In one of the 120 stands that make the XV edition of Art at La Rampa the Santander family, heiress of six generations of potters who, since 1892, have been converting the old craft of pottery into beautiful pieces of art, have set shop.
There, in the cubicle 15 within the patio of the Cuba Pavilion, the nerve center of the Vedado neighborhood, the Santanders present their work. Arrived from Trinidad, they are founders of the Cuban Fund of Cultural Assets and continuously participate in this fair since 2011.
Siblings, children, grandparents, sons … one way or another, almost all family members are linked to their work in the five major workshops where traditional manufacturing technique directly impregnate the pigment into the clay is used.
According to Jesus Casas, one of the in-laws this family has taken as their own the Santander participation is not limited to Arte en la Rampa, “we have exhibited at Art for Mom, FIART; but this is the most extensive exhibition. The rest of the year we take root in a small shop here in Vedado, in 21 between 2 and 4; but also maintain the presence in Trinidad, where the whole story began. “
But they are just the tip of the iceberg. Families like this one reproduce in almost all sales areas: textiles, leather, jewelry … and after leaving the Santander cubicle –almost at the entrance of the exhibition area, visitors are immersed in a real human mayhem.
Since opening at 2:00 pm the space is filled with people who will buy, or just to look, and end up filling up all the corridors among the 120 stands.
As has happened since 1999, the fair brings together a motley representation of Cuban handcrafters, who underpin their posts and for more than a month (June 27-August 31) take over the venue to showcase their productions to those that defy the heat the Caribbean summer.
For those who choose to sit down and talk away from the noise given off by purchases, Café EGREM still works, just at the entrance of the Pavilion.
One don’t-miss point for the visitor is the photographic exhibition by Iván Soca, under the title Formell Mania that pays reverence the eternal Juan Formell, tribute to whom, for decades, made Cubans and the world dance leading the Van Van orchestra. The 25 images, shown along the tunnel in the center of the pavilion connecting the inlet and the central courtyard are the perfect prelude to a mixture of styles that can be found just a few feet away.
In the makeshift bazaar there is room for everything and everyone: from home decorations to very fine pieces of silver. All with the same price that keep the rest of the year and added to the madness that seems to infect vendors and prospective clients, attracted by the smell of freshly cured leather, mixed drinks, music that never sleeps and offers launched in blast at every step.
In the corridors, full of undecided souls, you enter through wherever you want, or better, wherever you can. Not much by the way of classifying the windows or shelves, except in the case of footwear, located on the last of corridors and next to the breeze running through N street.
The designs are to meet tastes, and some pockets; although it is fair to say that the quality is the common sign. More striking colors, conventional models, comfort and durability shoes … this is the place that most women focus on the complex art of buying.
In other places there are also women and men although to a lesser extent. They will have to function as escorts / stevedores, while the women review, stir, return their steps back to the previous rack, and compare prices and making… again and again.
And no wonder, in Arte en la Rampa you can find variety, maybe not as in previous years when the Pavilion´s yard was tiny, but the variety after all.
To fully understand the dimensions of the trade military tactics should be considered. First find a high position and try to memorize the shape of the hallways. Second, make a long and patient exploration work including the full path of the perimeter and prices to finally make the count on what you have seen and go to search what might have interested you.
To do otherwise is to venture to wander aimlessly between the constant tide of souls inconsistently swarming and sweating in the hallways waiting to be dazzled by the “artifact that changes their lives.”
However, be swept away by this tide there is also good dose of poetry. Rediscovering the Cuban crafts and textile designs, it is well worth a summer afternoon.
After completing that challenge to the human resistance, if you have the strength, the spaces dedicated to concerts and cultural personalities are a constant offer of the fair. Gatherings of trova, jazz, and guests such as Leo Brouwer, Alberto Lescay, ensure the plurality of options for visitors.
The most promising days are Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The evening closes with contemporary music of the most representative national groups and soloists: Ivette Cepeda, Qva libre, Luna Manzanares, Tony Avila, Raul Paz and David Blanco are among those invited to animate the Pavilion from 6:00 pm.
There, around the stage, the real party starts in the afternoon, when the sun blazes burn less and you have already walked enough among Cuban craftsmanship.