Mural in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
I love to travel.In Latin America, I have visited Mexico, mostly Jalisco and Nayarit, with a brief cruise-ship stop in both Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlán. I lived in Ecuador for a school term and spent some of that time traveling around that geographically small but topographically huge country.
Now, I am spending just over a month in Cuba, mostly in Santiago de Cuba, with extended visits to La Habana and Baracoa, and a brief sojourn to Guantánamo, attending an anthropology field school through the University of Victoria.
When I have thought about it, I have offhandedly categorized street art into two types: official and unofficial. In my mind, official sanctioned street art is either celebratory or commemorative in nature, reflecting the victor’s view of history, whether or not that view has any bearing on events as they actually occurred.
Unofficial street art can be created to beautify a space (a mural on the side of a home or business, or a mosaic on a wall separating a garden from the street). It can also be of the more furtive variety, spray-can art or tagging when no one is watching, perhaps in protest against a social situation or a political concern.
There are some images of street art that stand out in my memory. My hope is that this blog will be an exploration of how this kind of art plays out in Cuba, a country with a different political reality. Will that prevent what we in Canada consider freedom of expression? In 1961, two months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, Fidel Castro issued the famous dictum that would lay out his view of artistic freedom: “Within the Revolution, everything. Against the Revolution, nothing.” Cuban artists have been trying to figure out what that means pretty much ever since.
Due to the historical embargo, I anticipate that there will be a lack of resources to create the kind of art I have found elsewhere. That will be part of my search.
My intention is to explore and contrast images from Mexico and Ecuador to those I find here in Cuba.
I hope to be able to provide an overview of what I find, breaking it down into general somewhat fluid categories of statues, sculptures, state-authorized art, political slogans, murals and, if I can find it, unauthorized street art. This is going to be mostly a visual blog as my access to the internet for research is limited. Did you know that other than hotels, there are currently only 35 public wi-fi sites in all of Cuba?
I thank Dr. Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier of the University of Victoria for her assistance in providing me direction and access to artists, art and information regarding Cuban street art, and for being an awesome professor who is passionate about her work.