Monday, January 16, 2012


January 10

We didn't have to check out of our hotel until 1 PM so four of us had time to take a taxi to Hemingway's estate, Finca Vigia, "Overlook Farm," in the fishing village of Cojimar, where he lived from 1939 to 1950. 

 Hemingway's typewriter...

Depart Havana for Miami on Delta Charter Flight operated by Marazul.

Fantastic trip and memories, thank you Fallbrook School of Arts and Cuba Cultural Travel!


January 9

Christopher Colon Cemetery covers 125 acres, nearly 7% of the city of Havana. One of the three largest cemeteries in the world and among Cuba's most visited sites. Our guide was not only knowledgeable, but also very entertaining. 
A 75-foot high monument to the firefighters who lost their lives to the great fire of May 17, 1890.

Our guide is pointing out the most visited tomb in the cemetery; that of Amelia Goyre de la Hoz, who was eight months pregnant when she died in 1901 at age 24.  She is known as La Milagrosa, or the "Miraculous One," because according to local lore, when she was buried her child was placed at her feet.  Years later, her body was exhumed, and legend has it that the child was found nestled in her arms.  The faithful believe that La Milagrosa looks after them and answers prayers. At her tomb, always adorned with flowers, visitors seeking La Milagrosa's aid perform a ritual by touching the tomb three times, walking around it, while never turning their back to the crypt after making a solemn request.
The principal materials used in the endless pantheons, chapels and vaults are Carrara marble, granite and brass--though Cuban marble was also used.    With more than 800,000 graves, space at the Colon Cemetery is currently at a premium and so after three years the remains are removed from their tombs, boxed, and placed in a storage building.

Our next visit was the Centro Pro Danza.  Founded by Laura Alonso, this dance school serves 850 students. The specialized teaching department was created in 1985 to satisfy the demands for technical and artistic assistance which the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. One of the center's most important programs is Cuballet--a comprehensive and intensive four-five week course, during which the Pro Danza system is applied.

Think Gaudi, Niki de Saint phalle--our next visit was the home of artist Jose Fuster.  Fuster has made a major contribution to rebuilding and decorating the fishing town of Jaimanitas in the outskirts of Havana where he lives.  Jaimanitas is now a unique work of public art where Fuster has decorated over 80 houses with colorful ornate murals and domes--and it is on-going--they were working on new installations while we were there.

A typical Cuban meal is: main course--white rice, black beans, chicken, pork, or fish; salad--shredded cabbage, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers; dessert--flan, ice cream, or pureed fruit.  We had some form of this meal every day we were there.  Depending on the spices used and the method of cooking some meals were better than others, but every meal tasted good.

Tour of Western Havana, including Club Havana, which once was the prestigious Havana Biltmore Yacht & Country Club.  Then a stop in Miramar to see a "model of the city," an intricate miniature replica of Havana.

Not busy in the piano bar today, the help was watching Avatar.

Farewell Dinner at El Gijones.


January 8
Our day started with a lecture by Rafael M. Hernandez, historian, author and editor of Temas, a Cuban quarterly that focuses on social sciences and humanities. The topic of his talk was on the eight key socio/economic issues Cubans are, or should be, concerned with and how those issues might be solved (will add a link later).

After the lecture we toured the Museum of Cuban Contemporary Art, led by curator Nelson Herrera.  Our tour focused on the decades from the '50s through present day.  You can see many similarities between Cuban and American art trends, particularly from the abstract expressionist period on. Conceptual & three dimensional art is very strong.  There doesn't appear to be art censorship--social/political themes dominated their contemporary art, just as it does in the U.S.  If you are interested in reading more about the history of Cuban art:

Photos were not allowed inside the museum. This structure, made with espresso pots, was in the courtyard of the Museum of Contemporary Cuban Art

Lunch at La Barraca, overlooking the sea, at the historic Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Following lunch we visited several artists' studios located in the Vedado neighborhood:  Brothers, Kelvin & Kadir Lopez; The Merger, a collaborative art group; and the studio of Sara Alonso, curator and art historian, who shares space with Adrian Fernandez, Alex Hernandez, Frank Mujica and Maria Cienfuegos; cocktail reception at the eclectic home of collector/curator, Milagros Borges. 

Dinner and flamenco at Meson de la Flota

Sunday, January 15, 2012


January 7 - Vinales Valley

Our first visit was a small country town where Mario Pelegrin has created a community project dedicated to local children; a home for amateur art programs.  In this beautiful environment, students are able to learn and practice music, dance, theater, and art.

Mario Pelegrin and our tour guide, Ozmeen.

Our next stop was a tobacco farm privately owned by the Ramirez family. Everywhere you look, you see tobaccco fields scattered with giant limestone outcrops. The tranquility of this valley and the friendliness of the local people are as enchanting as the scenery.

Paco's son with an antique cigar press, used by his family for over a hundred years.  He hand rolled the cigar on the table. Twenty cigars for about $20. Cigars are not allowed to be brought back into the U.S., but then no one in the group had their baggage checked returning to Miami.

Where the tobacco is dried
Part of the Ramiriz family...

Delicious, fresh pineapple, mango puree w/cheese, and Cuba's wonderful espresso w/ leche

Jane, capturing the Vinales Valley; with a young admirer