"I'm going down to Cuba to see my friends
Down where the rhythm never ends
And no problem is too difficult to solve
Yeah, times are tough down there it's true
But you know they're going to make it through
They make such continuous use of the verb 'to resolve'."
– Jackson Browne, "Going Down to Cuba"
|Puente del Tren de la Palma, Rio Cristal
by Armando Menocal ca. 1930
Art is alive and doing well in Cuba. Cuban artists are among the most successful and affluent citizens of the country. Laws enacted in the early 1990s have given Cuban artists the rare freedom to travel in and out of the country and to be self-employed entrepreneurs, keeping the money they make from their creations. (See "Cuba's '1-percenters' by Michell Caruso-Cabrera, CNBC.)
The politically repressive regime of the early 1960s caused many of the country's most prominent artists to flee. In the 1980s, the government, responding to increasing pressure from Cuban artists, loosened up some of the previous restrictions on artistic freedom of expression and travel. Since then the state has made arts education a priority in both primary and high school, spawning new generations of well-trained artists able to draw upon the rich heritage of the arts in their country and freed from the pressure to use their talent to serve the state.
Unfortunately, there is no tradition of and little money for buying art in Cuba, so artists rely on selling to foreign tourists or through international galleries to make a living. Americans are among the newest collectors of Cuban art. Americans who travel to Cuba legally (under people-to-people licenses) are prohibited from purchasing souvenirs other than art such as fine art oil paintings, music and books.
"The success that artists in Cuba enjoy reflects a striking difference between their place in society and the place artists occupy in other countries. Rather than suffer in garrets and work odd jobs, some are among the country's highest earners, and enjoy privileges far beyond the means of most other Cubans." (Anne Whiting, Global Post)
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–John and Ann