Photo Essay- The Cuba Experience Xian Huang This is the Liberty Square in the city of Matanzas, Cuba. In the center of the square there is a statue of the famous national hero, José Martí. Throughout his entire life, José fought for Cuba’s independence and liberty. He was also a key figure in Latin American literature. His works were very politically influential and covered a range of genres. Engraved on the back of José Martí’s monument is a verse from one of his poems. Translated in English, it says, ‘When I die, I want, without motherland, but without love, to have a bunch of flowers at my gravestone, and a flag.’ During our first weekend in Cuba, we visited the Pinar Del Río Province. We were lucky to catch a local band perform Cuban music when we stopped at a café for a rest. Cuban music is heavily influenced by African music. While they were performing, the band members really moved their bodies along with the music, and it was beautiful to see. While in Pinar Del Río, we visited the old house of Polo Montanez, a very famous Cuban singer. His house was situated right on a lake, and was very beautiful. We learned that he could even enjoy his lake-view while taking a bath. “Sin no canto que es mi nuevo oficio, no soy nadie. Sin la música, siento que mi falta todo, hasta el aire.” - Polo Montanez We visited the Mural of Prehistory, painted by Leovigildo Gonzalez. This mural depicts biological evolution. Castro commissioned Gonzalez to paint this mural when he visited Cuba in 1961. The black line near the bottom of the mural indicates the water level a million year ago. This is the room where we had our classes and discussions during our threeweek trip. The room was filled with very beautiful and interesting artwork. This room actually belongs to a publishing house, where books are made by hand. Each book is carefully cut, folded, pasted, painted, and illustrated. We found this process fascinating, and really enjoyed looking at the books. One day, we rode this bus to a suburb of Matanzas and met a group of local artists. We met singers, drawers, guitarists, actors, magicians and acrobats who were preparing to perform at an elementary school and at an old-age home. Students from the Escuela Primaria Fernando Planas Green were gathered to watch the artists’ performance. The head-artist distributed awards to some of the most outstanding students by giving them books and stationary. Some of the artists also gave specific performances geared towards particular classes. Elderly people from Casa de Abuelos enjoyed a skit by some of the performers. One of the artists also decorated the walls of the old-age home by painting a blue sky, white clouds and green trees on the walls. This was Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar when he visited Havana ,Cuba in the 1960’s. It is famous for its daiquiris. Hemingway said “My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.” Unfortunately, Floridita was closed on the day we visited La Havana. This is the ocean view from Varadero. Varadero is known around the world for having the most beautiful beaches with the clearest water. The white sand and turquoise sea are stunningly beautiful. We found a sea star in the shallow end of the water. These are authentic and fresh Piña Coladas which are sold on the beach. In Cuba, people use fresh flowers to brighten up their lives. There will never be a shortage of juicy, tropical, fruits in Cuba. This is the Pharmaceutical Museum in Matanzas. It used to be a pharmacy and was founded in late 1800’s. It houses a lot of antique medical equipment that was used at that time. This is a part of Castillo de San Severino, which is located at the Bay of Matanzas. These structures were initially erected to prevent pirate attacks on the City of Matanzas. Now, it has been converted into a museum which teaches the history of Cuban slavery.