Politics to Picasso: The Ultimate Guide to Havana’s Street Art
Despite numerous revolutions and years of repressive governments the art scene in Cuba has thrived, with 14 art schools and a University of Fine Arts and numerous Cuban artist galleries. Cuban art is as diverse as the people that inhabit this small Caribbean island, with influences from Africa, South America, North America and Europe, however often the best place to experience Cuban art is on the streets of Havana, the island’s capital city.
Political Street Art
Of course there are depictions of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro on almost every street, along with pro-revolutionary slogans and images, all of which are propaganda paid for/enforced by the Cuban government to promote support for them.
Perhaps most famous of all of this artwork is the 36 metre high sculpture of Che Guevara’s face pinned to the building which houses the Ministry of the Interior which faces onto la Plaza de la Revolution. The sculpture is accompanied by the slogan ‘Hasta la Victoria Siempre’ which translates as ‘Towards Victory Forever’, and has become an iconic image which tourists flock to.
Despite the US embargo, or perhaps more likely because of it, even North American politics feature in the street art of Cuba’s capital city. Positioned on Paseo del Prado, one of the primary routes through Havana that leads up to the National Capitol building which used to be the Government building before the latest revolution, is perhaps the most current of political objections. A graffiti piece with a clear resemblance of Donald Trump being impaled on a cactus. Perhaps this shows the Cuban contempt towards a man whose policies intend to reinstate the full extent of the US embargo which was starting to be relaxed under President Obama’s time in office.
With the Cuban government controlling the themes of public street art, current street art is often politically ambiguous to prevent repercussions. The larger pieces, that take several days to complete, are far less controversial than the smaller designs that are completed in less than an hour.
Yulier P Rodriguez (the Banksy of Cuba) paints his murals all over Havana, although the majority of his work is found on the once grand buildings that are now cracked and decaying. His work depicts creatures that are vague representations of humans, animals and skeletons which represent basic emotions such as fear or or happiness.
Yulier P’s work is clearly influenced by Picasso’s surrealist period.
Photo-realistic graffiti is also found all over Havana. The quality of the artwork here is outstanding given that art materials are expensive and in short supply.
La Bodeguita del Medio, Cuba’s only chain of bars, is famous not only for the lively atmosphere and being one of Ernest Hemingway’s regular hangout spots but also the vivid artwork splashed across the internal walls and the thousands of signatures from customers that are plied across every spare inch of its exterior.
It is not just the walls of Cuba’s capital that are covered in art, it’s citizens are too. With tattoo’s becoming the new symbol of wealth Cuba’s youth are covering themselves in doodles and drawings.
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