Havana Street Art: Here Today Gone Tomorrow

Mi Mundo is hidden in a doorway on the back streets of Old Havana.

Speak softly, but carry a big can of paint. 

Photo Feature by Ken Alexander*

HAVANA TIMES – In Old Havana, in a little alcove, there is a small painting on a dirty, cracked cement wall that has captured my heart.  It is small but it speaks loudly.   It was years ago when, by chance, I encountered it.   It is called ‘Mi Mundo’.    Each year I go back and the paint is more worn and the colors are less vivid.  One day it will succumb to the elements.

I once showed a woman in Centro Havana a photo of a wall painting in Callejon de Hamel.  She said, “Oh that’s not there anymore.”.  She called to her friend and showed him the photo.  They both remembered it and agreed it was gone. Painted over with something new.

At that moment I realized just how much this colorful street art, expressed perfectly against the texture of Havana’s pitted and decaying exterior, is but a transient expression of life in Havana. 

It has been said that street art is nothing else but Urban Poetry that catches someone’s eye.   Art as an evolutionary act.  At no point static and with no rules.

This work is found in Centro Havana along the Prado facing the southbound lane.

This month I will visit Mi Mundo again, and this time I am determined to find the artist as well. (If you know the artist, please contact me.)

For 19 years I have been trying to understand Cuba through the eye of my camera lens. But like the changing art on Havana’s walls, Cuba is an elusive, moving target. 

The more I think I understand Cuba

the more it changes,

because the more she changes me

the more I realize how little

I understand.

On a wall in Centro Havana.

The most transient aspect of the experience is watching people as they walk in front of a work. For a brief moment they are unknowingly part of the art.  The mother and child, the old woman, the street vendor.   Each person interacts with the masterpiece creating something new and different that appears and then dissolves as they pass.

A temporary art installation in Havana. Hundreds of people became part of this exhibit and then it was gone.

Banksy, the renowned street artist famous for his self-shredding ‘Girl with Balloon’, says “Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make at least someone smile while they are having a piss.”

*Ken Alexander is a photojournalist in Woods Hole, MA USA. He can be reached at [email protected]







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5 thoughts on “Havana Street Art: Here Today Gone Tomorrow

  • November 11, 2022 at 8:59 am

    ‘Mi Mundo’ is by artist Yankel Olea Delgado. I am very fortunate to own one of his (extremely rare) oil-on-canvas paintings

  • February 21, 2019 at 11:16 am

    I really hope you find that artist Ken, it’s a pitty how time slowly destroys all these works of arts. In a country where freedom is an irony, street art is a precious gift.

  • February 21, 2019 at 10:31 am

    Hello, just bump into this article, my name is Liber, I’m a Cuban urban photographer, no longer in Cuba now, but Cuba will forever be in me, check out different cities where street art is as prolific ( if not more) than in Havana, recomend Santa Clara, for decades know amongst Cuban underground artist as the meca of urban art. Thanks for your admiration of Cuban arts.

  • February 21, 2019 at 2:41 am

    ‘The more I think I understand Cuba the more it changes..’

    Ken you are missing the point. Cuba, like any country, is the sum of its changes. That makes up its history, culture, society etc etc. Focus on the changes if you want to ‘understand’….

  • February 20, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    Wow, what a great article, just made me want to reach out. As a lot of great art does. Do you think Mi Mondo is really gone?
    I love the poem about understanding Cuba – did you write it? It’s fascinating. Where are you from? I went to Cuba in January and cant stop thinking about it. Hoping to go back in a few months.
    Enjoy your next trip to Cuba, I’ll be jealous! I wonder if you might personally email me so I could ask you a few art related things for my next trip?
    Thanks, Lucy

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