Beyond Buena Vista
Half a century of revolution has produced some impressive art in all genres. What’s hot in Havana now.
“Los Aldeanos is making some of the most relevant music today,” says Juan Pin Vilar, director of the music program En el Mismo Lugar. The group is also seriously inflammatory; the song “La Naranja Se Picó” includes this line: “With Pinocchio’s dictatorship, victory is frustrated; its idea of a cultured, socialist society nauseates.” Not surprisingly, the group is banned from Cuban TV and radio and doesn’t perform in official venues; fans catch them live at informal jams known as peñas.
Fresh off a two-week run at New York’s Joyce Theater last May, Danza Contemporánea de Cuba is the country’s premier contemporary-dance company. “Dance in Cuba is alive and well,” says principal dancer Joel Suárez Gómez. “But it’s regimented, with few opportunities for independent productions. I want to dance in the streets—to reach more people with something simple yet well done.”
Ian Padrón’s Habanastation has been seen by more than a million Cubans since debuting in July and is perhaps the country’s best shot at a 2012 Oscar. It’s a “classic prince-and-pauper story,” says Fabian Zampedri, professor at the International Film and Television School outside Havana. “The twist is that it shows class differences in socialist Cuba—something most people don’t imagine exist here.”
Ernesto Rancaño, whose work was part of this summer’s “Living in Havana” show at Marlborough Chelsea, sculpts, paints, builds installations, and wires them for light and movement. The U.S. government denied him a visa for the New York opening, but you can meet him in the flesh at his open studio in Habana Vieja (Oficios No. 6). If you like what you see, buy it; Cuban art can be imported legally under the embargo. Mini horizontal rule:
What Yankees vs. Red Sox is in the U.S., Havana’s Industriales (“the Yankees of Cuba”) vs. Santiago de Cuba’s Wasps is across the Straits. “The only time [55,000-seat] Estadio Latinoamericano sells out is when Santiago plays the Industriales,” says Santiago-born, Havana-bred Wasps fanatic Julián Torres. “A police line divides the stadium between our fans and theirs.” The rivalry is as exhilarating for players as fans. After his debut against the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium, Cuban defector Orlando “El Duque” Hernández reportedly said, “This was nothing after pitching for Industriales against Santiago.” The hotbed of beisbol gossip is the Esquina Caliente (“Hot Corner”) in Parque Central—known as the most democratic space in Cuba—where fans hold a veritable sports-talk-radio slam every day. Buy day-of-game tickets (10 cents to $1, depending on if you want a concrete or plastic seat) at the ballpark, and grab souvenir caps and jerseys at the on-site Industriales store. The new season kicks off November 27.