Daisy Valera

Pabellon Cuba
Pabellon Cuba

HAVANA TIMES— “Arte en La Rampa”, a crafts fair which, following the International Crafts Fair (FIART) and “Art for Mom” (“Arte para Mama”), completes the cycle of Cuba’s three most important arts and crafts events, is currently underway in Havana’s Cuba Pavilion (Pabellon Cuba).

What’s new this year? First, the price of admission, which has gone up to four Cuban pesos (it was three at last year’s fair). If we recall that, at the 12th fair (two years ago), admission was only two pesos, I think we can conclude that the increase in the price of the entrance tickets describes an arithmetic progression.

Second, the food offer. Now, all drinks and beverages are available only in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUCs). Luckily, you can still buy popcorn for five regular Cuban pesos.

Black and White ceramics at Pabellon Cuba.
Black and White ceramics at Pabellon Cuba.

The fair grounds at Pabellon Cuba have been filling up with crowds of people since the day the fair opened its doors to the public, to the point that one is tempted to take the promotional slogan at its word when it describes this crafts bazaar as “the event most eagerly awaited by the Cuban family.”

“Arte en la Rampa”, however, faces the same, serious limitation that all other craft markets scattered across Havana face the rest of the year: the salaries of Cuban families.

Some will buy a pair of shoes they will wear every day, until they have been worn into something useless. Others will buy pieces of clothing. The vast majority, however, will quench their thirst for consumption buying earrings, decorative candles or coffee cups.

What makes this crafts fair different aren’t the beautiful and prohibitively expensive items on sale (such as the reproductions of Sosabravo paintings, at 100 CUC, or furniture sets, with 2,000 CUC price-tags). What makes the fair different is the way in which it manages to bring a measure of cultural diversity to Havana’s Vedado neighborhood.

The bandstand at Pabellon Cuba.
The bandstand at Pabellon Cuba.

Poster and painting exhibitions, interviews with artists, afternoon ballad-music, jazz and repentismo  performances, concerts on weekend nights, shows for children, theatre pieces, fashion shows and book sales – all of this, and more, is to enliven the crafts fair at Pabellon Cuba for the coming two months.

These affordable cultural activities constitute a rare exception for the Cuban public, which see admission prices at recreational and cultural spaces around the island go up every day.

La Rampa will cease to be the street known for the Yara movie theatre or the place where only sites of Raeggeton and salsa music worship (like the “Karabali” or the “Tikoa” nightclubs) prosper, but only until the beginning of September.

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Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

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