February 2010 Archives

Cuba - Evening on the Malecón de Cienfuegos

Cuba's famous seaside walkway, or malecón, is in Havana. But Cienfuegos has a very nice one also, running along a narrow strip of land called the Punta Gorda.

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Cuba - Cienfuegos Botanical Garden (2)

A couple more images from the lovely Cienfuegos Botanical Garden:

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(click to enlarge) Bamboo

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(click to enlarge) Epiphytic growth

Cuba - Cienfuegos Botanical Garden

Cienfuegos has the largest botanical garden in Cuba, and it's a most enjoyable one. It has a wide variety of flora, well maintained and displayed.

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(click to enlarge) This unusual palm caught our attention. As the plant matures, each of the ruffled sections develops into a discrete layer.

Cuba - Ironwork

In Cienfuegos and Trinidad I was struck by the often beautiful ironwork covering windows and doors. This is decorative as well as functional in tropical climates, providing security while allowing air circulation. But it leads to sometimes incongruous (to my eye) situations in which a man appears to be courting his lady, who is behind bars.

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Cuba - Cienfuegos Scenes (2)

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(click to enlarge) It's not just in Havana that one sees the 1950s classic cars.

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(click to enlarge) Parque Martí is in the very center of Cienfuegos, and it's a pleasant place to hang out. Granma is the name of the boat by which Fidel Castro and comrades came to Cuba to start the revolution; it's also the name of the official Communist Party newspaper.

Cuba - Pastimes

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(click to enlarge) In Cienfuegos. Baseball is very big in Cuba, even if the bat, ball, and field aren't always up to regulation specs.

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(click to enlarge) Sitting and talking with a friend is also a favorite Cuban pastime.

Cuba - Cienfuegos Scenes

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(click to enlarge) Palacio Ferrer, an early 20th C building in which the Casa Provincial is now housed

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(click to enlarge) "Your example lives, your ideas endure." Note the familar "Tu".

Cuba - Cienfuegos Musicians

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(click to enlarge) Alongside the Teatro Tomas Terry was an alley leading to a patio of a cafe, where this group was playing.

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(click to enlarge) This man was practicing for a performance. He was really good.

Cuba - Cienfuegos Theater

Teatro Tomas Terry, "officially called Teatro de Cienfuegos, is named after a rich sugar-baron who came to Cuba as a poor immigrant from Venezuela. Inaugurated in 1890, the theater has been wonderfully maintained. It has been declared a national monument, and stars such as Enrico Caruso, Sarah Bernhardt, and Ana Pavlova performed here." (From Cuba-junky.)

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Cuba - Cienfuegos

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Cienfuegos (literally, "one hundred fires") is a city on the southern coast of Cuba, about 150 miles from Havana, with a population of 150,000. The city is dubbed "La Perla del Sur" (Pearl of the South). The Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered "the best extant example of the 19th-century early Spanish Enlightenment implementation in urban planning." (Wikipedia). It's an attractive place, a favorite of Cubans and tourists.

Cuba - Playa Girón (2)

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(click to enlarge) A sea wall and walkway front the waterfront at Playa Girón. They are built on large beds of old coral, sharp and textured like volcanic lava.

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(click to enlarge) The empty husk of a crab, probably dropped on the walkway by a seagull.

Cuba - Bay of Pigs Invasion Museum

This museum, known officially as the Museum Playa Girón, is just a few yards outside the entrance to the hotel at which we stayed. The museum is devoted to the Cuban victory against the Bay of Pigs' mercenary invasion financed by the United States' government on April 1961. More detail here.

Playa Girón means "Beach of Girón", named after the town of Girón, which in turn is named for Gilberto Girón, a notorious French pirate who plied his trade at the beginning of the 17th C. Playa Girón, along with Playa Largo, is one of the beaches in the Bay of Pigs on which the invasion took place.

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Cuba - Playa Giron

While visiting La Cienaga de Zapata, we stayed at the Hotel Playa de Giron, which has a rather strange structure guarding the beach. We think it is a breakwater, though some have suggested that it is intended to impede another invasion like that of the Bay of Pigs, which happened here in 1961.

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(click to enlarge) Hurricanes are stronger than breakwaters. But look at all those shades of blue!

Cuba - Crocodiles

La Cienaga de Zapata National Park on the south-central coast of Cuba is notable for a crododile farm. Cuban crocodiles (a distinct species) are the only dangerous animals in Cuba, and they're endangered. So they're being raised in captivity. What happens when the population gets much larger is not clear, at least to me.

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(click to enlarge) One of the virtues of a point-annd-shoot camera is that the lens is small enough to get inside the mesh of the fence.

