I can’t tell how many times I’ve been in Cuba and how many stories I’ve heard of the complexities of this Caribbean country. Hardship and scarcity have forged the Cuban character, giving them a creative edge to solve almost any problem. It isn’t strange that Cuban artists are intrinsically creative since they grow up in such an environment.  “Inventar” (to invent), is a word commonly said throughout the island, used to describe problem-solving activities, from how to make some extra cash to how to make that old American car run again and again.

Such creativity is found at every level of the Cuban society, making people extremely talented, especially in artistic careers such as painting, performing, music and so on. Let me introduce you to five talented Cuban artists from Cienfuegos, trying to succeed in their careers despite the daily lacks and challenges they face:

Music producer and musician Yodey Alvarez

Cuba is the cradle of Latin music and has had an impact in world music. Cubans musicians not only “have it in their blood” but they’re also well prepared. The Cuban music education begins at elementary school, so when students reach university level, they can play and understand different music genres, from classical to popular.

Looking for someone who could produce a song I wrote some time ago, I ran into Yodey Alvarez. He is a professional musician with many years of experience and a great talent. Although the piano is his main instrument, he can play other instruments like drums and guitar. He has produced music for renowned Cuban artists and is excellent making arrangements to songs. The quality of his work, as well as the depth of his musical knowledge, impressed me.

If you’re a musician and are traveling to Cuba, I highly recommend you to meet him and get to know him and his work. You can contact him to (+51) 53099992 e-mail: yudey82@yahoo.es.

Image of Cuban musician Yudey Alvarez working in his home studio

Yuday is a gem in his field. Even though his studio is quite basic, his knowledge and talent are able to compensate for more sophisticated equipment. His music productions are at the level of international studio productions.

Theater and TV director Yordani Salazar

Since he was a college student, Yordani was interested in making a positive impact on his community through theater. Nowadays he is the director of the group “Luces de Teatro”. “Theater lights” looks for transmitting values to communities through plays. This beautiful work is made for free, out of pure idealism and love for his country and its people. Yordani, who works as a director in the local TV of Cienfuegos, rehearse the plays with his group after work. Later, they perform at schools or simply on the street. He knows well that art is a powerful tool for positive change. If you’re into performing arts, you’ll be delighted to meet this talented, yet humble soul. His contact info is (+51) 55716434. E-mail: yordanylucesteatro@gmail.com

Image of Cuban TV and theater director Yordani Salazar with his theater group

This is an extract from the Cienfuegos local tv news sending from 7 years ago. At that time Yordani and his theater group were students and had just started the “Luces de Teatro” project. Today, he continues reaching out to children and communities with a positive message.

Visual artist Edgar Era

First time I met Edgar was in his gallery 3ra Reja in El Prado Avenue in Cienfuegos. Since then a friendship and mentorship have developed throughout the years. I have grown as an artist thanks to his patience and profound knowledge. He has been an art professor at the Cienfuegos Art College “Benny More,” forming hundreds of young Cubans into the world of the fine arts.

Though he’s never left the island, his work has reached different corners of the world. Edgar has a unique, unmistakable style, which differentiates him from the rest. His work is characterized by a geometrically shaped reality full of tropical, shiny colors. Sea and erotic motives predominate in his art. He usually uses a mixed technique, laying the background of the picture in acrylic, and then developing his motives in oil painting. Besides, he uses other media like charcoals and watercolors in his artistic expression.

If you’re in Cienfuegos, I recommend you to go into his gallery, which is a block from the Malecón: Calle 55 #6224 e/ 62 y 64. Phone: (+53) 55015369 or (+53) 43512526.  You can appreciate his work at his facebook page Fine Art Cienfuegos

Visual artist Edgar Era along with three other renown Cuban artists explain about their work. (Audio in Spanish)

Graphic designer Pedro Pablo Chiu Bernal

Pedro is a professional industrial designer, who develops concepts and designs for products. He’s good at optimizing the function and appearance of products for the benefit of both the consumer and manufacturer. While talented on his field, Pedro has not been able to fully work in his career since there aren’t many industries in Cuba. However, being full of creativity, he applies it in another field: graphic design. In fact, Pedro has made a living making designs for printed or electronic media such as logos, banners, websites, etc. And if that is not enough, he is also a talented photographer.

I was impressed not only by his professionalism but also by his motivation and will to keep going despite the adversities. So I gave him different web pages for him to work online. But again, since Cuba is still under the embargo, he is not able to receive payment through Paypal.

If you go to Havana, please send him my greetings. He’s a very friendly guy who is fluent in English. His contact info is: ppchiu92@gmail.com, cell: (+53) 58165962.

Image of a sailboat. Photocredit: Pedro Pablo Chiu

Photo credit: Pedro Pablo Chiu Bernal.

Visual artist Aliosky Garcia Sosa

 

In Havana, I found Aliosky Garcia, who is in charge of the Printmaking Study Program in the Cuban Arts University (ISA). Original from Cienfuegos, Aliosky moved at an early age to the Cuban capital to study visual arts. Later, he dedicated himself to printmaking, where he explores the complexity of the life experience. Deeply inspired by the Cuban reality, his work is based on the human being and its challenges through life. The contrasts of emotions are masterfully expressed in his work, not only by the motives but also by his way of isolating the figures against a dark background.

His wooden carvings and prints have been exhibited in the U.S. and Europe, and he is usually invited by Art Schools and Universities in the U.S. to hold seminars to students. It adds to his talent, the fact that Aliosky is a very humble, open and friendly person. You’ll be very pleased to meet him. If you’re in Havanna try to reach out to him: alioskyg@gmail.com.

You can find Aliosky’s prints on Flickr.

Image of Sara Maria and Cuban artist Aliosky Garcia standing in front of the faculty of Fine Arts in Havana.

Aliosky Garcia and I in front of the Visual Arts faculty in Havanna.

Finally, I want to say that these people are but a sample of the great talent Cuban artists holds. When traveling to the island, I recommend you to look for meeting these and other Cuban artists. If you get to know them, ask them about their daily lives, listen to their stories, and ask them how they overcome their multiple challenges. Cubans are very welcoming and they will probably be open for a work collaboration. If you dare to share with them; and most probably you will learn something important about life as I did.

Image of Cuban children and a picture of Fidel Castro on the background.