Welcome! follow me as I discover places I never imagined existed.

I grew up in the traditional Caribbean household, where it was structured and focused around family, school and church or as my fellow Haitians like to say growing up Haitian consisted of three things, Lekol, Lakay Leglise! Lol. So, as a child I promised myself that I was going to become successful enough to travel the world. So, here we are. Welcome to travelingsistaz, where I will share pieces of the world that I bring back home with me, to share with those of us still at the stage of lekol, lakay, leglise 😉

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I have not been everywhere, but it’s on my list.

Does the mothering role need public endorsement?

On May 9th 1914, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States, declared the second Sunday of May as a national holiday as, “a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country.”

So this poses the question, should we not express love and reverence for our mothers on any other day of the year?

For those who have a genuine relationship with their mothers, a day that is solely dedicated to force expression is not necessary. Unfortunately, Mother’s Day has become like almost every other holiday in the US-commercialized. Similar to Valentine’s Day when driving down the road you can find makeshift flower stands at every corner, and just like Valentine’s Day is this not just another day set aside to do something we should be doing every day. To honor those who mean the world to us, and to thank them for all their love and support.

to complicate matters further…

Although mothers are ideally depicted as loving and nurturing this unfortunately is not always the case. There are also those who do not have any connection with their mom, whether it be due abuse, abandonment or neglect but are made to feel judged for not wanting to celebrate at all.

The entire day is a celebration of women who are able to bear children, however this excludes women who have not given birth or are unable to, and may cause them to feel as though they have failed as a woman. In the 21st century, womanhood should not rely solely on childbirth. The fact that a woman may not want to or is unable to have children should not classify her as inferior.

Additionally, the pain of one who have lost a mother is unimaginable. Consider this,  a friend who lost her mother a few years back and every Mother’s Day she becomes isolative and withdrawn. She does not go to work, church and tries to avoid coming outside altogether as the pain of seeing everyone celebrating this holiday, or worst being asked what did she “do” for her mother on that day is a stab at an already deep wound.

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This post is not to bash those who celebrate Mother’s Day, but while celebrating I think we should make a conscious effort of being aware that for many, this is a difficult day. Most of us know someone who has lost a mom, a child or are battling with infertility. A small gesture, a text, a call to acknowledge the pain that they may be facing on this very special day will go a long way.

The family unit is a complex matter that reaches far deeper than the pursuit of big business for profit. Life is too short to wait for one commercial day.

Hold those you love close and celebrate every day, as tomorrow is promised to no one, and only fools rely solely on tomorrow.

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What do you guys think? Has Mother’s Day become too commercialized? Do you know someone who suffers a great deal on that day? Comment below.

21 Happy things :-)

  1. The sound of children laughing
  2. The smell of fresh baked bread
  3. Standing on a white sandy beach looking into crystal Blue Ocean
  4. Free drink from Starbucks
  5. Conclusion to a grueling semester
  6. 4th of July BBQs
  7. Getting lost in a book by your favorite author
  8. Binge watching a newly discovered Netflix series
  9. Completing that annoying level on candy crush
  10. Supportive feedback from fellow
  11. Sound of the rain, while I am under my blanket
  12. Completing all my chores, and still having time for a nap
  13. Naps
  14. Deep tissue massages
  15. No traffic
  16. Mystery shows
  17. Ignorant TV
  18. Smell of rain
  19. Homemade spaghetti
  20. Count down to Vacations
  21. Receiving hand written love notes

Yellow Plush Toy

Name your happy below

*Inspired by a fellow blogger

Don’t suffer alone

As a woman of color and a mental health professional, one of the topics that is near and dear to my heart is the prevalence of mental illness in the African American community. May is mental health awareness month and after reading a very touching piece by a fellow blogger on how he is dealing with recent diagnosis of schizophrenia, I was moved to write a post on the subject.

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In the African American community there are many misconceptions when it comes to mental illness. The topic of mental illness is often seen as a taboo and most don’t speak on the topic at all. Many believe that a mental health condition is a personal weakness or some even a punishment from God. This leads to many being reluctant to discuss mental health problem or even seek treatment because of the shame and stigma that comes along with a psychiatric diagnosis.

