Traveling by ship has its drawbacks one of which is the amount of time a traveler has to experience everything that a city has to offer, however getting to interact with the natives and visit some of their museums and projects gives you a good taste of the culture. In Santiago a visit to Revolution Square de Santiago you will find the Bronze Titan memorializing Antonio Maceo. The rebel Leader was known for his strength and was dubbed by his followers as the titan.
There are also sculptures of machetes close by seen above.There is an image of Cienfuegos on a municipal building similar to those seen in Havana at Revolution Plaza.
The fort “Castillo de San Pedro can be seen as you approach and leave the port of Santiago.
Walking towards the fort there is a pathway with vendors on both sides. They basically have the same products , carvings, paintings, jewelry etc so with a reasonable amount of time you might be able to get a bargain. It was interesting that some vendors took American currency.
A visit to Casa de Ceramica was quite delightful there were beautiful pieces on display and for sale if you so desire. There were really some unique pieces but would require careful handling while traveling. Credit cards are not used but if traveling by ship you can get change on board or if at a hotel you can change to their currency.
What I noticed in Cuba is that there are a lot of projects geared to utilizing one’s talent and offers great educational opportunities. There are many programs/projects that include young people and school age children. We visited the African Cultural Center, Fernando Ortiz, where The Director gave us some historical background describing how the African culture impacted the Cuban culture. We were also entertained by a group of young dancers displaying some African dances and dress. Members of our group were invited to join in some of the dances and had the opportunity to converse with the performers. Often I am not included in the pictures as those who knows me knows I am the picture fanatic always with the camera, phone and iPad.
We made a brief stop at the historical site of Loma de San Juan The home of the unknown Mambi soldier (Cuban gorilla soldier). This site is the only land battle site of the Spanish-American war.
There is a moderate climb to the Top to view the monumentS and exhibits. There are some steps Which could be challenging to some if you have a short time and need to get to the top quickly. At the top In addition to the exhibits there is a beautiful view of town below. There were some young people walking around with some souvenirs that one can purchase. What I noticed is they were not pushy if you were not interested they were polite.
We are now heading to Cienfuegos and you should not go to Cienfuegos and not visit Santiago Hermès gallery, Project Trazos Libre. He has changed his home into this gallery that displays much of his work, you are able to purchase pieces of art as well as some beautiful jewelry from the gift shop. Before arriving at the gallery the street is filled with artists performing skits as well as demonstrating some traditional practices. These artists collaborate with and is supported by Santiago Hermès Martinez.Let the pictures speak as you can get a better idea.
The coal iron caught our attention as it brought back memories to us seniors from Jamaica. This was heated on coal and needed a towel or cloth over the handles to protect our hand from being burnt. As seen above a Jamaican native was showing her ironing skills. If you ran into visitors around you could identify those who had visited Santiago Hermès’ neighborhood by the a painted flowers on the faces done by the artist himself.
As mentioned before there are many projects that involve established artists but includes young people and children. No one is left behind. We visited the Graphic Society of Cienfuegos where there was a display of local artists and their prints. This was particularly special as it has a program for special needs children. We interacted with some of the children present who were happy to show us the work they were doing.
A visit to José Marti Park area where we visited the Tomas Terry theatre built between 1887 and 1889. You are not allowed to take pictures in the theatre. You have to be careful climbing the stairs as lighting could be better and can be a challenge particularly if you wear transitional lens. An opportunity to stroll through the park is lovely. There are seats if you need to rest we also noticed a lot of natives sitting around on their phones and later found out that is an area with WiFi so family can face time with relatives abroad.
As you can see the park is like a square with monuments, a gazebo and some beautiful buildings that are well maintained. Going east from the park walking distance there are places to get refreshments and going south there are vendors for several blocks selling a variety of wares, carvings, leather goods, souvenirs etc.
We then took a driving tour along the Malecon.
This ends my journey through Cuba by land and sea. I had the pleasure of visiting twice, for my first the land tour was great. My second was by ship and although I had been to Havana before had a different experience. A bit of information you should know is that regardless of the size of any art you purchase you will be required to pay duty on it. At least on our return to the ship after my friend went through the security check she had to go back to pay duty and it had to be in their currency. Facility for making the exchange was there in the port. Not sure if the process would be the same at the airport.