Trapped in an economic time warp for half a century. Extreme capitalism. The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. Suddenly replaced by revolutionary Fidel Castro’s brand of socialism. All the monuments of capitalism are seized by the state. The grand homes, the hotels, the businesses. Add in the international hotspots like the Cuban missile crisis, the embarrassing American failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Topped off with an enduring trade embargo over this half century. The result. A unique country that tourists can’t get enough of.
Offering the sparse to the plentiful. The beauty to the ugly. The grandiose to the neglected. The gleaming old convertible classics to the rattly old bone shakers. Where rural settings make you swear you’re in the set of an old western movie with more men on horses and horse drawn carts than vehicles. Where you pinch yourself to check its 2017 as you see fifty year old Chevrolets or Oldsmobiles charging along the highway. But it’s as if the Cuban people said, so what. They may have been shunned by western world politics. But they were free. Free to create a vibrant culture filled with their resourcefulness and artistic talent.
Where not only colourful art fills the streets. But music. In places you would not expect. Like the History Museum in Trinidad. It was a somewhat out of place grand piano in the corner of the museum. “Don’t Touch” the sign said. But suddenly, the normally staid and sterile walls were echoing the sound of music. Now seated at the piano was a young Cuban girl. Her fingers eloquently dancing across the keys. Each touch filling the building with music as it overflowed across the street. Leidiana is only fourteen. She’s only been playing for five years. Has had no formal training. And plays completely by ear. No music. Maybe one day there’ll be much grander walls echoing the sound of an appreciative applause to this young girls talent. But such ability is normal in Cuba I was told.
Or outside in the town square. The sun was yet to descend. But already the heart of the city was pulsating to the beat of live music. The heat of the day slowly making way for another warm balmy night. The clip clopping of horses and their carts on the cobblestone road beginning to subside. The uneven roads instead filling with people moving purposely towards the town square’s swelling crowd. Swaying to the rythmn. Chatting. Absorbing the buzz. Cerveza beers quenching thirsts. Or one of the many popular Cuban rum cocktails. The ten piece music makers enthraling the crowd. Dancing spontaneously erupts throughout the crowd. And as if to ensure the experience doesn’t end there, just a step outside the square, numerous restaurants each waiting to embrace you with their own live musical experience.
Is Trinidad, Cuba, the soul of Latino Americano music? Or just a tourist stage? Either way, it’s well and truly like no other.
Also…. there’s a bit more to the story in last week’s post. You can check it out [here].