EcoArts in Cuba

The EcoArts in Cuba program will explore urban and rural human eco systems illustrating development projects that integrate the arts and community participation. Our journey will start with a conference about the Old Havana community as an example of an urban sustainable development project combining arts and crafts for its restoration and the inclusion of the community for its economic development. Through a walking tour guided by an architect-historian working for the Office of the City Historian in charge of the project, we will visit four of the plazas in Old Havana and the Arts and Crafts School developing community members as craftspeople in charge of the restoration of the city. Founded in 1519, UNESCO declared Old Havana Universal Patrimony of Humanity. 

This experience will be followed by a second conference about community organizations participating in different development projects with arts at the center of their activities. One of the projects to be visited is La Comenita (The Little Beehive). In 1989 La Colmenita was created to promote participation of community members living in remote areas in Cuba through messages embedded in dramas created by the group using an integrated arts approach with music, visual arts, dance and singing.

Our next visit will be to the first eco community in Cuba called Las Terrazas. Located in the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve, Las Terrazas is the first Cuban eco community of both national and international reference for others developing areas with similar conditions. It also owns the Conservation Award granted by UNESCO. The settlers count on conditions that unquestionably set the grounds for an increase in their lives’ quality, and constitute one of the main principles of a sustainable development model. Las Terrazas population consists of 1014 inhabitants grouped in 253 family nucleuses. The life expectancy of its inhabitants is of 79 years old. The 45% of the economically active population works in tourism. Part of our tour will include a visit to local artists studios and galleries and the restored buildings and ruins of the Buena Vista coffee plantation, which was built in 1801 by French refugees from Haiti. The main house has been restored and now houses the Cafetal Buenavista Restaurant, a spectacular site for lunch.

 After four days in Havana we will visit the Viñales Valley in the Sierra de los Organos, an outstanding landscape encircled by mountains and dotted with spectacular dome-like limestone outcrops (mogotes) that rise as high as 300 m. In the Valley we will visit an organic farm for lunch and will learn about their practices in food production and community development, followed by a visit to the artistic project Con Amor y Esperanza (With Love and Hope). Aimed at teaching engraving techniques to Cuban children with down syndrome this project widens today to handicraft workshops with the participation of parents as well.

Created a decade ago in Pinar del Rio, the westernmost province of the island, the initiative benefits some 20 students with special educative needs, who are capable to create art works full of colours using paintbrushes and presses. The program have made possible that talented and original people became artists, affirms painter Jesús Carrete, creator of the project. After this visit we will travel to Viñales and do check-in at Los Jasmines Hotel.

Our second day in Viñales will start with a visit to the valley and a farm to learn about the culture of tobacco growing and the manufacturing of cigars. After lunch we will be able to get a closer look at the valley through a walking or horseback riding tour.

 The following morning, after checkout, we will travel back to Havana and on our way we will stop to visit Pelegrin’ s Patio Community Project. Run by Mario Pelegrín Pozo, this community project is housed in his family’s countryside home, where he ran the project along with his brother. The community project featured a large home where free workshops of all kinds are held for local students, from painting and drawing classes, to dance, chorus and music theory courses. In addition, we will learn about the Pelegrin Project of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production. In the evening, after check-in at our B&B in Havana, we will enjoy a farewell diner.