Casa O’Shea: a “vestige of glorious architecture, Havana”
Ms. O’Shea is back from a Cuba vacation sponsored by the Greenwich Arts Council (I believe they’re the recipient of taxpayer-subsidized space on Greenwich Avenue) and had a marvelous time watching the cheerful people of Cuba celebrate life.
From her Greenwich Time interview:
O’Shea, who has a day job as a Realtor at Sotheby’sInternational Realty, documented the trip with her camera and found the Cuban people, “welcoming, educated, and creative.” The images she captured can be seen as part of a photographic exhibit,”Cuba: First Take,” on display at the Greenwich Arts Council’s Bendheim Gallery Director’s Hall. It features works by O’Shea and some of the other members of the trip. Greenwich Time took a Time Out with O’Shea recently to ask her about the trip and her passion for photography.
Q: What were some of the things that struck you about Cuba?
A: Driving to our destination in Havana I saw a landscape of contrasts, the vestiges of glorious architecture and design tracing the history of this fabled land. The faded beauty of the crowded streets didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the bustling Cuban people. Throughout the week we strolled the cobblestone streets of Old Havana (La Habana Vieja), and walked the popular tree lined Paseo del Prado promenade which is the heart of the city center. The iconic American cars of the 40s and 50s buzzed by our square in various states of gleaming color offering convertible rides for the nostalgic. [Those crazy, lovable Cubans don’t want new cars – they only buy American, and 1940 American at that!]
Q: What did you learn about the art of Cuba?
A: Our guides introduced us to many of the leading Cuban artists of the day. There is great power in their work as they individually express their views of life in Castro’s Cuba. [Cuba is the most heavily censored country in the Western Hemisphere] Our visit to the National Art School revealed the same tradition still strong. The National Fine Arts Museum’s collection was an extraordinary surprise and delight. The Museum of the Revolution and the Plaza of the Revolution, two of the symbols of this complex island nation, are not to be missed.
Q: What about the Cuban people?
A: The Cuban people are welcoming, educated and creative, living as they do with limited island resources. [No mention that Castro himself has admitted that the economy he implemented by force doesn’t work] Their ability to repurpose and reinvent [otherwise known as making do with cast-off junk from the 50s] is to be admired [by liberal American tourists]. Passing through the countryside and small towns gave us an additional glimpse into the daily life of the hardworking people.[hardworking, si, paid, not so much. Food is strictly rationed, pensions are $9 per months, working in the only industry left in Cuba, sugar, pays $20 per month]. The historic town of Cienfuegos by the sea with its perfectly preserved theater/opera house from 1886 and other architectural gems reinforce the understanding of the rich and deep heritage of Cuba.
Q. Were there any other highlights?
A: Witnessing the Afro-Cuban dancing in the Trinidad town square at night was a highlight of our two days in this sleepy colonial village [and thank Fidel, no homos in those dance ensembles Castro having rounded them up and shipped them off to hard-labor prison camps for reeducation] where transportation was donkey cart, horse-drawn carriage, bicycles and scooters but mostly on foot. [Another success story for communism and for green people everywhere: no cars! Walking is so much more restful for barefoot peasants, ¿pero no?] Joyful and lively music filled the streets and cafes throughout our travels. Cigars and coffee along with Cuba Libres rounded out many fine meals.[What do you bet O’Shay and her friends weren’t smoking the “peso cigars” ordinary citizens are restricted to? She doesn’t strike me as they type to enjoy smoking dried horse shit, somehow] Then, our journey ended at the Buena Vista Social Club in the famed Hotel Nacional de Cuba where many Americans honeymooned back in the day. [And which, when Castro took over, was permanently closed and its musicians, like Ibrahim Ferrer, were forced to work on the streets as shoeshine boys because they’d played decadent western music].
O’Shea wouldn’t know it, dazzled as she was by the wonderful sights and sounds of jolly Havana, but the artwork she so admired is heavily controlled and censored by the dictatorship of the People’s Republic of Cuba.
Cubans cannot watch or listen to independent, private, or foreign broadcasts.
Cubans cannot read books, magazines or newspapers unless they have been approved/published by the government. Cubans can not receive publications from abroad or from visitors.
Before the Communist regime, Havana boasted 135 cinemas — more than New York City or Paris. Today less than 20 remain open, although the city’s population has doubled. The Communist regime established a control of Cuba’s film industry, and it was made compulsory for all movies to be censored by theInstituto Cubano de Arte y Industria Cinematográfico before broadcast or release.
If liberal communist apologists want to travel to Cuba and support its dictatorship, that’s their business, mostly. I just wish they wouldn’t return to places like Greenwich, average home value $1.8 million, and was rhapsodic on the beauty and joy bestowed on its happy subjects by the Castro kleptocracy.
Or sponsor shows about it on my dime.