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According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological stressors than non-whites, yet despite this, young adult African Americans, especially those with higher levels of education, are less likely to seek mental health services than their white counterparts. The top four reasons for failure to seek treatment included:

Socioeconomic Status: In the US where health insurance is closely tied to employment, the high rate of unemployment in the African American communities coincides with a high rate of individuals who are uninsured or under insured thus leading to lack of diagnosis and treatment.

Distrust: Many African American professionals, especially those who climbing up their respective professional ladders, are often faced with institutionalized racism and often are compelled to be strong. In the corporate world, many African Americans face social isolation and often and they feel that they can’t trust anyone or share anything and must go it alone.

Lack of African American Mental Health Professionals: In 2015, only 3.7% of members in the American Psychiatric Association and 1.5% of members in the American Psychological Association were identified as African American. A person’s beliefs, norms, values and language plays a vital role in their health, including mental health. Cultural competence is a doctor’s ability to recognize and understand the role culture plays in their patient’s treatment outcome and to adapt to this reality to meet your needs. Cultural incompetence can lead to insensitive mental health provider and greater mistrust from the patients.

Most African Americans rely on faith, family and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even at the point where medical or therapeutic treatment may be necessary.

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Faith and spirituality can play a vital role in your mental health recovery process but should not be the only option. Spiritual leaders and other members of your community can provide much needed support. However be aware that spiritual communities can also become a source of emotional distress and even the origin of the social stigmas if members of this community are uneducated on mental health.sad 5

Don’t let fear of what others may think prevent you or a loved one from getting better. One in five Americans are living with a mental illness. You are not alone. Help is just a click away. People often don’t get the mental health help they need because they don’t know where to start. Use these resources to find the help you, your friends, or family need.

 mental health screening tools. 

http://ok2talk.org/ 

Veterans Crisis Line is available 24/7 by dialing 1-800-273-8255 and pressing 1

http://www.militaryonesource.mil/transition?content_id=267534
In Crisis? Call 1-800-273-TALK

The Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists offers numerous resources for LGBT people who are experiencing mental health conditions, including a directory of LGBT-friendly therapists.

Text “NAMI” to 741741

It’s important that those living with mental illness know that they are not alone, and sharing your personal experiences can also help with your personal recovery. Have a story that you’re comfortable telling? Share below.

Reference: https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Diverse-Communities/African-Americans#sthash.znJFsuO3.dpuf

Copyright © 2017 by travelingsistaz.  All rights reserved.

Edited by Kevin Khan RPAC

Stress resilience: How to bounce back

Living in one of the busiest cities in the world it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it was not until I succumbed to my daily stress and literally crashed and burned that I realized how much stress that I was really under. Stress can be positive, as it can be motivating and encourage us to reach our full potential. This post is about the other stress, the one that leaves us fatigued, irritable, with poor concentration and in long term wreak havoc in our bodies.

Chronic stress has been linked to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, headaches and anxiety/depression.

Here are five things that are an absolute must in order to reduce your stress.

 

Identify the cause

The first step in managing the stress is to identify the root. Take note on your thoughts throughout the day. Take note on what and who causes negative changes in your mood and thought process.

 

2.  Set up a routine

 

Reduce the number of decisions you need to make by using routines. If there’s something you need to do every day, do it at the same time every day. Have a routine for preparing for your next morning the night before. For example picking out your clothes the night before, or even deciding on what you are going to have for breakfast will make your morning smoother, and give you an extra few minutes on shut eye.

3. Build stronger relationships

Believe or not our relationships can be a major source of stress. Having negative, hostile relationships can also lead to depression/anxiety. Stress leads to increase cortisol a hormone responsible for glucose production which is then converted into fat. Having positive and close relationships with friends and family that you are able to reach out to will help alleviate your burden. They may be able to offer practical assistance and support, useful ideas or just a fresh perspective as you begin to tackle whatever’s causing your stress.

