In search of modern Kuba*

“Now is no time
to think of what you do not have.
Think of what you can do
with that there is” 

Ernest Hemighway ''Old Man and the Sea''

Friday February 17th. Travelling since Thursday. 

6pm but midnight in my head.

Flying above Manhattan- ''the concrete jungle where dreams are made of ''. 

Landing in Cuba where dreams become fairytales.



We were walking around Varadero , listening to music coming from the houses, bars and cars.

There was Arctic Monkeys clashing with Cuban salsa.  

There was some rock and jazz and us who followed the sounds.

''It's in my veins, in my veins! '' he repeated and didn't stop playing. 

Woke up and everything - blue. 



Santa Marta was a short walk away from Varadero. Here we bought bananas .Tomatoes and bread we received as a present.

The eyes of the old man in the market stuck in my head. They were filled with kindness  . 

Here I've started taking pictures of all beautiful chairs.

Here the grumpy taxi driver blamed Ele's ancestors for colonising Cuba and taught us that if ''someone gives you present , you have to give something in exchange''

We were not completely convinced.

But we were convinced that the less you have, the more you have to share. 




 Viazul - ''you choose destination, we choose your adventure''

6 hours trip extended to 9. Bus broke at Santa Clara.

3pm Ele sleeps sitting on the pavement. I play cards with Swiss, Iraqi and Cuban boys. 

We arrived at Ciego where this 1957 rockstar De Soto appeared in the darkness and picked us up.

We arrived to Betsy's pink house where had 2 hours nap before heading on another adventure. 

Left the house feeling as those flowers, a little bit dead but still a little bit pretty.  

 Betsy treated us like her daughters.



How many times we wondered if the plan is going to work. If a deal is the deal.

Our phones didn't work so everything had to be prearranged and based on trust.  And trust exists.


Ele before we sailed to mermaids kingdom at Cayo Guillermo.

What we saw there- ''I'll keep it in my mind and in my heart''. 

That was a general advice from the Italian woman we met on the raft that sailed to the reef..




Ciego De Avila was my highlight of this trip. I did not expected finding what I found.

Neo- classical city boulevard I read about was okey. Pretty and colourful. But peoples' houses were like Mondrian's paintings.

Neo-classical and modern. Personal and contemporary in that way. 

Left me wondering how details  and character, personality disappeared in Western architecture.

We like to be neutral, we don't invest time in actually making  our personal space by our hands. But'' don't we sit better on the colour we like'' (VernerPanton)

 and don't we live better in the colours we love? Moreover, doesn't the spaces we create have more value?




we  arrived very early. 8 am we rolled into the cafe to get breakfast.

one thing i learned there: in the morning put music suddenly and very loud so you wake up immediately and in a couple of minutes  you are ready to dance.

we walked around the town, admired grand and open internal spaces: you can see peoples' lives right away, no fences , doors open, nothing to hide. 

we drove to Playa Ancon to refresh ourselves and spent evening  sitting in our casa's roof terrace, watching Trinidad from above and listening to Ruben Blades 'plastico'.

So we talked about all the plastic things that were invented in our society. and you know, plastic is hardly recyclable and takes longest time to decompose...



Verner Panton original Classic chairs (left). Painted and repainted. living there probably from 1960s-70s.

I need to go back , because i didn't knock to ask for the story...




So rich and so poor. So happy and so sad. One by one and together at the same time.


Reminiscences  of Former Caribbean Las Vegas saved in  pictures on the walls, in furniture and spacious living rooms . And you know, space is the luxury. But when salsa music ceases this grand living room sinks in silence.

Former Havana with the brand new shops and biggest number of theatres now sunken in fumes of the same 1950s American cars and  salsa music.

Taxi driver dropped us by our casa, that at first look looked like a ruins- without windows or  doors and stairway was falling apart, 

 however our apartment was well livable with high ceilings and firm wooden furniture.


Streets of Havana where kids run free and play on their own.

(in the city with 2 million people)



Malecon:  day time- fishing for fishes /

 night time-fishing for kisses.


Imagine the life in the pretty places like this.

The music,the dresses,the sound, the light, the smell, the style,  the behaviour and everyday life.

Maybe  'pretty' is just a concept  and we all perceive it differently, but when it is actually beautiful we all agree.

We were thinking what growing up in the space like this would be and what influence architecture has on us.

Designing functional, designing sustainable,

but when designing beautiful, designing divine spaces for divine everyday life?



Spending hot Havana days strolling round the streets, sometimes  beach

and hot Havana nights in la Fabrica de Arte Cubano where art meets party.

theatre, performance art, visual art, salsa music, contemporary music, bands and djs, art and design shops under one roof of former cooking-  oil factory in Vedado. 

''industrial scale hipness'' - i read's true. must go, must see, must party.



Havana left us wondering.

The streets that are filled with music and dancing people,  kids running round the city and playing games

and streets designed to fall in love and kiss under Havana's moonlight, 

you see ' friends shaking hands saying how do you do.. '', 

what a wonderful world..?


The question  ''how many countries have you traveled?'' made me a little bit sad and a little bit uncomfortable....

Havana left us wondering.




I will add to Hemingway's quote: Now there is no time to have no time.

photo: Elena Pastrana Goya

photo: Elena Pastrana Goya