Cuba 2007: Day 7

Here is a link to tomorrow's diary.
Here is a link to yesterday's diary.
Here is a link to the index of the days.

Here is a link to today's photos. Click the big i button in the centre of the screen to get the titles of each slide. However, it'll probably be best to look at the photos after you've read the following text (if you plan to do that!).

Although breakfast is from 0700 to 0930, I don't make it until 0915. It's a buffet with lots of everything: bread, DIY toast, fruit, biscuity things, fruit juice, coffee, tapas, and a man doing tortillas. I get a tortilla con jamon, drink lots of coffee and fruit juice and have grapefruit and pineapple.

After breakfast I complete yesterday's diary. Later in the day, I wander into the centre of Santiago to do two things: buy some (English) books and take some photographs.

I feel less safe with my camera in Santiago than elsewhere, but after a while I settle down and take some candid photos. Occasionally, people ask me to take their photograph, and one person (of a group of three) suggested (in Spanish) taking my photo. This I would have liked, but I was too scared he'd do a runner.

I find a group of musicians sitting on the side of the street. For 1 CUC they play me a song and I get a lot of good photographs of them.

There is a bookshop in the Parque Cespedes at the front of the Catedral. I buy a novel in English by a Cuban writer and a book giving some writings of Fidel Castro. These cost 14 CUC. I also buy a bum bag costing 3.4 CUC (about 1.90).

It's about 1540 and there's a performance starting at 1600 at the ArtEx. It's free and so I go along to that. I have a mohito. The band is called "Septeto Sanluisero" and they start with just me in the audience and then a couple turn up. The performance is taking place in the courtyard of the ArtEx. The walls of the courtyard have doors leading to rooms some of which are marked in Spanish with their purpose: finance, marketing, computing. People are working in these rooms and so from time to time, in the middle of a number from the band, a person will come out of a room and cross the courtyard and go into another room. They close the door behind and so you never see into the room. It's weird.

After the first number, from the stage one of the members of the band asks me whether I speak Spanish/English and then asks me in English where I'm from. He also asks the couple (in Spanish). Later he asks me what sort of Cuban music I like, and being ignorant I say anything. He also asks the couple and I think they say the type of music found in Guantanamo and so they play a song in that style. (I think that is what happens.)

He sometimes introduces the numbers in English and sometimes in Spanish.

Another mohito is a bad move. A group of 10 people arrive. Some of them are locals and the rest are from Columbia. One of them is the Brad Pitt lookalike who was in the Casa de la Trova last night: he doesn't have his hat on today.

Another of them was doing some rapping with another group in the Plaza Dolares earlier on. Now he dances with a young woman in the group. He's good. Sometimes he does a cartwheel when she's not looking and this works although I think his coins went everywhere. He also likes to land his foot on her bum. It's all accomplished well. I manage to get some photos of the them (but not one of his cartwheels!).

There's a break and, after buying their CD, I talk in a mix of English and Spanish to the band. The English-speaking person (Alexis Linares) says they are from Santiago de Cuba. I tell them where I've been and where I'm going to. I say I can't speak Spanish. He says you can learn here and tells me about the possibilities! Just as they are about to start the second set he says to me that I "now have family in Cuba". And so an instantly ending friendship starts.

The second set abruptly ends as a thunderstorm brings torrential rain. The band gives up and the audience move to the sides of the courtyard.

After a while, when there is less rain, I leave and wander back to the hotel.

For dinner I go to the Salon Tropical (which is in a neighbourhood not far from the hotel). The waiter doesn't speak any English. But I get the message he's surprised I'm on my own. I order almost randomly from the menu. Well I know it's pork (cerdo) but I'm not sure how it's going to be done. I have one beer (Buchanero) and a small bottle of mineral water.

The pork is wonderful. It's slices of pork that has been roasted and there is a lot of it and just one heap of rice and one heap of mashed potato.

After the main course, the waiter comes back and says something in Spanish. Things get very confused at this point. Later he comes back saying the same phrase, and also coffee and also flan. To be adventurous, I decide to have the phrase I don't understand. I wait waiting for whatever it is to turn up. After a little while, I come to the conclusion that it's probably the Spanish for "is that it? are you full? nothing more?". So I ask the waiter for some coffee. Pity I don't remember what the phrase he used was!

Whilst walking into Santiago for this evening's performance, I discover that there's some activity at one of the wooden structures the one nearest to the hotel. But, although there's recorded music playing, they are still setting up the equipment for the live performance.

In the centre of Santiago, it's a frenzy. Many of the wooden structures have bands playing and there are bands playing elsewhere. The Festival de Caribe has started.

I've planned to go back to the ArtEx for a 2130 performance, but before that I catch a steel band playing a set in the Plaza Dolores.

The performance in the ArtEx costs 2 CUC. The band starts again with just me in the audience, but gradually people arrive. I have another mohito and some mineral water as well.

Although there's a flute and two violinists and a cut down double bass, I don't like the way the band use them. And, when there are people at two other tables, I decide to leave.

There's another band playing at the Casa de la Trova, but from listening outside I don't think much of them. And there are not many people on the balcony of the Casa.

There's a performance taking place in the Parque Cespedes, and another one at some open area near to Calle Aquihera. I take in bits of these.

The best band of the evening was some band on a wooden structure at one end of Calle Heredia. The music sounds as if it's from Mali but I guess it must be from somewhere in the Caribbean and judging by the T-shirts of people in the audience I would guess Jamaica but that may be totally wrong. They have a lead singer, 5 people in a choir, and the usual guitars and percussion. The choir often sang unaccompanied. And there were three dancers. There were quite a lot of performers. And, because it was at times very energetic, people would swop places to give others a rest.

Here is a link to today's photos. Click the big i button in the centre of the screen to get the titles of each slide.

Here is a link to tomorrow's diary.
Here is a link to yesterday's diary.
Here is a link to the index of the days.