Day 5 – Havana

My host’s grandmother has a parrot that she brings into her room at night, and then out of her room each morning. They interact like old friends.

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She thoughtfully cleans it’s cage and lays out three bowls for the bird each morning. One bowl for water. One bowl with a small tomato (cut in half). And another bowl with sunflower seeds. Today she added a carefully selected bunch of wild flowers as a bonus. When I came over to greet him, the sultry bird sprang into an acrobatic frenzy – using his beak and toes to circumnavigate his cage – going up(side down), over, and back to his perch in a matter of seconds.

I hobbled around the city until I found a little Greek Orthodox church that had a mosaic mural of Castro and the Ecumenical Patriarch. Castro was depicted handing over the key to the church. It was amusing to see the by-product of Byzantine art and communist propaganda affixed to a wall facing the church. The building itself was proportioned like a proper Greek church, but built at a doll house scale. Most churches I go into usually make me feel small. This one didn’t.

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San Francisco de Asisi was a church and convent, but is now a music hall and museum. Apparently after the British used the church for Anglican services for a year the Spanish didn’t want it back. Since 1762 there hasn’t been a religious service in the building. If it was crawling with Anglican cooties I neither knew nor cared. I spent a couple hours here and enjoyed every minute. Every inch was a savory feast of the eye: Romantic stone groin vaulting, and an imposing three storied courtyard. The building represented the matured version of the churches I saw in Santo Domingo,  which added a layer of interest for me. As a bonus it was big enough to hide in a dark corner and pretend that you were there by yourself. They allowed tourists to go up on the roof through the choir loft, and then climb up the bell tower.

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For whatever reason I was having a hard time drawing today. It could be chalked up to a number of things, but I think that it’s mostly because I really don’t like it here. Sure, there are some really beautiful things: the rum is cheap and excellent, the music is ubiquitous and rewarding, and of course Havana has some wonderful architecture. But, overall the place comes off as some strange conflagration of Disneyland and worn torn Bosnia. Throngs of tourists everywhere you look and then locals living in bombed out buildings. Cuba has one hell of a marketing department.

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