The Community Project Started in 2001. The town elders realized that they wanted their families to live in a better place, and we met with Ernesto, who was one of the original men who came up with the idea of the community project. He teaches psychology and Russian at the Universidad de Havana; he also plays the guitar and does many other things at the community house. As he was showing us around the town, men of all different ages would stop when they saw him, give him a hug, and ask how he was doing. His smile when he saw them was genuine and it was easy to see why everyone in this town looks up to him as if he was a beloved grandfather.
The town was built next to a railroad and right in the middle of the town is a huge water tank that was ultimately and used to hold trash and junk. The neighborhood also became cluttered with trash. Ernesto and the older community members convinced the entire neighborhood to help them clean up their town. The water tank was cleaned out and is now used as an art gallery. The roof is used as a small restaurant, bar, and garden. The front entrance of the water tank has been turned into a stage and the trash that was cleaned up was repurposed into beautiful sculptures. The town is also very proud that they did not use a penny of government money to create their facility.
The most important work of the town is the mural project. The town members have painted most of the walls in the town with beautiful murals to make the town look more lively. The town’s adults with all of their different artistic skills have created classes for the youth to learn about art and how to create art. The community project has developed a safe learning environment where children can learn how to be creative and how to give back to their community.
As the day progressed our spirits rose even higher with the show of music and a little girl teaching us what dancing actually looks like.
According to Ernesto 150 children take classes at the community center. It has been built into a beautiful place that makes everyone there happier. Beautiful colors are everywhere. Everyone on the street and just hanging out at the community center were smiling with joy and pride at what they had created together. Within a couple of minutes of our group being at Muraleando community project the entire group was smiling and laughing.
We finished off the visit sitting in the restaurant on top of the water tower eating a lunch prepared by women in the community, followed by the most amazing flan. The texture was soft like a mix between European flan and pudding. It was basking in warm homemade caramel sauce that smelled of smores. There was not a single person who did not finish their flan and wish they had another one.
These small project could go along way in Cuba. The communities in Cuba have started to realize that their future and their children’s future is in their hands. Ernesto mentioned that many more community projects are starting to be created in other neighborhoods. The statues and murals that these people are creating are the voices of the Cubans and it is giving life back to Cuba.