I just returned from Cuba (Cuba!), where I spent 10 days with a group of 8 other Americans traveling with Witness for Peace on a “people to people” delegation. If you’re not sure what “people to people” travel is, it’s basically an educational trip, and it’s one of the few ways that Americans are permitted to travel to Cuba (more on that later!). The requirements for those licenses are very strict, so our days were packed. During our 10 days in Cuba, we met with community leaders, historians, economists, journalists, faith leaders, professors, musicians, and more to discuss Cuba and how the policies of our respective governments have impacted their everyday lives.
If I could sit down with you for a cup of coffee, I would adore sharing the many stories, perspectives, and reflections of my time in Cuba. Since we can’t sit down face-to-face, I’ll just imagine you with a delicious cup of joe, sitting in one of those comfy coffee-shop chairs. And since I can’t possibly tell you all the things today, I want to share just a few of my favorite speakers with you in the next couple of weeks.
On one of our first days in the country, we had the incredible opportunity to visit the home of a Cuban artist, Saulo Serrano. We turned off a quiet road and walked onto a sidewalk that ran between two rows of houses–past the barking dogs, squealing pigs, and the familiar sight of laundry hanging to dry in the heat of the day. From the outside, Saulo’s home was unassuming–just another door and some windows in another building that disappeared into a crowded block.
I stepped out of the strong Cuban sun into a dimly lit living room, and as my eyes adjusted, I was greeted by bursts of passion and color and life and art coming from every corner of his home. I sat down in his living room and drank in this beautiful creativity as Saulo welcomed us wholeheartedly and began to share about his life.
Whether or not he made money from his art, he was an artist. “Art is not something commercial–it comes from the spirit,” he shared. He had worked many years in the profession of teaching, but he was always an artist. He sells his art, sometimes, but it’s not what he sets out to do. His drive is pure passion.
It was evident that he didn’t view art as what he did but as who he was. This creativity and passion exuded from his voice, his hands, his face. His art is deep within him, and it weaves its way throughout his daily life. He doesn’t want to go a day without creating something.
“When you are an artist, you die with hopes of creating more art.”
Visiting with Saulo brought me back to the core of art–passion and creativity (something I think is within all of us). Oh, how often I’ve gotten sidetracked by business and technology–distracted from the art that is inside me, begging to be created. I will always carry with me this encounter I had in the living room of a humble Cuban artist, and I hope it’s one that inspires and reminds all of us of the many ways we’re connected with neighbors all around the world.
I’ve got lots more to share…Coming soon: a charla (“chat”) with a Cuban journalist, a female pastor in a rural town, and thoughts on “la lucha” (the struggle) from various friends I met. I’d love to know what you’re curious about in regards to Cuba–leave a note in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer!