After drawing the cathedral I had about a forty-five minute conversation in Spanish with a street musician from Santiago. A bedraggled fellow of the sort that Picasso would have painted. He played the Cuban Tres: an oddly shaped guitar that had three double strings – like half of a twelve string guitar. He regaled me with exotic stories of travelling to LA and pulled out a limp newspaper clipping with his picture, carefully pointing out his name and face amidst his band mates. Earlier in the morning I had a crisis of morality and decided to fast, but my conversation brought me a much needed touch of humanity.
In the morning I had a similar experience with an old man at Iglesia de Paula – the oldest church in Havana. As I drew outside an old man walked up and decided to talk to me. I did my best to talk back, and you could see relief wash over his face. He complained that most Americans won’t even say hello when he tries to talk with them. I found this slightly depressing. Especially when seemingly most American tourists come to Cuba under the “person to person” section of the general license, where you are expected to engage in cultural exchanges with local people.
Last night, while I was trying to draw the Basilica San Francisco de Asisi these two little girls were playing in the street and took an interest in me. After cautiously peeking over my shoulder at what I was doing, they came right up and started talking to me in the fearless manner that only children can muster. After satisfactorily interrogating me in the typical manner they started to ask – and then demand – that I draw them pictures. One girl wanted a cat, then the other girl wanted a dog, then a duck, then a horse, and then a princess. I tried to explain to them that I’m not that type of artist, but I literally couldn’t say no. So I had no other choice but to be defeated by the request of a six-year-old girl. Princesses are hard to draw.