The Bold and Bizarre Street Art of Havana, Cuba
Cuba’s streets have many stories to tell, and Cuban street art in Havana is the best storyteller.
Art is a means of expression and an important part of any society. It’s a way to portray reality. Not only the hardships and tribulations, but also the joys and victories.
Some societies encourage and promote art. Freedom of speech and thought is the norm. In Cuba, those freedoms have long since been discouraged—until recently.
Keep reading to learn about the impact of Cuban street art and discover works by incredible, bold, and bizarre Cuban street artists.
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Is Street Art the Same as Graffiti?
Most of us think of graffiti and street art as the same thing, but in theory, they’re different.
Lois Stravsky explains, “Graffiti predates street art and street art draws inspiration from graffiti.” While the two are similar, they aren’t the same.
Graffiti is a word-based art and subculture. The great majority of graffiti artists are self taught. Its counter-cultural edge it represents is attractive to young urban artists.
Graffiti tags—the words, names, and symbols—are a form of branding or claiming things, a way to “mark territory.”
In contrast, professional artists usually create street art with permission (or a commission). Most of the time, artists who do street art respect others’ work and don’t paint over it.
Both graffiti artists and street artists use public spaces as their canvas to protest against the establishment. To this day, most street art works convey a crucial message to the public and the authorities.
When these two forms of art overlap, they become “graffiti art,” a more elaborate type of graffiti that depicts not only words but also images.
Why Cuban Street Art in Havana Matters
Technically speaking, graffiti in Cuba is not illegal. Yet, people may consider it an act of mistreatment of public property if the artist isn’t careful.
Street art in Cuba is a medium to expose political thoughts and nationalism. In Havana, it doesn’t take long to come across walls full of revolutionary slogans and images of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.
Next to these political paintings, colorful and cartoonish images are breaking the mold of street art in Havana.
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Meet 3 Creative Cuban Street Artists
Today, Young Cuban artists are seizing the opportunity to use their art to stir up discussion about social issues in Cuba. From this newfound freedom, several Cuban street artists have risen to fame both in Cuba and on the international street art scene.
Here’s a brief list of three of the most famous Cuban street artists and how their graffiti and street art are making a difference in Havana.
1. El Sexto
Danilo Maldonado Machado, better known as El Sexto (The Sixth) was born in Camagüey, Cuba on April 1, 1983. He is known for his work as a cuban graffiti artist and human rights advocate inside and outside of Cuba.
His website states that his graffiti is a form of protest and criticism of the abuse of Cuban people at the hands of the Castro regime. Since his career began in 2008, the Cuban police have arrested him several times.
In recognition of his activism, he won the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent awarded by the Human Rights Foundation at the annual Oslo Freedom Forum in 2015.
2. Yulier P.
Yulier Rodriguez Perez, better known as Yulier P., is a Cuban street and graffiti artist from Camagüey, Cuba.
Yulier showed great talent at an early age. He became frustrated with the restrictions of the state-run art establishments. The Cuban government has censored, evicted, and imprisoned him for his art. They accused him of using walls that are “reserved” for government propaganda.
In 2014, he took his social message to the next level and became a pioneer of urban street art in Havana. Perez developed a visual language that speaks volumes to the Cuban people and spreads like wildfire.
Yulier prefers to paint on broken walls. The destroyed spaces are a way to use his art to create a dialogue. His art is easily recognizable, due to its big-eyed, alien-like creatures.
Fabian Lopez is the Cuban street artist better known as 2+2=5. His art is part of the colorful Cuba streets. It’s highly recognizable thanks to the iconic balaclava-clad faces.
His alias is a reflection of his rebellion—and painting street art and graffiti and using his skateboard are his passions.
His most iconic character is El Super Malo (the Super Bad), the balaclava man that he paints all around the Cuban streets. Hip-hop records and superhero comics inspired him to create it.
Of course, Lopez doesn’t identify as a political activist, much less as a vandal. He is simply a young man who wants to express his thoughts through art freely. He boldly reflects upon and expresses the needs and tribulations of the average Cuban. It’s a reality he isn’t willing to ignore or deny.
Practice Your Spanish Before You Visit Cuba!
Cuba is an amazing and beautiful island full of welcoming people, plus extraordinary music, dance, and street art! If you’re planning on visiting Cuba, it’s ideal to learn and practice your Spanish beforehand.
Practice your Spanish conversation skills today so you’ll be able to connect with the locals in Cuba and around the world! Being able to speak Spanish makes travel to Spanish-speaking countries both easier and more meaningful.
And did you know that being bilingual also improves your cognition and decision-making abilities?
Sign up for a free trial class to practice your conversational skills in preparation for your trip to Latin America! Our friendly, certified teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy are ready for you.
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