4. Take time out

Set aside at least 4hrs a week for yourself. Whether you are a busy mom a provider in a busy psychiatric emergency room such as myself, it is imperative that you have time set aside just for you. How you spend that time is up to and can range from sleep, spa, manicure or diving into a good book. Research shows that activities like yoga and relaxation exercises not only help reduce stress, but also boost immune functioning.

5. Know when to Get help

Sometimes, these may not be enough. If after taking time out for yourself, long vacations, you are still feeling stressed, sad, irritable, unable to concentrate, or experiencing insomnia it may be necessary to contact a mental health professional who can help you learn how to manage stress effectively. He or she can help you identify situations or behaviors that contribute to your chronic stress and then develop a treatment plan in helping you manage your stress. There is absolutely nothing wrong with consulting with a professional.

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Copyright © 2017 by travelingsistaz.  All rights reserved.

Edited by Kevin Khan RPAC

5 reasons why a staycation might be just what you need

You have the exact career that you racked up all those student loans for. You love our boss, your coworkers are like a second family. After all, you did celebrate the last five birthdays with them. (insert eye roll). Even if you are lucky enough for all of these to be true, and are not you’re overworked, underpaid and mainly fed up with the grind of your nine-to-five life, at some point you will desire a well-deserved break.

If you’re running on steam, but don’t have the time or the funds for a getaway, a brief staycation may be just what you need. Hoping these five reasons can convince you..

Save on cash

Even with advance planning and cashing in on those air miles, depending on your destination vacations can end up costing you a pretty penny. By staying local and saving on air fare, hotels and souvenirs, you save on the overall costs leaving you with a deeper pockets for activities and hotel accommodation.

No packing

I must say, the thing that I hate the most about traveling is packing and unpacking. Sometimes, it is days before I get around to unpacking after a trip. On a staycation there are some things you just don’t need to worry about packing. If your one of those packers that feel the need to pack everything but the kitchen stove. Packing can be a source of major stress and anxiety when preparing for a getaway. By staying local packing takes minimal time and effort. *refer to how to pack for that getaway in 5 minutes*.


Exploring your back yard

It was not until my very first staycation that I discovered so many places that I drive past on a regular basis and always think I should visit but just never got around to it. I live in a city where tourists pay thousands of dollars to come explore, yet I spend hundred to go elsewhere. A staycation is the best way to discover what is in your own back yard. It’s even a good idea to google your town, and make a list of what brings in all the tourists to your home town, and enjoy your city at a slower pace.

Check out local newspapers or online sites such as Groupon or Wag Jag to see if you can find any exciting offers to events or places in your area.

Avoid jet lag

 

Ever been on a nice long vacation, but when you return home, you feel exhausted as if you’re ready for your next vacation? Once I return home, it takes a couple of days if not a week for me to readjust to the hustle and bustle of my everyday life. With a staycation there is no jet lag or change in time zone to worry about.

Save on vacation days at work

Sometimes, all we really need is a brief time out to rejuvenate and get back to business. With travel, we have to account for the days that we’re actually on vacation, as well as days to return and settle back to reality before returning to work. A staycation may not even require you to submit a vacation request to your boss. This way you can stack up on those vacation hours for an even longer getaway when you’re ready.

 

Once a year go someplace you’ve never been before

-Dalai Lama

5 ways to save money for your dream vacation.

 

  • Research
    1. Choose where you want to go, and find out their peak season and chose dates that do not fall during that time frame. The key to finding the cheapest air tickets is to identify the season with the lowest passenger demand. Visiting during the least popular times, tend to be less expensive.Sign up for a few email alerts from travel companies and airlines that share flash sales and limited-time-only offers. You’d be surprised at the deals you can find.        Don’t sleep on sites like Groupon… check out this deal!
  • Vacation savings account  

A trip to the beach could be in your future, so start saving now..

  1. Open up a separate account just for vacation, and designate a fixed amount that you’re willing to put away every month towards that dream vacation.
  • Cut back on luxuries like eating out
    1. Going out to eat French food at the pricey French restaurant in your city VS. saving enough to eat French food in FRANCE…?
  • Sell your used items
  1. That expensive pocket book that you were crazy enough to spend your entire Tax refund check on three years ago, may be worth a 3 day vacation to the Caribbean.

