The first thing I asked when we got to the museum was if I could use their restroom. The man, son of the owner of the small museum, gestured at the side of the entrance where he kept his giant guestbook and apologized for the mess of the bathroom. I took one look at it and didn’t use it. One of the many things you’ll find in Cuba, if you’re not staying or visiting a place that is specifically designed for tourists, is that the bathrooms often don’t come with toilet paper, soap, or a functioning toilet. After a couple of days, you’d get use to it.
The man was quick to laugh and had a smile that somehow gave him back his youth. Whether he knew my professor personally or not, the man acted like he knew him for years and he extended the same courtesy to us.
It wasn’t a conventional museum. Nothing was organized in a coherent manner and half of the items on display were eroding away. It was all done by his father. His father would come in and arrange the artifacts – mostly pictures – in whatever way he felt like arranging them that day.
The place felt more like a shrine than any regular museum. Dedicated to the people of the revolution and those that were considered friends to the Castro regime. (That’s why there was a picture of Chavez hanging from the wall.)
But despite the lauding pro-revolutionary themes, they don’t receive any funding to keep it maintained. Parts of the ceiling is missing, allowing for rain and other types of weather to erode the pictures, and the walls are peeling away. Any chance to preserve these pictures and murals are limited. It’s really just one man and his son and their ambition to preserve the legacy of the revolution.
When it was time to go, he eagerly guided us to his giant book of signatures and asked us to sign. He was particularly excited about one of my class-mates from Chicago.