special visit to a Cuban Flamenco dance school. 

Lunch at Dona Eutimia, delicious Cuban food prepared in a paladar--a privately owned restaurant in a home setting.

Visual Arts--"Since the revolution, there has been an aggressive program of cultural reforms that has tried to enhance and promote artistic expression in Cuba.  The creation of various artistic institutes and councils, and the establishment of the National Art Schools in Cubanacan, outside Havana, have all served to promote and train new artists.  Graphic arts, often in the form of propaganda posters and billboards, have also flourished under the current government.  Painting is a field in which Cuban artists have managed to retain a fair degree of freedom of expression, in spite of the difficulties involved.  The contemporary generation of Cuban artists has developed diverse and rich styles.  Many with strong anti-establishment undertones."  (Cuban Cultural Travel Tours Itinerary) 

We visited the Wilfredo Lam Center of Contemporary Art, a cultural institution dedicated to the study, research and promotion of contemporary and visual art. 

Our next visit was the Taller de Grafica Experimental, a studio, school, and an art institution that preserves and develops the sophisticated art of print-making.  We were able to watch students in the process of making lino-cuts, etchings on metal and plexi-glass, calligraphs, and mono prints.  The school had several very old German printing presses.  Student artwork was on display and available for purchase in the gallery.

After the graphic arts school, we walked to the Museum of the City located in one of the most important historical buildings of Colonial Cuba.  This building was the House of Government and the Municipal Palace during Spanish domination.  Roccoco or "Late Baroque" style throughout.

Dinner at Atelier.

After dinner we enjoyed the dance performance of "Besame Mucho" in the iconic Copa Room, located in the historical Riviera Hotel; another example of going back in time (untouched 1950s decor).

Thursday, January 12, 2012

CUBA -- Impressions and Images

January 4 - 10, 2012
A Cuba Cultural Travel Tour,
Offered by the Fallbrook School of Arts,

January 4

 Billboard outside the Havana airport...

Drive from the airport to ...

Orientation walking tour of  Havana Vieja before checking into our hotel room...

My first impression was one of "contrasts;" particularly in architectural styles. Havana's old center, Havana Viejas, retains an interesting mix of Baroque and Neoclassical monuments, but you also see art deco, art nouveau, eclectic, and modern throughout Havana.  In every district of Havana you will see blocks and blocks of private houses, mansions really, with arcades, balconies wrought-iron gates and internal couryards--all in some form of deterioration. 

Many of Old Havana's finest buildings have been converted into museums, and there are churches, palaces, castles, revolutionary monuments and markets to visit; however, the renovations are only slowly extending to residential areas. 


Street vendor selling hand wrapped cones of a coconut/ginger mixture

Parque Central with a statue of Havana's greatest hero, Jose Marti

The old cars with yellow license plates are taxis
Hotel Plaza
Carriage, taxi & pedicab? available for tourists to get around
($10-$50 cuc/pesos or the cuban tourist's currency)
Our hotel, Hotel Parque Central

Later in the afternoon, another walking tour of the poorest section of Havana, 

Dinner at Dona Carmela, followed by the cannon ceremony at La Cabana Fortress

January 5, Walking tour of Havana's exquisite architecture guided by Cuban architect and professor,  Maria Elena Martin