Another (very long) day in Cuba
This was my most favorite day. Liz and I went out on our own and we really got to see the real Cuba. We began our day at Rena Perez's home. She spoke to us the first morning giving us a total rundown of Cuba today. She was born in Cooperstown, went to school in Paris and met her husband there. He was in Paris after being exiled in the Batista regime. He was called back after Castro too power in 1959 and she returned with him. They raised their family there. Her husband was essentially the diplomat to Russia for the Cuban Government. She is amazing and it is obvious that she mourns her country daily as she bemoans what was and is. The country is slowly sliding into bankruptcy, the buildings are crumbling, the marketplaces barely exist.
We met Rena at her home and she showed us all the things that she pickles and makes. This is a pretty smart way to keep the products when you don't have any glass jars. The plastic bag is held in the bottom of an old plastic water bottle.
Rena took us first to her local marketplace where you can only buy things in pesos which is the local currency that tourists do not have access to. You can see meat on the left, vegetables on the right.
Rena then took us over to the Mercado. In 1961 this place was booming. It was the market you had to get to at 5am to get the best products. The place was bustling with all types of vendors. Now it is completely destroyed and hanging by a thread. This is a view of the marketplace from a set of stairs I went up. The second floor is inhabitable.
Then we drove over to another area that Rena wanted to show us. We were lucky enough to walk into the Havana Culinary Institute. The President was there too and he gave us some of their cookbooks and we got to talk to the chefs.
I went to see a few artists home while LIz exchanged her tickets. She needed to get back earlier. This artist is Sandra Ramos. She is very profliic and has a NY gallery. She is allowed to travel freely and a large chunk of her sales go to the Government but that is the exchange for her life in Cuba. Her sister showed us her work that hangs throughout their home. Her first series was around suitcases as in you can't take it all with you.
I bought this piece called the land of the blind. She uses this one elementary school girl who almost represents Alice in Wonderland in all of her pieces. As this girl looks to the future, salutes the flag and wonders about life in Cuba in most of her work.
Then he took us to a Government shopping mall. The place was packed. Inside were stores that sold anything from boxes of tvs and blenders to shampoo and clothes. This is all through ration books or pesos.
A real glimpse into the underbelly of Cuba.