Friday, November 20, 2015

Cuba - part 10 (Companion tour of arts and dining)


Our first destination in these classic cars was Muraleando. Fifteen years ago someone had the vision to turn a dump into a place where children could go and learn crafts. Anyone who knows my artist daughter knows this cause is near to my heart. I also love the idea they turn trash into treasures.

Prior to the Casa Cultural Comunitaria moving in the place was a dump. Literally. They got rid of the trash. They cleaned out the 1911 water tank (which had been abandoned in the 1960s) and did a massive clean up transforming the place from a jungle into a place of beauty and art.

All this was happening in the midst of what the Cubans call the "special period," or as our art museum docent called the "adorable period." A time during the 1990s when the collapse of the Soviet Union was happening while the trade embargo with the United States was tightening. To say things were not good economically for the Cubans would be a gross understatement. The word Muraleando literally means "mural-building," they called it that to change the "me first" mentality during the "special period" into a community mentality.

They took nice care of us during our visit, starting with giving us a drink of guava juice and playing music for us (this time the CD was for sale). I got up and danced with them. I'm just hoping no one from the group has posted my dancing on YouTube! My only disappointment was there were no children working on art while we were there (our trip took place on a Sunday when they were not in school). 

They currently have about 250 children involved with programs. A sort of built it and they will come success story. There are other groups like this throughout Cuba. In 2014 this one won a national award for their work.

This stop helped me with a problem I was having ... I had not found any souvenirs. What I had seen (like the hat in my picture) was found all over the place. I wanted unique souvenirs. Ones made in Cuba. 

My wish list was simple: a small piece of art, something for Ashley, and music for Don. I should have taken pictures inside the water tank. There were a number of artists selling their wares (and those of their friends). Half of the money went to the artist and half to the art community. They provide art classes to the students for free. Their prices were reasonable. I saw no reason to haggle.

Too lazy to take another picture. The hat and "Coke" can were not from here.
We returned to our classic cars (same ones) and went to lunch at a local organic farm. It was fun seeing the countryside from the back of a classic car. Il Divino is rated as one of the best places to eat in the area. (click on the link about Il Divino, I can't say it better). Our visit started with some cold juice none of us could identify that they offered to liven up with some rum (I passed). Even though it had ice cubes in it, I drank it and was fine. (I did brush my teeth with bottled water and felt wasteful.)

 Some of the runners joined their families at the restaurant. They took a cab to get there. Fortunately we had just enough room in the cars for them to squeeze back with us to the hotel.

After taking our order (we had a choice of lamb, some kind of fish, or lasagna (I went with the lamb)) we were given a tour of the farm. As I am a little familiar with organic farming it felt like a repeat of what I have learned. I did learn 19 years ago when the farm started (during the "special period") the area had been incredibly swampy when they started because of the underground river. Now it just looks lush. They recovered 120 species of fruit trees since the Revolution.

They have non-stinging bees who pollinate the area. The honey from these bees is used to cure glaucoma and other infections.
Organic raised bed gardening

Children with their art in the community center on the property
Yoandra Farm feels like it is a million miles away from Havana, but technically it is two suburbs away and still has a Havana mailing address. 

Lunch was phenomenal. All of the vegetables and fruits came from the farm. As my dad says "you can taste the dirt on it." That night when we went out to the group's farewell dinner (mind you, I still hadn't met most of the people on our trip) the runners were raving about the food. guys really missed out on some fantastic food.

Guava with cheese for dessert -- so refreshing

Back to the hotel for my final two adventures.

All pictures can be found HERE


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