The most prominent impression made on me by Cuba was that of community. The relationships between people, as well as their connection to Cuba, was ethereal, yet incredibly distinct. As a tourist, with no connection to the history of Cuba, I lack the vocabulary to describe the energy that is unique to this island. But Cubans have taken the indescribable and made it tangible through street art projects.
The wonderful thing about art is that it can evoke feelings without any need for comprehension. The feelings behind the community art projects in Havana are sometimes complicated and subtle, but one thing’s for sure – the art is a living demonstration of the spirit and resilience of the people. (None of the places mentioned here charges an admission fee, but donations are happily accepted. Even better, support artists by purchasing their art!)
3 Fun Places to Interact with Street Art in Havana
Referred to simply as Fuster by the locals, this project is exactly how I picture my dream home (well, one of my dream homes anyway). If you like Gaudi’s mosaic work in Barcelona, you will love Fusterlandia too. This place is like Park Güell meets Burning Man. The project began with one person, José Fuster, who was inspired by Gaudi, Brâncuși, Picasso, Gauguin and Wifredo Lam to create whimsically beautiful art for everyone. Fuster started his project by tiling his own house located in the Jaimanitas neighbourhood, but afterwards began asking others in the neighbourhood if he could work on their houses as well. Today, the mosaic work can be found on houses, offices, and bus stops. As you walk around the neighbourhood, you will feel like you’ve stepped into a joyful fantasyland. My only regret is that I did not pack my tutu…
Callejón de Hamel
Easy to get to right in the heart of Havana, this small alley is packed with all sorts of curiosities. There are touts at either end of the alley, and throughout, offering their services as guides and selling CDs to ‘help the children.’ Tip as you see fit if you accept a guide and be firm about turning down unwanted help. On Sundays at noon, this place gets packed with people dancing the rumba to energetic drum beats. The artwork itself is a collection of murals and found-art sculptures brought to fruition by artist Salvador Gonzáles Escalona.
We were fortunate that the hostess at our apartment was related to Ernesto Quirch Paz, one of the people who started Muraleando and the Tower project. Ernesto gave us a private tour of the water tower which has been converted into a community space for artists – old and young. Ernesto is full of passion for the project and it’s easy to understand why. When the community decided to clean up their neighbourhood, the water tower was buried under a mountain of trash. Everyone in the community came together to clean the area out and everything was done without funding from the government (although the government did say they could have the abandoned water tower). Sculptures and other found object art pieces were created from anything that was salvageable. The Tower also features a stage for community performances. In addition, the neighbourhood has been painted with several murals composed by the residents of the area. Manuel (Manolo) Díaz Baldrich is another one of the founders of the Muraleando project and parallels the growth of the project to the spiritual growth of the community. Muraleando is a shining example of what people can accomplish together and the power we have to make changes in how we live our lives.
Discover more things to do in Havana here.
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