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Cuba's Faded Glory



Waves crash, smoke wafts, people hustle. A motley sea of vintage cars and tattered buildings surround me. Spanish—soft and round—blends seamlessly with the insistent pulse of son, mambo, and rumba. The air is an unmistakable blend of sea, tobacco, and diesel. 

Yes, Cuba is a place that assaults the senses, that embodies paradox and defies logic. It is also a place where I was fortunate to take 23 travelers in February as part of a Fairfield University Bellarmine Museum of Art new program to promote cultural exchange. Our group, comprised of alumni and faculty as well as members of the general public, noticed that things were definitely different in Cuba from the moment we arrived. Upon entering the small baggage hall, my husband Victor (a Cuban-American architect) and I were approached by a somber young man in a khaki uniform. “Luis” was very interested in the literature we had in our carry-on bag—Bellarmine exhibition catalogs. For ten rather tense minutes he recorded, in long-hand, our answers to his many questions together with the title of each publication. 

Once released, we stepped out of the airport into a parking lot filled with vintage American cars—living relics of Havana’s pre-Revolutionary days. Equally eye-catching is the propagandistic imagery, which proclaims the rectitude of revolution and the righteousness of socialism from murals and billboards. A broad billboard near the airport, for instance, apotheosizes Che Guevara: “We see you each day, pure like a child or an honest man, Che, Commander, friend.”

Also remarkable are the holdings of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, now divided into two separate collections: Cuban Art (housed in the Palacio de Bellas Artes) and “Universal” Art (in the Palacio del Centro Asturiano). Another collection worth visiting is the Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas. Housed in a villa once owned by a wealthy Countess, the museum—and the treasures it contains—give modern-day visitors a clear sense of how Havana’s élite lived before 1959. One such person was Ernest Hemingway. His island residence, FincaVigía, can be visited by tourists, as can his room (#511) at the Hotel Ambos Mundos in Old Havana.

Old Havana offers evidence of Cuba’s efforts to preserve its architectural patrimony. The city’s five civic squares are bounded by colonial structures that are, generally speaking, far better maintained than the city’s other crumbling edifices. This dichotomy reveals itself on the outskirts of town as well; perhaps nowhere more so than at the sprawling arts complex known as “ISA” (Instituto Superiore des Artes). This project was spearheaded by Castro’s Revolutionary government in 1961, when a golf club was nationalized to create a vast campus comprising five separate art schools. By 1965, however, the regime’s once-utopian project was abandoned. We visited the best of what remains: Ricardo Porro’s School of the Plastic Arts; notable for its organic design and “Catalan” masonry vaults. Here we were wowed by the architect’s evocative spaces and by the opportunity to meet young painters and graphic artists at work. It is their creative energy that gives one hope for renewal in the midst of chaos and privation.

We also visited the Taller Experimental de Gráfica de La Habana, a co-operative of some 120 graphic artists. Visitors can engage directly with artists at this studio just off of Cathedral Square in Old Havana, in addition to buying their works. Classified as “informational material,” artworks are among the few things Americans can bring home from Cuba.

A state-trained guide accompanied our group, contextualizing the “Triumph of the Revolution” along the way and steering us toward state-owned restaurants. The food tries hard, though unsuccessfully, to emulate Continental cuisine—white fish in white sauce abounds. Though meals in Havana may disappoint, the rum does not. This amber elixir, like the omnipresent cigars, does not qualify as “informational material,” and therefore must be enjoyed in situ. 

Cuba is inherently beautiful, despite its current state of decrepitude. There is a real risk, however, that change—if it comes—will be accompanied by a charmless brand of global capitalism. And here’s the rub: achieving prosperity without the destruction of all that makes Cuba unique. If the balance is not right, you may find yourself ordering your cortadito at a Starbucks on Revolutionary Square, your mojito at a Cheesecake Factory in Habana Vieja.

 

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December 2017

For the 32nd year, Santa will make a special stop at Fairfield’s historic Burr Homestead to mingle with visitors of all ages and spread holiday cheer with the help of some very...

Cost: Advance Tickets: $6 ages 2 and up. Tickets at the door: $8 ages 2 and up.

Where:
Burr Homestead
739 Old Post Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Junior Women’s Club of Fairfield
Contact Name: Pheroza Parashar
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Clay Art Center
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The Department of Theatre Arts will present "Happy Holiday from Irving Berlin: A Musical Revue" in the MainStage Theatre of the Visual and Performing Arts Center on the WCSU Westside...

Cost: $7-15

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WCSU Westside Campus
43 Lake Ave Extension
Danbury, CT  06811
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Saturday-Sunday, December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 2017 Tis the season to be jolly at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester during Bricktacular. Join in on the festive...

Cost: Starting at $15.95; children under 2 are FREE.

Where:
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester
39 Fitzgerald Street
Yonkers, NY  10710
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Sponsor: LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester
Telephone: 866-243-0770
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Cost: Members: Free; $5 Adults; $3 Kids; Free 5 & Under.

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

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Cost: Starting at $15.95; children under 2 are FREE.

Where:
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester
39 Fitzgerald Street
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Sponsor: LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester
Telephone: 866-243-0770
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Favorite memories, reminders and images of home are on display at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery. “Memories Of Our Town,” features art in a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06897
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203- 831-9063
Contact Name: maritime garage gallery
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December 2 – January 7, 2018 A Fairfield Museum holiday tradition. Model trains wind around an enchanting display full of holiday spirit and elaborate scenery! This year features even more...

Cost: Members: Free; $5 Adults; $3 Kids; Free 5 & Under.

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
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Featuring hundreds of pieces of functional pottery and ceramic sculpture by local and nationally recognized artists. It is an opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind clay art for holiday gift-giving...

Cost: Free

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
View map »


Website »

More information

Saturday-Sunday, December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 2017 Tis the season to be jolly at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester during Bricktacular. Join in on the festive...

Cost: Starting at $15.95; children under 2 are FREE.

Where:
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester
39 Fitzgerald Street
Yonkers, NY  10710
View map »


Sponsor: LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester
Telephone: 866-243-0770
Website »

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Favorite memories, reminders and images of home are on display at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery. “Memories Of Our Town,” features art in a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203- 831-9063
Contact Name: maritime garage gallery
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More information

December 2 – January 7, 2018 A Fairfield Museum holiday tradition. Model trains wind around an enchanting display full of holiday spirit and elaborate scenery! This year features even more...

Cost: Members: Free; $5 Adults; $3 Kids; Free 5 & Under.

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
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Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
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Cost: Free

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Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
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Celebrate the holidays by connecting with inspiring and fabulous women over cocktails and light appetizers. Take a rest from all the stress and join us! The cost is just $25 for B.I.G. members and...

Cost: $25 for B.I.G. members and $45 for non-members

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Geronimos Bar and Grill
2070 Post Road
Fairfield, CT  06825
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Sponsor: B.I.G. Fairfield/Westport
Telephone: 203-529-5146
Contact Name: Diana Palmentiero
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Saturday-Sunday, December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 2017 Tis the season to be jolly at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester during Bricktacular. Join in on the festive...

Cost: Starting at $15.95; children under 2 are FREE.

Where:
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39 Fitzgerald Street
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Sponsor: LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester
Telephone: 866-243-0770
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More information

Favorite memories, reminders and images of home are on display at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery. “Memories Of Our Town,” features art in a...

Cost: Free

Where:
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11 North Water Street
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Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203- 831-9063
Contact Name: maritime garage gallery
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Wednesdays, December 6, 13, 20 & 27; 9:30am. Discover adventures on the tracks with books that spark the imagination. Sponsored by People’s United Bank. For more information and...

Cost: Members; Free: Non-Members; $5 Adults, $3 Children, free for children 5 and unde

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Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
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December 2 – January 7, 2018 A Fairfield Museum holiday tradition. Model trains wind around an enchanting display full of holiday spirit and elaborate scenery! This year features even more...

Cost: Members: Free; $5 Adults; $3 Kids; Free 5 & Under.

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
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Join us for a free tour of our permanent collection which includes European and American paintings, drawings, prints, and photographs, as well as a group of African, and Pre-Colombian objects. The...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Bellarmine Hall
Fairfield University
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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In this exhibition of vintage postcards, holiday literature and caroling music, dating from 1848-1996, you can experience the magical and memorable role holidays play in the lives of all readers,...

Cost: Free

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Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
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Featuring hundreds of pieces of functional pottery and ceramic sculpture by local and nationally recognized artists. It is an opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind clay art for holiday gift-giving...

Cost: Free

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
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Saturday-Sunday, December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 2017 Tis the season to be jolly at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester during Bricktacular. Join in on the festive...

Cost: Starting at $15.95; children under 2 are FREE.

Where:
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester
39 Fitzgerald Street
Yonkers, NY  10710
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Sponsor: LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester
Telephone: 866-243-0770
Website »

More information

Favorite memories, reminders and images of home are on display at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery. “Memories Of Our Town,” features art in a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203- 831-9063
Contact Name: maritime garage gallery
Website »

More information

December 2 – January 7, 2018 A Fairfield Museum holiday tradition. Model trains wind around an enchanting display full of holiday spirit and elaborate scenery! This year features even more...

Cost: Members: Free; $5 Adults; $3 Kids; Free 5 & Under.

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this exhibition of vintage postcards, holiday literature and caroling music, dating from 1848-1996, you can experience the magical and memorable role holidays play in the lives of all readers,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

Make this a holiday tradition for your family! Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Southport Village. Sing carols around the bonfire. Enjoy live choral music while decorating cookies and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

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Featuring hundreds of pieces of functional pottery and ceramic sculpture by local and nationally recognized artists. It is an opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind clay art for holiday gift-giving...

