Canucks, inukshuks and Cuba

Saturday, March 24th, 2012. Filed under: Art Cuba Legendary Landscapes
A secluded beach west of Santiago de Cuba

A secluded beach west of Santiago de Cuba.

Waves crash, palms blow, vultures wheel, clouds unspool. Here on the Costa Morena, the rugged coast west of Santiago de Cuba, all nature salsas in the wind. Flopped under a seagrape, sunburnt, pants torn, I suddenly get Van Gogh. Vincent never made it to Cuba but he would have known how to paint it: all agitated, spinning daubs. I need a video camera, not a pile of salt-stained sketchbooks, to record this action. My sketches, I realize, are less a document of this trip and more an exercise in slowing down to really see nature’s complex patterns. They’re also signposts to feelings and memories.

Off to build another Inukshuk

Off to build another inukshuk.

Leaves fly off my seagrape, spinning like circus plates towards the lowering sun.  Pat will be waiting, laughing with Canadian and Cuban friends back at the hotel bar where everyone meets at this time of day. I wander back along the beach, thinking about other trips to Cuba, places visited, people met.

Four little inukuit stare off towards Jamaica

Four little inuksuit stare off towards Jamaica.

Canadians visit Cuba to the tune of a million a year. For many, it’s more than a cheap vacation spot; it has become our place in the sun. Some have been going for decades, building on long friendships and romances, getting married, making and baptizing babies. I’m always surprised, too, at how often I meet Cubans who have been in Toronto for some reason and express their love of High Park and snow.

I heart inuksuit, driftwood and Cuba

I heart inuksuit, driftwood and Cuba.

As I near the hotel, I stop to photograph an inukshuk, then another. Little sentries of stone and coral, staring out to sea. Once built as monuments for communication and survival in the Arctic, the inukshuk (the preferred Inuit spelling is inuksuk, plural inuksuit) is now often used officially as a symbol of Canadian friendship and cooperation. Here on a deserted Cuban beach, they are signposts to the passage of Canadians and tokens of affection for their windblown place in the sun.


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