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 somewhat like the McSorley's Ale House of Cuba; a revered local establishment frequented by locals, but also a known tourist trap. What can one make of such an establishment? For every reason to stay away there are ten that draw you toward it. So... like a moth to the flame, I arrived at La Bodeguita.
The bar is incredibly small, but with a unique grandeur all its own. High ceilings, a spindled facade, photos of famous 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 bar. 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 found my way to 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 bleached blond hair and red dress vied for attention with her voice, but it was her voice that won the hearts of the people. Amidst the din of conversation 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 delivering their message through volume, but seeing these traveling troubadours walk into a bar and take control of a room with only the natural acoustics of their instruments is a powerful experience all its own.