Cost: Free

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
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Music on the Hill presents the Festival Chorus and Jubilate Ringers handbell choir in a traditional Christmas concert, with artistic directors Ellen Dickinson and David H. Connell. The concert...

Cost: $20 in advance, $25 at the door; students free

Where:
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church
36 New Canaan Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Music on the Hill
Telephone: 203-529-3133
Contact Name: Music on the Hill
Website »

More information

Saturday-Sunday, December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 2017 Tis the season to be jolly at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester during Bricktacular. Join in on the festive...

Cost: Starting at $15.95; children under 2 are FREE.

Where:
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester
39 Fitzgerald Street
Yonkers, NY  10710
View map »


Sponsor: LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester
Telephone: 866-243-0770
Website »

More information

Favorite memories, reminders and images of home are on display at the City of Norwalk Parking Authority’s Maritime Garage Gallery. “Memories Of Our Town,” features art in a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06897
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203- 831-9063
Contact Name: maritime garage gallery
Website »

More information

December 2 – January 7, 2018 A Fairfield Museum holiday tradition. Model trains wind around an enchanting display full of holiday spirit and elaborate scenery! This year features even more...

Cost: Members: Free; $5 Adults; $3 Kids; Free 5 & Under.

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
303 West Avenue
Norwalk, CT  06850
View map »


Website »

More information

Fridays, December 8, 15, 22 & 29, 4:30pm – 6pm. Free with admission. Join us on Friday evenings when the Train Show is open late! Make a snowman out of marshmallows, create an array of...

Cost: Members; Free: Non-Members; $5 Adults, $3 Children, free for children 5 and unde

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Clay Art Center One-Time Cladies Night for Adults Interested in Learning to Use the Potter’s Wheel Looking to get your hands dirty and learn how to use the potter’s wheel? Try Clay...

Cost: $50

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
View map »


Website »

More information

Come join The Vagabonds for this completely out of character production as we celebrate our return to Bridgeport's Hidden Gem with the story of George Bailey's glimpse into the "What...

Cost: $20 & Up

Where:
The Bijou Theatre
275 Fairfield Ave
Bridgeport, CT  06604
View map »


Sponsor: The Vagabond Theatre Company of Greater Bridgeport
Telephone: 203-520-8332
Contact Name: John R Smith Jnr
Website »

More information

Get ready to rock the holidays with the one and only Rob Mathes, now in his third decade of holiday performances at The Performing Arts Center. This annual celebration featuring the multi-talented...

Cost: $45 to $72.50

Where:
The Performing Arts Center, Purchase College
735 Anderson Hill Rd
Purchase, NY  10577
View map »


Sponsor: The Performing Arts Center
Telephone: 914-251-6200
Contact Name: Jenifer Howard
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this exhibition of vintage postcards, holiday literature and caroling music, dating from 1848-1996, you can experience the magical and memorable role holidays play in the lives of all readers,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346 ext.115
Contact Name: Front Desk
Website »

More information

Featuring hundreds of pieces of functional pottery and ceramic sculpture by local and nationally recognized artists. It is an opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind clay art for holiday gift-giving...

Cost: Free

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
View map »


Website »

More information

Saturday-Sunday, December 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, 23-24, 2017 Tis the season to be jolly at LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester during Bricktacular. Join in on the festive...

Cost: Starting at $15.95; children under 2 are FREE.

Where:
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Westchester
39 Fitzgerald Street
Yonkers, NY  10710
View map »


Sponsor: LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Westchester
Telephone: 866-243-0770
Website »

More information

December 2 – January 7, 2018 A Fairfield Museum holiday tradition. Model trains wind around an enchanting display full of holiday spirit and elaborate scenery! This year features even more...

Cost: Members: Free; $5 Adults; $3 Kids; Free 5 & Under.

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Make happy holiday memories without the hassles! Moms and Dads know it's often a scary experience for young children to sit on Santa's lap. Come to a place that is safe,...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Stepping Stones Museum for Children
303 West Avenue
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View map »


Website »

More information

Come join The Vagabonds for this completely out of character production as we celebrate our return to Bridgeport's Hidden Gem with the story of George Bailey's glimpse into the "What...

Cost: $20 & Up

Where:
The Bijou Theatre
275 Fairfield Ave
Bridgeport, CT  06604
View map »


Sponsor: The Vagabond Theatre Company of Greater Bridgeport
Telephone: 203-520-8332
Contact Name: John R Smith Jnr
Website »

More information

Get ready to rock the holidays with the one and only Rob Mathes, now in his third decade of holiday performances at The Performing Arts Center. This annual celebration featuring the multi-talented...

Cost: $45 to $72.50

Where:
The Performing Arts Center, Purchase College
735 Anderson Hill Rd
Purchase, NY  10577
View map »


Sponsor: The Performing Arts Center
Telephone: 914-251-6200
Contact Name: Jenifer Howard
Website »

More information

Show More...
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