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May 18, 2011

Santiago De Cuba the swinging city

by swebackpacker
Parque Cespèdes Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba

I arrived in Santiago de Cuba five days before the Carnival in Santiago De Cuba.  My Casa particular (Cuban bed and breakfast) was on Calle Heredia about five minutes walking down to Parque Céspedes. Santiago de Cuba was dressing up for the carnival. Hugo Chavez was coming to visit Raul Castro so it was necessary to paint the front side on all houses  along the way  the carnival cortège would follow from the start to the finish at Parque Céspedes. All over the city people were training dance steps, preparing dresses for the carnival. One could hear music in each street corner, actually the same music everywhere, Santiago de Cuba was like a gigantic orchestra playing these rhythms. I was a vibration as special feeling one ca only feel in eastern Cuba on the Caribbean side.

Santiago de Cuba was shouting music maestro music, please sing with us. It´s like every Cuban wants to be musicians, particularly in Santiago de Cuba. Everything revolves around music all the music clubs along Calle Heredia, all the musicians on Parque Céspedes, even in the museum Casa de Don Diego Velázquez an orchestra was playing music. One piece of music was repeated repeatedly, have you heard it long enough it´s like a drug you can´t live without it. I had to bring a CD with this music back home to Sweden. I went down to a store selling CD:s on Calle Santo Tomas fifty meters from the museum Casa de Don Diego Velázquez. The CD Store shared entrance with some sort of music club. I went inside trying to figure out how to find this piece of music I have heard everywhere in Santiago de Cuba. I took ten of the most popular Cuban music CD:s and listened through all of them to no avail. People were coming and going at the music club. One could hear the disc jockey or orchestra change from one piece of music to the next. Suddenly, they were playing the same piece of music I was looking for in the music club. I said to the shop assistant, do you have a CD of the music they are playing at the music club? I don´t have this CD! Why don´t you have this CD? I hear this music everywhere I go in Santiago de Cuba! You can only buy this music from someone burning a CD on the street. I have Cuban music in my store this is Puerto Rican music. Where can I find someone burning a CD on the street? Go and ask the people at Patio de Artex they should know. I left the shop and walked back to my Casa particulares on Calle Heredia. The owner, a woman, was sitting at a computer. Few cuban´s are allowed to own a computer, and even fewer can afford one. She had just bought a new screen and was about to connect it to the computer. I asked about Patio de Artex? The woman said, o yes, it´s a nice club, indeed a wonderful club!

One thing I have discovered walking around Santiago de Cuba was the absence of Paladares restaurants (privately owned restaurants with tables for about sex people). Some years a go (1995), Santiago de Cuba had  115 Paladares restaurants, today only two were left, none of them in convenient distance from my Casa Particulares. I said to the owner of the Casa, there aren´t any restaurants in this area! Do you have any suggestions? She said, this is a real problem but there is an illegal restaurant not too far from here! I said, illegal restaurant? Yes they run it in a family house! You walk Calle Heredia seven blocks down from here, turn left and walk three blocks, ask someone for the restaurant. They will show you! I walked to the area there the restaurant should be. It was a really hot summer evening. I asked about the restaurant? A boy said, follow me. We walked into a house, through a hall, into a living room there two women were looking at a TV set, continued out to a little court-yard, with four small tables. There were people at three of the tables and one empty table. It turned out to be a really nice restaurant with very good food. Which is not too common in Cuba! I was a returning guest for several days until I left Santiago de Cuba. I had noticed that it was nice colors on the houses in the neighborhood of the restaurant, particularly during the night. One might should try to arrange for some night photos?

Patio de Artex

On the way back to the Casa Particulares I went into Patio de Artex and asked them about the piece of music I had heard everywhere in Santiago. The manager Jaen-Claude said I think I know what you are talking about. He took me to a CD player and gave me some CD:s so I could listen. He was right I had found the CD:s I was looking for. I paid for the them and stayed for a while listening to an orchestra playing at the club. Jaen-Claude joined me and said tomorrow in the afternoon at 16:00 we will have Santiago de Cuba’s best orchestra at the club their name is Morena Son. I asked if I was allowed to bring a camera? I am responsible here so it´s ok to take photos.

Morena Son at Patio de Artex in Santiago de Cuba

Next morning I took my camera and walked down to Parque Céspedes for some photos of the musicians on the square. I asked two older gentlemen if they would like to play music in the evening in the area near the illegal restaurant? The question surprised them since nobody plays music in the street in the evening. However, they agreed to meet met at 19:30 in the evening near the illegal restaurant. In the afternoon, I was back at Patio de Artex to see Morena Sons show. It turned out the seven members of the orchestra were all women. Patio de Artex filled up with people all tables booked up although the show was in the afternoon. Morena Son delivered a fantastic show with the song El Paralitico as its peak. Patio de Artex was vibrating and swinging. It was an enormous feeling in the club then all seven girls were singing in El Paralitico. After an hour, the show was over in my point of view, they could have continued their show for hours it finished far too early. People left Patio de Artex in just a few minutes the place was empty. I was feeling some sort of emptiness it was going too fast from the whole place swinging to complete silence. Jean-Claude asked what I thought about Morena Son? I had nu doubt that this was Santiago De Cuba’s best orchestra. Jean-Claude said tomorrow in the evening we will have Cuba’s most popular orchestra here at Patio de Artex. Some of the members in the orchestra are living in Spain nowadays so they are only playing during the summer in Santiago de Cuba. I said, I will return tomorrow and left Patio de Artex. Now it was time for the illegal restaurant before my photo session in the evening. The old gentlemen arrive at 19:30 we walked into a nice colorful side street  and asked the people if we were allowed to play some music? The musicians earned some money from the people living in the area while I got my pictures. A child joined us and started to dance her parents thought the little girl was going to ruin my pictures. She did the opposite. She improved them in an unexpected way. After half an hour I paid the musicians and we strolled together up to Parque Céspedes. There I left them. They were very happy with the evening events.

Child and girl Santiago de Cuba

Musicians Santiago de Cuba

Musicians in Santiago de Cuba

Musician Santiago de Cuba

I returned to Patio de Artex next day in the evening for an incredible show. I don´t remember the name of that orchestra but Morena Son will stay in my memory for ever.

Playing music in the museum Casa de Don Diego Veláquez

© SWEBackpacker, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material including pictures without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to SWEBackpacker with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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