Havana

Posted by Ellen

About two weeks after this photo was taken, the Cuban national capitol building reopened following an eight-year renovation project.

The building, completed in 1929–during an era when Cuban dictators were, let's say, sucking up to the American governmen–is an exact replica of the U.S. Capitol and was used for the national congress. After the revolution, Castro repurposed it as an office building, most recently for the Ministry of Science and Technology.

El Capitolio will return to its original use April 12, when the Cuban national assembly convenes in the building to choose a new president. For the first time since the revolution, nobody named Castro will be in the running.

Posted by Ellen

During a slow afternoon at a bar in Havana Vieja, one of the bartenders watches a Cuban national team wrestling match on tv. The Cubans are traditional powers in wrestling, boxing, judo, and other martial arts, often taking home dozens of Olympic medals.

Below are scenes of training and competition at a youth wrestling program in downtown Havana, housed in an old Basque gymnasium. Photos by Alexandre Meneghini for Reuters.

Posted by Ellen

There are chess players on the streets of Havana, and Cubans have won the World Chess Championship multiple times, notably in 1921 when José Raúl Capablanca beat the longtime German champion Emanuel Lasker.

Ché Guevara was a chess player who started an annual international chess tournament in Havana in 1962, when he was serving as post-revolutionary head of the Cuban National Bank. Here, Ché watches the tournament play of a Yugoslavian revolutionary he had befriended:

In 1965, the U.S. government would not allow Bobby Fischer to travel to Cuba to participate in the tournament, so he played via telex from New York.

Today, Cuban children learn to play chess at school, and last fall they participated in a national tournament commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Ché's death.

Posted by Ellen

Some would say the archetypal Cuban pastime is baseball, and they wouldn't be far wrong. In this space in the days to come, we'll take a look at baseball and other passions, but the everyday-everywhere-everybody hands-down #1 most popular game in Cuba is dominoes.

It might be the most popular outdoor entertainment of any kind, unless it's been nudged out of the lead by the new fun of texting and surfing in the Internet parks. People play dominoes on sidewalks and porches and streetcorners and balconies, in yards and plazas and parks and doorways, all afternoon and long into the night.

 

Posted by Ellen

Dancing in the dark, with bicycle.

Posted by Ellen

In Havana, if they send you out to get the coffee for everybody, you bring a glass to the coffee shop and tell them how many shots to put in it.

Don't go early in the morning, however. This shop didn't open till nine.

We note that in this picture, Joe is wearing the shoes he got married in.

Posted by Ellen

By New World standards, Havana is an old city; in 2019, it will be five hundred years old. To mark the anniversary, some new artworks and bits of sprucing up are already under way.

This work by Alberto Matamoros is a tribute to the barbers and hairdressers of the world; its title, I'm told, translates to something like "Cast in a Single Cut." The small shiny scissors mounted on the big black one denote donations from individual hairdressers and salons to fund the project; names of the donors are listed at the site. Clearly, contributions are still being sought; if you're interested, write to proyectoartecorte@gmail.com.

Arte Corte, the sponsoring organization, is a public-private hybrid, so far as we can tell, which has a Facebook page and undertakes projects such as playgrounds and festivals. From the looks of it, funding mechanisms for these sorts of projects under Castro are much the same as in the U.S.