Inside Cuba: A GeoEx Journey – Art
The small town of Jaimanitas lies about twenty minutes west of Central Havana on a stretch of rugged coast. This fishing community would feel just like many others across the island if it weren’t also home to one of Cuba’s most famous contemporary artists.
Renowned painter and ceramicist Jose Fuster is part of a small group of Cubans who, during the last 50 years, were given permission by the government to leave the country. Fuster spent years traveling across Europe and South America promoting his work and in doing so gained international acclaim. For our GeoEx Cuba groups, he has been gracious enough to open up his home and private gallery for a delicious lunch as well as a private tour.
The visit is as much about admiring Fuster’s work as it is about understanding what community has meant to Cubans who are still struggling after two decades of shortages and scraping by following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Having earned far more selling art on the free market than any of his neighbors could dream of on their $20-per-month state salaries, Fuster believes that it is important for him to give back and support the residents of Jaimanitas.
Through the sale of his art, sometimes to GeoEx travelers, as seen in this photograph, Fuster has helped locals to rebuild their homes, sponsored after-school programs for the area’s youth and managed to turn large portions of the town into a Gaudi-esque work of art covered in ceramic tiles, an homage to Barcelona’s Parque Guell.
While Fuster’s contributions are an extreme example, this sentiment is not at all uncommon in the country; Cubans themselves have grown accustomed to depending on each other—and less on their government—for a safety net as economic reforms continue to erode their socialist programs.
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