Get another Gig

  1. As a nurse I used to pick up an extra shift per month and save all the extra money towards my yearly vacation. A lot of fellow bloggers said that they started driving Uber. I hate driving, so this was not much of an option for me.

Travel Folding Soft Toothbrush (2 Pack) by GUM

How to pack for that getaway in 5 minutes.

So you’ve done your research, and booked your vacation of your dreams, now for one of the dreadful parts of traveling-the packing.

In the ideal world, we would be able to travel with that cute 5 piece matching luggage set. Not pay for our overweight baggage and have a handsome bellboy waiting for us at the destination airport to help us push them all around. I’ve travelled a lot, and sadly the odds of this happening is slim to none. what I’ve learned though  in my novice traveling years is that, not only can over packing be expensive, as more and more airlines are starting to charge for luggage. Some, like our so lovely Spirit airlines, who even charges for carry-ons. If paying is not a problem for you, think about the strain of pulling, pushing and lifting that you will have to endure with all that extra weight. By the time I returned home, I would be so sore that I was ready for the next vacation.

After much trial and error, I am now a pro (well almost), at packing light and keeping that extra $25-$50 baggage fee my pocket for souvenirs or towards the next getaway.

  1. Plan
    1. Try and plan your outfits. Think about places that may want to dine, what will be necessary for your excursions and build your suitcase/bag around those items. Also, it is always wise to check out the local weather. Both morning and night, as I learned in my recent trip to Dubai (check out my previous post “Things I wish I knew..”)
    2. What to bring Shirts or dresses

should only bring enough for each day of your trip minus three. Pants: a pair of jeans for every other day minus 2.

    • Shoes: two pairs of casual shoes (ie a pair of sandals and a pair of sneakers) and a pair of formal kicks. Ladies, you do not need a pair of shoes for each outfit. Try to only bring clothes that can be worn with the same shoe. I once traveled to Dominican Republic with a suitcase full of shoes, and returned home having worn none.
    • Undergarments: I am sure mom has already conditions us for this one. Remember to pack a clean pair of socks, undershirts, and underwear for everyday of your trip. When packing, Pack as many socks and undergarments into your shoes as will fit, then set the shoes in the bottom of the bag. This will not only save space, but will serve as the first layer of your bag and provide protection from all the bumps and bruises the bag will surely endure during transport.
    • Toiletries: If you’re planning on putting your toiletries in your carry on, remember that it must be able to pass through security, be sure to get everything in travel-size bottles and pack them per TSA regulations. If the plan is to check them in, your best bet would be to put them in a zip lock bag, this will help you conserve space, and protect the rest of your luggage in the event that one of the bottles, break open during travel.

3. Packing

Now that you’ve laid out all that you want to bring, here comes the hard part. Getting it all to fit in the least amount of luggage and still having room left for the return souvenirs. When it comes to cramming all those clothes, there are only two good choices, folding vs. rolling. Folded clothes are less likely to wrinkle but will end up taking up more space in the luggage. On the other hand, when rolled up, clothes are more likely to arrive to your destination wrinkled, but will only take up a fraction of the space compared to when they are folded.

So, when choosing clothes try and stick to Soft, wrinkle-resistant materials like knits, wool, and cotton as they can all be rolled without much concern. Keep in mind that each item should be rolled tightly as loose rolling will result in wrinkles, regardless of the material. Starched garments like collared shirts and dressier items should always be folded. Combining both rolling and folding should be enough to let you cram everything in your bag, with left over space and still avoid looking a hot mess while vacationing.

When placing all of your items in the bag, your best bet is to think of it like baking a cake.

The first layer or crust, should be the shoes stuffed with undergarments.

The second layer in your bag, on top of your shoes, should be all of your heavier rolled items such as jeans, sweaters, and towels. This should be followed by any fragile items that aren’t being brought as carry-on. Expensive items such as laptops, cameras and jewelry go here. By placing them on top of the heavy rolls like towels and jeans, they will be more likely to arrive to your destination in one piece. Think of this as the fruit filling.

The next layer (soft crust) should consist of lighter rolled items like t-shirts swimwear.

