La cantante de La Bodeguita (The Singer From La Bodeguita)Cuba Series - Painting #17
36" x 48" - Acrylic on canvas
On a non descript, graffiti strewn street in Havana there stands the most famous bar on the island -La Bodeguita Del Medio. It's kinda like the McSorleys Ale House of Cuba; a revered local establishment frequented by locals, but also a venerated tourist trap. What can one make of such an establishment? For every reason to stay away theres about ten that draw you toward it..and so..like a moth to the flame..I arrived at La Bodeguita.
The bar is incredibly small, but with its own sense of grandeur. High ceilings, a spindled facade, framed photos of famed former customers adorning the walls, seating in the back and the inked inscriptions and signatures of a million visitors throughout the years scrawled across every available inch of the establishment. Legend has it that Hemingway enjoyed his mojitos here. Those legends have since been dispelled but the legend persists regardless. And so goes La Bodeguita.
On one humid evening I stumbled my way into the bar and ordered a customary mojito. The locals and tourists were intermingling, enjoying their drinks and swaying to the sounds of the house band. I've portrayed the singer here. Here bleach blond hair and red dress vied for attention with her voice, but it was her voice that eventually won the hearts of the people. Amidst the din of the voices and clinking glasses her melodic wail filled the room, enrapturing the crowd.
My favorite thing about these roving Cuban bands is that they don't need amplification. I grew up in musical cultures obsessed with volume and amplification, but seeing these traveling troubadours walk into a bar and take control of a room with the natural acoustics of their instruments. Theres a power in that that has brought me some measure of pause in how I appreciate music.