On Sunday morning your Green MP headed west from Havana to visit the Terreza eco-village, now designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The project began in 1968 when Tito Nunez Gudas and his friends set about planting 6 million native trees. Now there are all types of gardens, teaching facilities and an eco-restaurant Tito is very proud of. Tito had taken off to Havana, so we chatted to the local GP, Dr Rodobaldo, who looked after the villagers (everything for free) using a combination of standard and “complementary” medicines – including treatments using the many different herbs growing around the community houses. He also practiced acupuncture. His compassion and enthusiasm clearly put him at the centre of village life.
Then my travelling companion, Jesus Noguera, got a call from Tito about an interesting concert in Havana that night. Tito’s niece was part of the band. So we headed back east, stopping on the way at a beautiful private farm (Idalio employs three workers) growing every type of tropical fruit (including some very tasty guavas) plus all sorts of cactii and ornamental plants. I asked why each path was lined with bamboo and was told it was to protect the fruit trees from hurricanes. The intense cultivation (including small beehives) owes something to the Australian permaculture guru Bill Mollinson, who had a big impact in Cuba in the 90s.
Back in Havana we hooked up with Tito made our way to little blind street in the poor neighbourhood of El Fanguito, where a few dozen locals had gathered for the concert. It turned out it was an free community event put on by Silvio Rodgriguez, the “Bob Dylan” of Cuban music, who explained to us he used to live in the neighbourhood. Once the concert started more people drifted in, building the crowd up to about 400. The young people didn’t seem bored by “oldies” music cheering loudest for the songs celebrating the “heroes” – from Che, to Allende, Martin Luther King – and John Lennon. The icing on cake was the entry of Omara Portuondo, the star of the Bueno Vista Social Club. Though she must be now in her 80s her voice is strong and true. She was rained off after three numbers (the Havana drought seemed to breaking) but then cleared up and she reappeared to to do several further numbers with Silvio, to the rapture of the crowd.
As I was leaving I noticed some young black teenagers with trendy short haircuts (NBL-style??). I couldn’t help taking a photo of one whose hairdresser had sculptered a Che Guevara profile on the back of his head. Not many New Zealand politicians would have this impact on trendy Kiwi kids.