Sunday, 23 December 2012


I arrive into Cuba, late in the afternoon, on a rainy November winter’s day with heavy clouds up above.  This must be my 13th time in Cuba, but I feel a bit apprehensive, maybe because I haven’t been back for over 1 year and a half.  A year and a half might not seem that long, but it feels like an eternity for me.  Since meeting the family in 2006 I had been back quite regularly, but then I was based in Central America, only an hour or so by plane and a couple of hundred dollars air-fare.  Things have changed; I moved to Uruguay, friends in Havana were absent, now living in other countries, new acquaintances made over the internet; I was about to meet in person for the first time.  

I was staying in a Casa in Havana Centro, as per usual the streets were bustling with people going about their daily business.  As I made my way down Calle Neptuno towards Prado, weaving myself around other people, avoiding the puddles on the street and dodging oncoming traffic, I noticed that there were more street vendors selling fruit ‘n’ veg. and new privately owned businesses popping up all over the city.  It wasn’t my first winter in Cuba but somehow Havana looked grey to me for probably the first time, which took me by surprise.  Even with all its complications and issues, I had always viewed Cuba through my own personal set of rose coloured glasses and I wondered to myself ‘has the magical spell cast over me by Cuba been broken?’ 

When I think of Cuba I always think of my friends in Trinidad, spending time with the family, strolling around the streets of Trinidad, nights out at Casa de la Trova, and undoubtedly lovely sunny days, so I was keen to get the next possible transfer out of the city.  It was after 6pm when I got to the Cubatur bureau at Hotel Inglaterra and I wasn’t pleased when I was abruptly told that the Transtur was fully booked.  That’s never happened before!

If there is one thing I have learned from my experiences in Cuba, it’s that if you need something done always ask your casa, they always seem to know a man that can.  So I phoned my friend in Trinidad and asked if she knew of any transfers returning to Trinidad the following day, she said she would find out.  Convinced I would be on the 8am Viazul bus to Trinidad, I started to make the necessary arrangements for the following day.  However, after my shower there was a knock on my door.  ‘Was it a telephone call for me?’ My friend must have worked her magic, it was Roberto, ‘Who is Roberto?  How did he get my number?’  He offers me a ride to Trinidad the next day, leaving at 4.30am.  ‘Que, what time?????’  It didn’t take me long to decide, when I realised I would be in Trinidad by breakfast time, I jumped at the chance to avoid the freezing cold Viazul bus and take the ride to Trinidad.  I couldn’t have planned it better, even if I had tried, somehow whenever I am in Cuba everything eventually falls into place!  

After my various telephone conversations that evening, I start to think, ‘how curious, who is this Roberto and why is he travelling to Trinidad so early in the morning?’  The next morning, waiting by the door unsure of what to expect, apart from a white Jeep, I finally meet Roberto, he is a journalist travelling to Trinidad for work.  It turns out to be an interesting journey, intellectual conversations at the crack of dawn, how he ended up in Cuba and I in Uruguay.  It never fails to impress me, the people I meet in Cuba always fascinate me and I remember this is one of the reasons why I am drawn to Cuba and what makes each of my experiences so unique.  

As the sun started to emerge our conversation was momentarily cast aside.  I noticed the mist hovering at ground level in the fields and then the sun appeared in the horizon and rose over the carretera and it reminded me, que lindo es Cuba!   

As we approached Trinidad, the same feeling of joy that I always feel at this point of the journey wells up inside me.  We arrived into Trinidad safe and sound by 8.30am and I realised that the spell hadn’t been broken, I was finally in Trinidad.  The door to the Casa appeared to be closed but it was on the hook and was left open in anticipation for my arrival.  It seemed very quiet inside but I walked into the house as if I belonged, Fortuna the family dog, was the first to greet me, followed by the children and then my gorgeous friends, Misleydis & Gustavo.

I realise this is why I always long to return to Cuba; to see my amazing friends in Trinidad.  It feels like home to me.  I look forward to making my first trip out onto the streets of Trinidad, having a cerveza with my friend in our favourite little hide-away, listening to Cuban music, long chats with old friends, discovering changes, having new and unique experiences and greeting people on the street as if I never left.  

Sunday, 16 December 2012


Studio 16

The art of tattooing dates as far back as the 5th to 4th millennium BC, however Modern tattooing began in the 16th to 18th century when sailors came into contact with Polynesian tribes and brought the art back to the Western world.

Once a form of deviance, tattoos have now become part of the mainstream global fashion and revolutionised into an acceptable form of art expression.

Cuba is no exception; it too has a tattoo artist movement which is growing in many of its provinces, not least of all in Sancti Spiritus, and the town of Trinidad.  

The province of Sancti Spiritus, known for its richness in cultural activities, attracts many young Artists like Ranses Oreski Marrero Consepcion.  He decided to move to Trinidad and open a Art Gallery in the historical centre of Trinidad after graduating from the College of Art in Matanzas.  Ranses is an Artist of Lyrical Abstract Art and is also a keen advocate of Body Art in all its forms i.e. painting, video art, performance, photography, fashion etc.

He believes that this is the right time to attract followers and lovers of the art of tattooing and has therefore created a new cultural project called “Studio 16”.  He will begin by organising a cultural event related to Body Art in Trinidad, January 2013, but with the support of government and cultural institutions, proposes the organisation of concerts, video presentations, films, exhibitions and conferences across the whole of Cuba.  He believes that if you do a good job of teaching the fundamentals of the art and the place it has within society and the world, it can have a positive effect on the youth of today and those of the future.

His aim is to promote the art in a positive setting as well as educate the community about the harmful habits of this art.  The project will contribute to the spiritual and educational enrichment of the community and thus change the way society views individuals who choose tattoo art; so they are no longer seen as a marginal group of society.

The event will take place 17th – 19th January 2013 in Trinidad, Cuba and will stage the following cultural activities:

Creative Workshops – the appreciation of tattoo art both at an artistic and educational level
Theatrical Performances – presentation of visual and audio samples relating to body art
Visual Arts – an exhibition from local Artists
Competition – a display of tattoo Artists demonstrating their talent and ability 
Catwalk – a visual show of body art designed by various Artists
Music – a Rock concert to celebrate the end of the event

Thursday, 6 December 2012

FIART 2012

The 16th Feria Internacional de Arte (FIART) 2012 (International Fair of Craftsmanship) with the slogan Art, Usefulness & Skill takes place between the 7th & 23rd December in Havana, Cuba.

This year the Fair will be dedicated to Ciego de Ávila province.  It is aimed at encouraging the exchange among the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA). 

Over the years, the family Santander have received many awards at FIART.  In 2007, UNESCO awarded the family with a special prize in honour of their special family tradition; the master craftsman.   

On my recent visit to La Casa del Alfarero (Santander) they showed me some items that they were planning to send to FIART.   

The family Santander also offer workshops to budding pottery enthusiasts.