We had an excellent landing in Havana—the first return trip for Mica since he came here in 2011 to deliver baseball gear to the Martin Luther King Center. Our casa particular [predates Air B n B by a few decades] is in Central Havana, a few blocks from the sea and a short ride to Old Havana in a maquina, a recycled, rebuilt, reanimated American car from the 50s that functions like an affordable Uber pool, plying certain routes in the city.
Ivan Soca, subject of the first film in our series, Evolution Cuba, scooped us up in Aquitania, his car, named after the region bordering Spain and France where the first troubadours sang. Los trovadores are a central theme of Ivan’s work—musicians who write and sing songs of the people, from the people, and for the people. They are storytellers and the soul of their pueblo, of their people.
Ivan took us to Jaimanitas, on the outskirts of Havana where the artist Fuster has transformed the area into a Gaudi-like mosaic of beauty and imagination. But tonight we were here to witness a free neighborhood concert by Silvio Rodriguez, a Cuban troubadour famous throughout Latin America. Using his own resources, Silvio invites guest artists to perform with him throughout the island, converting a street into a concert venue, free for all. This was the 75th in the series; Ivan has photographed all of them save for the two performed in Spain and Chile. No T-shirts for sale, no vendors, just a makeshift stage raised a few feet above the street, and the music. After a brief afternoon deluge Frank Delgado, another trovador with a sharp sense of humor took the stage and wowed us. A short set later, Silvio sat down and sang songs that the entire country seems to know—elders, pierced, tattooed and gender nonconforming college students, local workers, and young families, sway, cheer, and sing. Silvio has been writing and singing trovas for 50 years, and while many in the U.S. don’t know his voice, he is one of Latin America’s greatest bards.
Ivan knows not only the neighborhood, but he knows the rooftops to climb for the best plano general—the wide shot. He knocked on a few doors, introduced himself, and we were invited up.
Not bad for our first half day in Cuba.