Saturday, February 9, 2013

Day Two Lunch and After

For the past few years, Cuba has allowed citizens to open small businesses including restaurants to help fund restoration of the old city.  The office of the city historian makes the calls for that and one of our Cuban photographer guides, Nestor Marti, works for him.  Marti jokes that his cousin claims to be a direct descendent of Jose Marti, so he must be related too.  The one type of business that has really taken off to my tourist eyes is the paladars - small restaurants people open up in their homes and other empty spaces.  For some folks it's a second job as many high level professions don't make much of a salary.  High level government officials don't feel the pinch when there are shortages, but "middle class" and others do feel that pinch sharply.

We went to a paladar, Dona Eutimia, owned by an architect (who designed the Hotel Saratoga)  for lunch that second day.  There were eight of us with Nestor and Elizabeth Opalenik.  I think most everyone ordered something different and it was all delicious. The menu tended to the Spanish side but in addition to the entrees, big bowls of steaming black beans, rice and sautéed vegetables (green beans, cabbage, some kind of squash and onions) were brought to the table to be shared family style.  Wine  not common in the restaurants so most of us ordered local beer - Crystal, a light lager or Bucanero, an amber lager.

Although most of us wanted a siesta, we soldiered on to two different art exhibits that were close by.  In a great old building that had a central courtyard, the first floor contained work that ranged from painting to mixed media works by local artists (I think).  I really liked the work of three of them - Sandra Ramos, Eduardo Abela (whose work is below) and Leslie Sardinas.

The second floor showcased the work of our photographic guide from Fototeca, Nestor Marti.  We always had another guide with us from the state dept of tourism as well.  We had different ones from day to day, but I enjoyed them all.  I also gave them the low-down on what life in the US is really like - no, we are not all rich Americans.  Yes, we have crazy racist, bigots who don't like anyone other than themselves and yes, corporations are beginning to run the US via donations to government officials. 
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