Thursday, March 20, 2014

Memorable Encounters in Cuba

Coffee with Maria

We stayed at a mountain resort, Hotel El Salton, on the eastern slopes of Sierra Maestra north west of Santiago de Cuba for 3 nights.  This is a close as we got to staying in an "all-inclusive" -- the room rate included breakfast and dinner.  On one of the days we walked to the nearby village of File, about 3 km away.  The main plaza was a good place to sit and watch the village life...

We noticed coffee beans drying...
...on the roof of a house
And back up the hill towards the hotel, we were hailed by a campesina (woman of the countryside) who introduced herself as Maria, and offered to make us coffee.  We had noticed coffee beans drying in her yard too.
She pulverized three handfuls of roasted beans in her pilon (a type of mortar and pestle).

She set up her coffee maker, a wooden frame to hold the filter and pot--the filter is a piece of cloth in a wire frame.

Communicating with gestures and rapid Spanish!

Lloyd drinking coffee!  Sweet and strong.
As we left her yard, two others had walked down from the hotel--a coach driver and tour guide.  They were obviously old acquaintances of Maria's--they probably dropped in for her coffee each time they were at the hotel.

Buying Art in Sancti Spiritus

On the south side of the main square, Parque Serafin Sanchez, in the shade of a columnated building, are a variety of artisans selling their works--jewelry made from seed beeds, knitting and crochet (nothing too striking), and wood crafts.  The real jewel in this group is a minaturist named Wuense Garcia.  We stopped to take a closer look and ended up buying one of his small rock paintings.

He works in oils.

He has made his own brushes by adapting a multi-ink ball point pen to hold single hairs.
Wuense realised that we were enthusiastic about his work, and he managed to communicate to us that he had a retrospective show on at a gallery around the corner.  We went to the show, and spent some time looking at his many delicate paintings.  We liked one in particular but the staff weren't able to tell us the price.  Back we went to the plaza, and with my very poor Spanish I was able to tell him this.  We agreed to meet him later in the day at 4:20 to go to the gallery.

At the gallery in front of one of his regular-sized paintings.  Lloyd is holding the painting that we bought.
 When we arrived back at the gallery with Wuense, the staff greeted us like old friends with the Cuban right cheek to right cheek air kiss!  And then back on the street, he introduced us to "mi esposa, Maria" (my wife Maria) who promptly greeted me in the Cuban manner too.  It was quite delightful.

The miniature painting plus the rock painting.
This little boy is delighted with the sculpture of a painter just outside the gallery.

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