After our sobering cemetery visit, we trundle off to the centre of Cienfuegos and Parque Jose Marti, another revolutionary hero. The park is surrounded with all the most important buildings, and is a large open space full of trees, and at one end a local, rather modest version of the Arque de Triomphe.
In this area there is WiFi, so the park is full of people sitting on benches with their gadgets, catching up on emails or browsing the web. We give it a go too…..
A stroll down the little pedestrian street with its market stalls – leather goods, carvings, kitsch. Each side of the street is lined with artist shops where they sell small or large paintings – one catches our eye and we have to have it.
Off down to the main shopping strip – Pitt St, Sydney it ain’t. But like any shopping locale, throngs of people are popping in and out of shops, emerging with bags. Adidas has a shop here, though I don’t see Chanel or Prada – yet!
We stop for a bite to eat, nothing big, and an elderly gentleman plays beautiful piano next to our table, singing “Over the Rainbow” sotto voce.
By this time W is feeling the heat, so S and I go off for a photo-tour of the square. We are captivated by the big art being displayed in a gallery/studio next to the theatre. The artist is in situ, so we stop to have him explain his work.
It’s the first opportunity I’ve had to get an understanding of contemporary art. He explains he paints in series, anywhere up to 30 or so per theme. His last series was about the psychological impact of violence on children – haunting faces look down upon us from the walls, some painted behind bars. A huge canvas of a woman’s face in green staring at us is one of his latest series on violence against women, and the impact of prostitution: hence her face is the colour of money. He passionately describes his feelings about all sorts of subjects and how he wants people to stop and think about what is happening in the world. His words touch something primal in me, too, and tears start to prickle.
I notice some of the small reproductions he makes of his paintings are of horses, so of course I have to know about those. Those are his totemic animals, at heart he is a horse, running free. His background studies were in sports physiology, he then became a director of cultural affairs in Cienfuegos; now he paints. What he does next, he doesn’t know, just whatever will be right at the time. A true free spirit, and an expression of the power of a culture where education is free and a roof over one’s head is a given – no worries about having to make a ‘proper’ living, paying off a mortgage or putting away for retirement. Here is an example of a human spirit unfettered by anxiety, who finds his way to express himself.
I truly wish I could find a way to bring his work to Australia – it is powerful.
We wrest ourselves away from the artist and his work – W is waiting, so it’s time to go for a nap, before starting again in the evening. We plan to eat a little later and then venture into the centre again to partake of the abundant music and nightlife.
S has been browsing the LP Guide, and has a yen for Ajiaco, the local campesino dish, somewhere between soup and stew. With a bit of work we manage to communicate with Maria, our hostess, about where we might procure such a thing, so she makes a phone call and secures us a place at a local restaurant a block away. The soup is certainly delicious, but is accompanied by so much else that by the time we finish the set menu, we’re like snakes that have swallowed something REALLY big. In the middle of dinner the skies open and the waiters scramble up the window bars to bring down the clear blinds so the diners don’t get wet.
Our trip to the centre to find the nightlife is a fizzer – either the locals have gone home due to the rain, or they haven’t come out yet, but in any case there is nothing happening in the places we looked. So no dancing and singing tonight.