A perfect wall for Cuban graffiti

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez

HAVANA TIMES, March 19 — There’s a huge wall that separates the neighborhoods of Santos Suarez and El Canal, located in the center of the Havana.

It’s part of local heritage, and many locals are proud of this mass of concrete that protects them against the pollution generated by the nearby highway.

From this wall one can enjoy the surrounding scenery, breathe fresh air and find some privacy in the middle of one of the most densely populated areas in the country.

Coexisting in and around it are some of the most dissimilar uses however, with graffiti being perhaps the most widespread.

On the wall, graffiti art was first practiced well before the recent wave of graffiti hit the capital.

For over 20 years I’ve heard stories about “hard” drawings and designs have periodically appeared on the wall.

Also commented on is the strict censorship that the leaders of the area have applied to these messages of protest – a situation that remains very much in effect today.

A few weeks ago there appeared — as if by magic — a design calling for regime change in Cuba.

Within minutes the censors reached that site armed with their brushes and buckets full of “whitewash.”

They wasted no time in plunging the wall into a hermetic, snowy silence – yet in turn eliciting a challenge.

The anonymous graffiti artists will return any night to again spray their demands along the length of the wall.

As they prepared, the wall would remain confused in the false purity of its whiteness. Announcing an urban virtue while beneath the surface hundreds of designs and drawing whispered rainbow of opinions.

Could it be that the wall earned the name “malecon” (seawall) despite it being inland for bringing us an abysmal onslaught of voices when we lie down on it?

It might be the best wall for graffiti, since the absence of the sea protects the writings tattooed on its body, a privilege that other seawalls aren’t given.

Many stories are enhanced by the “seawall without a sea,” the pride of the residents of Santos Suarez and El Canal. Each one of us enjoys the opportunity to reveal this wonder to our friends.

One thought on “A perfect wall for Cuban graffiti

  • During my last visit to Cuba in January, I noticed that someone painted BAJA FIDEL in very large black letters on the very visible side of a building located at the corner of Calles Infanta and Valle. This must have taken place very late the previous night because at 7am I noticed the graffitti on my way to the panaderia. Here is the interesting part: all the cubans who lived close to this corner were out of their homes peeking at the graffitti but none ventured to view it up close. I later learned that cuban security had sent a photograher to take photos of the graffitti and of anyone who seemed too interested in looking at it. Hence, the reluctance by the cubans to get too close. Anyway, the painters showed up by 7:30am. Along with them came a green lada police car with two policemen in green uniforms. No doubt State security. There were also at least two plainclothes police meandering about. Here is the most interesting part: Instead of painting over both words, the painters simply painted over BAJA and repainted the word VIVA. Lesson for the day: Graffitti is okay in Cuba, as long as it is politically correct graffitti.

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