Cuba - Ciénaga de Zapata (2)

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(click to enlarge) One of the 25 life-size sculptures by Rita Longa at the reconstructed Taino village of Guamá. The Taino were the indigenous people living here, and in much of the Caribbean, when Columbus landed.

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(click to enlarge) There were lots of pelicans fishing in the river and roosting in the trees.

Cuba - Ciénaga de Zapata

We've left Havana, and have driven for a couple of hours to Matanzas Province on the south coast of Cuba, where we will spend a few days near Playa Giron, the "Bay of Pigs". There is a big national park here, Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata, where we take a boat ride to Guamá. According to Wikitravel, "This is an island in a lake, the Laguna del Tesero (Treasure Lake). Fidel Castro enjoyed vacationing on the island and commissioned the building of a Taíno native village and 32 sculptures depicting native life."

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Cuba - Museum of the Revolution

The Museum of the Revolution in Havana is housed, in fine irony, in the former Presidential Palace that was previously occupied by Fulgencio Batista. The building is beautiful, with many classical touches; much of the decoration was provided by Tiffany of New York. Good descriptions of the building and its history are here and here.

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(click to enlarge) I heard - but cannot verify - that this ceiling was painted by Batista's brother.

Cuba - Revolutionary Art

The Museum of the Revolution is housed in the former Presidential Palace in Havana. It mainly displays documents, photographs, and personal items, but has some interesting artworks as well. The building is impressive, if strikingly incongruous to its new purpose.

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(click to enlarge) Tableau of Camilo Cienfuegos and Che Guevara on a night scouting mission. See yesterday's posting for other depictions.

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(click to enlarge) Muralistic representation of the Granma, the yacht on which Fidel Castro and his colleagues sailed from Mexico to Cuba to begin the revolution.

Cuba - Revolutionary Heroes, Government Bureaucracies

Many major government buildings are located on or near Plaza de la Revolucion (Revolution Square) in Havana, one of the world's largest city squares. These two buildings are most notable for their sculptural adornments:

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(click to enlarge) Ministry of Interior building with sculpture of Che Guevara. Most references to Revolution Square on the Web show only this building and sculpture, which were erected around 1959.

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(click to enlarge) Ministry of Communications building with sculpture of Camilo Cienfuegos. This matching sculpture of another revolutionary hero was erected in October 2008.

According to this article, 'The words "Vas bien, Fidel" (You're doing fine, Fidel) appear on the bottom right hand corner of the Camilo sculpture. Camilo, "the Hero of Yaguajay," made that comment to Fidel Castro at the January 8, 1959 rally where Fidel declared that the Columbia military barracks would be made into a school, and he asked Camilo, "Am I doing all right, Camilo?" '

Cuba - Muraleando Artist

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(click to enlarge) A Muraleano artist in her studio. We bought an attractive print of a coffee pot from her. The portrait of Che Guevara on the wall behind her seemed to be there for artistic rather than political reasons.

Cuba - Muraleando Murals

As its name suggests, Muraleando, an artistic neighborhood of Havana, has lots of imaginative and well-executed murals. An interesting article about Muraleando is on the web at

http://www.communityarts.net/readingroom/archivefiles/2004/07/muraleando_comm.php

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Click here to see my Blurb books, including a new book on Death Valley.

Cuba - Muraleando Sculptures

Not having access to bronze or marble, Muraleando sculptors use what comes to hand: auto wheels and old typewriters. The results are amusing and pleasing.

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Cuba - Artists' Neighborhood in Havana

Muraleando is an artists' neighborhood in Havana. It's gaily decorated with murals and sculptures. The artists have small studios, doubling as galleries, at which visitors can buy good art at very reasonable prices.

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Cuba - Slices of Life

Scenes from the streets of Havana:

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Cuba - Havana Details

Romantically peeling paint, old-fashioned metalwork ... a photographer's dream!

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Cuba - Havana Murals

Cuba has a highly developed artistic culture. This is manifested in gallery-quality paintings, but also in striking murals that contribute to the color and liveliness of the public environment. Here are a few.

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Cuba - Havana Arches

I'm back from a wonderful workshop led by Stephen Johnson in Death Valley. Johnson is the pioneer of digital landscape photography, and has the quickest and most subtle eye I've ever encountered. And he's a nice, interesting guy to boot. Highly recommended. Here's the URL for his home page: http://www.sjphoto.com/
and for his workshops: http://www.sjphoto.com/workshops.html

Now back to Havana. Here are a couple of buildings with striking arches along the Paseo del Prado.

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Click here to see my Blurb books.

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