A BIT OF INSPIRATION FROM MY TRIP TO HAVANA . . .

I wrote this blog a few weeks ago long before Coronavirus was the issue in everyone’s’ thoughts. I worried that I’m being insensitive posting this – ignoring the elephant in the room. But last week I was inundated with emails from all our suppliers making their obligatory Covid 19 statements. I’ve found their proliferation increasingly depressing. So I’m grateful for the little rays of sunshine that have found their way into my inbox, like the newsletters from Ben Pentreath and Molly Mahon. Both focussed on the silver linings that can be found in life.

Today I’m sending you my little bit of inspiration from a trip to the Caribbean, in the hope that it gives you a bit of distraction amongst all the distressing news. We went in the middle of February, and it seems like a lifetime ago.

Cuba has always been on my bucket list. When Michael’s son got a new job in St. Lucia, it was a perfect opportunity to spend some time with him and to take a detour to Havana.

DESPITE BECOMING A MORE OPEN SOCIETY

and allowing citizens to run their own businesses, Cuba is still visibly affected by poverty.

Nothing can be imported into the country if it has more than 10% American components, and Trump is reversing Obama’s more progressive attitude.

It’s difficult to establish if it’s the inflexible Cuban government or the harsh treatments by successive American governments that have resulted in everyday deprivations.

However, whoever is responsible, it’s the ordinary Cubans that are still paying the price.

A Bit Of Inspiration From My Trip To Havana
A Bit Of Inspiration From My Trip To Havana

GOVERNMENT WAGES PAY

about $4 per day, so everyone has to have multiple jobs just to get by. The government food rations are minimal, the shops are empty, so everything has to be bought on the black market at inflated prices.

We went into a clothes shop where we looked at the cost of a black t-shirt. There was nothing special about it, but the price tag was the equivalent of 3 weeks wages.

Most of the housing stock hasn’t been renovated since the revolution. Some houses are literally falling apart in front of you.

Shortly after the revolution, property was re-distributed, and everyone was given a home.

We asked how the government decided who lived in which property as there is a vast variety (some are stunning, like this palatial residence).

The sobering reply was that if you were a loyal member of the communist party, then you got a beautiful place to live.

DESPITE ALL THE HARDSHIPS

we were struck by the Cubans’ resilience. They recognise the good that the communist regime introduced (free housing, excellent education and health service) while also being keen to see economic improvements.

They have a genuine love for art, music and learning, as well as an immense pride in their heritage. Walking around the city, we came across sculptures and murals at every turn.

A Bit Of Inspiration From My Trip To Havana
A Bit Of Inspiration From My Trip To Havana

THE RIVIERA HOTEL, HAVANA

The Riviera Hotel in Havana is virtually untouched since 1957. Owned initially by mafia boss Meyer Lansky it was part of a larger plan to make Havana into a Caribbean Las Vegas. Castro viewed these casino hotels as evil symbols of American Imperialism, but they’re full of modernist details created by Cuban artists and designers. It’s fascinating to wander around, with so few changes in the last 60 years, it’s like walking into a 1950’s film set.

A Bit Of Inspiration From My Trip To Havana
A Bit Of Inspiration From My Trip To Havana
A Bit Of Inspiration From My Trip To Havana

“FUSTERLANDIA”

We were bowled over by “Fusterlandia”, an immense installation by Artist José Rodríguez Fuster. He transformed his humble home town of Jaimanitas. Inspired by Gaudi, he and his neighbours have created incredible structures overlaid in multicoloured mosaic. If I’m really honest, I wasn’t drawn to the aesthetics of his work, but I loved his ambition. It reminded me of the movie “Field of Dreams”. “If you build it they will come”

We’re usually so busy and stressed that we seem to have forgotten about the pure joy of creating for creation’s sake. I hope this imposed isolation will give us all a bit of time to reflect and rediscover our neglected passions. I’ve got a box full of inks and paints lurking in a cupboard – I think it’s time to drag them out and have a bit of a splash.

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