Arrived in Camagüey, undecided on how long to stay. A quick walk around the town and look on the internet (I really wish I’d bought a guidebook for Cuba!) didn’t reveal too much to do and my decision to stay only 1 day (2 nights) was decided by the Casa Particular I was in – the only one I haven’t enjoyed to date.
Camagüey is yet another UNESCO protected city centre (UNESCO really loves this part of the world) and it is quite nice to walk around. Some of the buildings have been restored and are quite beautiful, and there are plenty of little streets to get lost in. There is even a whole street dedicated to cinema and film!
The highlight for me though were the galleries I found in the city. I’m not typically one that visits art galleries, but over the years I’ve found that small galleries that focus on one or two artist are quite interesting. This exploration started by wandering into the Santa Cecilia Convention Centre on the Plaza de los Trabajadores to buy more internet access (ETECSA had sold out of cards). In there, they had 6 gorgeous, large works by an artist called Alejandrina. The helpful lady on reception even wrote down the address of the artist for me and gave me vague directions on how to find her. I did go for a wander, but couldn’t find the street unfortunately.
Inspired by that experience, I went looking for other galleries. I was wondering past the Casa del Arte Jover (without realizing) when the guy at the door invited me to come in and have a look “sin compromiso” (ie no pressure to buy). This was the gallery for 2 of the most famous artists in Camagüey – Joel Jover and his wife Ileana. I LOVED it! And I was even allowed to take photos!
The Casa is a restored house and when they were doing the restoration they uncovered several friezes, which are now on display.
Ileana paints in the naif style (bright, colourful, blocky) that I seem to like in general.
She loves painting animals and the cat in particular seems to be her mark. I stumbled upon a mural that she’d done with this cat and other animals earlier in the morning so it was nice to tie it all together.
Joel’s imagery is more diverse, but the piece that really arrested me and got me to sit down for probably 20 minutes looking and thinking about it was this enormous montage about Power.
I believe it is his most famous work (it is considered one of the 100 most important artworks in Cuba), and the section of it that really caught my eye was this one
I see myself (and many other people I know) clearly in my interpretation of it. I thought it was incredible. However, that wasn’t the only piece of art that I loved.
This religious one is a mixed-mode piece that includes flattened Bucanero cans (Bucanero is a beer here in Cuba, and Malta is the non-alcoholic version of it) and Ciego Montero cans (this is Cuba’s softdrink company – it’s actually incredibly difficult to find Coke here and I haven’t seen Pepsi at all).
And this one also really appealed to me – another mixed-methods piece – I just loved the way it all fit together.
After spending about ½ hour there, I headed off to find Galería Martha Jiménez. She is another of the famous artists of Camagüey with a very particular style that manifests with rotund ladies, sewing machines, fish and birds (unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures). She is also a sculptor and in the small plaza right outside her Galería there are several large pieces.
This piece of the gossiping ladies is based on her most famous artwork.
I can imagine that these lovers have just caught the bicitaxi in the background (one of the most popular ways to get around Camagüey) to this plaza to hang out.
Then I met Norberto Betancourt, the model for one of the sculptures in the Plaza. He’s now 83 years old but posed for the sculpture back in 2002. He comes out to the Plaza each day with his “Adelante” newspaper to meet tourists and pose with his likeness. He was a lovely old man who loved Australians (of course) – and we ended up chatting for about 20 minutes. He sent me on my way saying he’d ask God to bless my journey and travels.
I found a piece of jewellery that I loved (hello Cuban souvenir) – this flower made out of leather – at another gallery.
And thought these portraits made out of plaster on a wall were really clever.
Finally visited the Gallery Latios, which again had some artwork that appealed to me. No photos unfortunately, but essentially the artist made great use of negative space and had very un-cluttered depictions of nature – typically a dragonfly or hummingbird with either a swathe of colour or a simple plant.
Recommendation: Definitely worth the visit to all of these places!
Cost: Free (unless you can’t resist and buy something of course 😉 )