I vividly remember running back to an artist’s studio, in the stifling mid-afternoon heat, to buy a second naïve art painting by Cuban artist Ileana Sánchez before closing time. Frolicking in Camagüey, the UNESCO World Heritage Site traditionally associated with the arts, this was Cuban art ecstasy at its best. Equally so, I diligently added to my souvenir collection snippets of Cuban crafts: seashell earrings, colorful dolls, and several leather wallets; from a treasure trove in a beach-friendly, secluded Caibarién, a recycled paper notebook. Each of these, I prize more than my most valuable belongings, as if an ode to the Cuban people that taught me lessons of passion and creativity.
Whether yielding big or small endeavors, Cubans are born craftsmen. Flaunting Cuban motifs and a sparkling palette of bright colors, the local arts & crafts prove by definition a solid dose of ingenuity. Skillful and witty, everything turns crafty in Cuba. Nothing goes to waste. More so, a second religion, the arts are quite simply a way of life. From Jose Fuster’s ceramic wonderland, to the artists of Camagüey, to the parranda floats of Remedios, leaving with a sample of the colorful Cuban crafts is a guarantee.
Swathed with the matchless dedication of each Cuban artisan, the local crafts are far from the usual mass-production items found everywhere else in the world. Instead, you can expect handmade products and repurposed goods, always accompanied by a shake and a big smile. Combining the dual African and Spanish colonial influences, the Cuban crafts exude the same brisk vibe as its overall vibrant culture. Carved figurines, masks and ceramics, all can be found on display on the streets of Cuba.
At a cooperative near the Plaza de la Revolution, in Havana, a local community participates in learning sewing, computer and music skills. These are some of the items on sale produced by residents.
In Villa Clara, an ingenious community project comes to life when residents convert a defunct industrial area into a nature park.
In the art mecca of Cuba, in Camagüey, a gifted artist carves portraits in leather.
In Bayamo, coffee is served in coconut cups.