On top of them, place your folded items. If possible, keep them in a dry cleaning bag. This will help minimize wrinkle and provide easy access to them once you arrive to your destination, allowing you to unfold and hang them right away.

Last, on the very top, you place the toiletries.

Now you’re ready to roll!

Really, roll those bags to your nearest airport and get going!

 

Copyright © 2017 by travelingsistaz.  All rights reserved

Things I wish I knew before I started to travel.

After my first trip, it was like I an addict getting their first hit. I was addicted. I constantly looked for the next place, the next ocean, next volcano to book. Though I’ve only been to 11 countries (not many when compared to true travel connoisseurs), some days I feel well traveled and can be travel guide to the United Nations, and then I travel to another corner of the world and realize how much more I need to learn. For those of you who are preparing to take that first “hit” of travel, I have prepared this post to shed some light on the few things that I have learned on my travels.

 

Be prepared

Benjamin Franklin said it best, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Vacations can be quiet expensive and the last thing you want is to return home, more stressed than when you left home. When planning a trip overseas Google should be come your best friend. Take some time to learn common phrases in the local language. Being able to say “where”, “thank you”, and “good morning”, can actually take you a long way. Local are often impressed by the fact that you made an attempt at connecting with them by learning these common phrases.

Be cultural aware 

    Familiarize yourself with the local language, money and culture. It is important for you to know a little of what is appropriate behavior for sex, age and even race. For European countries like France, where nude beaches are as common as Starbucks in New York, the cultural concepts such as nudity is quite different when compared to a middle eastern country such as Dubai.

Outerwear 

        I learned this lesson the hard way. Always bring a jacket. No matter what your encyclopedia says about local climate, bring a sweater or even jacket will be a smart idea. No matter the destination, somewhere along the way, you will wish you had a jacket. The airplane AC on the plane may prevent you from catching up on some sleep, the temperature may drop unexpectedly. During my recent trip to Dubai I was surprised to learn just how cold it can become at night. It was borderline freezing! (Then I remembered 6th grade earth science, deserts are hot during the days average 100F and can drop at night to an average of 25F) Also, you may decide to take a tour of holy sites such as churches and temples, and for that, you’ll need something to cover your shoulders in order to be allowed in.

Document

    Traveling is one of the most memorable experiences of your life, but memory is often fleeting. Capture your travel experiences in a journal or blog, Video. Photos. Letters. Postcards. Anything! so you go back and revisit them throughout the years. Looking back I wish I took more videos/pics of my earlier travels.

Have the proper documentations!

    Before even booking your trip, take a look at your passport. Make sure your passport is valid and not going to expire at least 6 months after your scheduled return. If you’re planning to visit a country that requires a visa such as Cuba or India, add that to your travel budget and get your Visa in advance. Certain countries may even require vaccinations that are not necessary here in the US. Check with your doctor, and make sure you’re caught up on our routine vaccines, as well as those of the country you plan to visit.

Pack light

    When I first started traveling, I would actually drag around two suitcases, no matter how long the trip is. One for shoes and one for clothes (yeah, I know). Like everything else in life, leave your baggage at the door (well not literally). An oversized suitcase (or suitcases in my case) may seem necessary to hold everything you need, until you realize, that’s you don’t need it. Pack smart. When packing bring things that can be worn or used in multiple ways, and do not take up too much space. A scarf can be worn as a head wrap, used as a light blanket or a pillow cover. Pack several times. Each time removing non-essentials, until you’re left with only what is absolutely necessary. Depending on where you’re headed, chances are if you forget or run out of something you’ll be able to replace it.

Some of the essentials: Jackets, Scarf/blanket, Earplugs, Charger, Camera and lots of cash as you may not have access to an ATM.


Be prepared to be an ambassador of where you’re from

    Like it or not, you may find yourself representing your home. No matter how hard you try to blend in the locals will be able to spot you a mile away. With that in my mind be somewhat prepared to entertain questions about politics, culture, money, fashion and even racism. During my trip to Dubai December 2016, all the question were concerning the recent presidential election. Depending on what they have been exposed to regarding American culture, some of the questions may surprise or even offend. On one little island in the Caribbean I was once asked “How many times have you been mugged”, once the locals found out that I was New Yorker. You don’t have to entertain every question, but keep in mind they want to learn you’re your culture as much as you want to learn about theirs

The fun part is up to you

    During my early trips, I had a list for everywhere I went of all the things I wanted to try and do. I did not complete all my tasks I will return home disappointed. Until I realized that I need to live in the moment. If I didn’t get to see a monument a wade in a river that was ok. My being preoccupied with my list I missed a lot of other wonderful experiences. Eventually, I realized that it was okay if I missed something, or ended my trip early, or extended it for longer, or spent the whole.

Lastly

    Just go! You will never be know everything, but you will never get there until you leave.
      When in doubt, travel.

 

Cuba

My very first trip on the blog MUST be the land of salsa, Castro and Cigars-CUBA!

 

 

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The preparation

My college girlfriend and I have been traveling for years, and most of our trips were booked almost spur of the moment. Our recent trip to Havana, Cuba was no different. We found many flights with JetBlue less than $200 per person round trip, but the dates did not fit both of our schedules. We ended flying with Delta for $400 round trip, We were so in there!

Habitacion

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Walking down any city block in Havana one will be sure to spot one of these. It signifies casa particular. In the late 90’s the Cuban government lifted a ban allowing Cuban residents to rent rooms in their houses to tourists, called Casas Particulares. My friend and I stayed at Casa Martha e Israel, where we paid $140 total for 5 nights and daily breakfast for two people. A round trip flight to Cuba from NYC ranges from $15 Still think you can’t afford to travel?

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There are two forms of currency accepted in Cuba. The CUC$ and the  the CUP. We found that the CUC is used most by foreigners and the CUP by the locals. Currently $1 USD is equivalent $1 Cuban CUC. Goods were found to be relatively inexpensive when compared to the US, especially if your remember to never accept the first offer.. My friend managed to eat an entire meal of rice chicken and salad for $3USD! Cubans may not feel the same, as the average Cuban salary in 2015 was $19 USD/month.

The OLDSmobiles that line Cuba’s street make you feel as though you’ve traveled back in time. The streets of Cuba are a car lover’s paradise. Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel placed a ban on importing foreign cars or parts. As a result all of the cars found on Cuban streets are not only straight from the 1950s, but most come with original parts. Since taking over from his late brother, Raul Castro have since lifted the ban, allowing Cuban citizens to purchase foreign cars, that is as long as they are willing and able to pay the hefty taxes. Taxes that can bring the price of a car from $30,000 to $300,000. With prices like these, I think it’s safe to say Cuba’s classic car parade is here to stay. At least for now.

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Walking around Havana it was easy to see the different cultural and political influences in Cuban architecture. “The influences from different styles of Moorish, Spanish, Italian, Greek and Roman found in Cuba’s architecture mirrors its rich social and political history from the graceful colonial baroque period to its modern towering blocks”.

Che’s house. Located at Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana, Havana, Cuba.

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Che’s house. Located at Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana, Havana, Cuba.
Ernesto Che Guevara is a name almost synonymous with Fidel’s because of his pivotal role that he played in the Cuban Revolution. His image, like Fidel’s is often captured in paintings, statues and even in music around Cuba. TIME magazine has even named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century. La Cabana de Che provides an excellent view of old Havana.

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Cuba, like many of its counterparts is a country well known for its art. After the revolution most artists felt it best to leave Cuba. Those who remained faced censorship, as their art was sponsored by the government. Censorship meant artists could not draw, sculpt or sing anything that could be interpreted as anti revolution. It is not until the 80’s did art truest begin to reflect the artists expression. I found this statue in old Havana at the plaza vieja. Made entirely out of bronze it is a woman fully nude with the exception of her closed toe shoes, riding a huge chicken and carrying a giant fork. No one could really tell us what the statue represents. Perhaps the fork is an invitation to all the delicious restaurants and bars like Azucar bar (who has the best pina coladas in life!) located in the square, or the fork is what she uses to keep the rooster in check.

 

Copyright © 2017 by travelingsistaz.  All rights reserved