Celebrated artwork depicts 'Tsunami' of trade and tourism in Cuba

Posted: 22-Dec-15 13:16

The tsunami of tourism and trade that is expected to follow in the wake of the improved relations between Cuba and the United States had been predicted by a local artist more than three years before the historic talks took place.

Celebrated artwork depicts 'Tsunami' of trade and tourism in Cuba

It's a staggering piece of art, and one that many islanders believe is a prescient metaphor. Reynerio Tamayo's 'Underpinned Wave' shows a dramatic tsunami wave that looks set to blast into the Malecon, Havana's seaside promenade, but is held up by a wooden scaffolding frame; a common sight in the capital.

Painted in 2012, the piece could be used to describe the current influx of American tourists to the island after the relaxing of travel restrictions as diplomatic relations between the two countries continue to thaw.

Many commentators are worried how the agreement between presidents Obama and Castro will affect the economy on the island, and with the 55-year-old US trade embargo also seemingly set to be lifted the wave of commerce could be all consuming. With direct scheduled flights between American airports and the island set to increase in the New Year, many believe that unprohibited tourism is the likely next step.

Can tourism and increased trade ever be a bad thing... particularly for an island that has been isolated from potential supply lines of people and business for so long? It is believed that more than 3.5 million tourists visited Cuba in 2015, and while it is not known yet how many of these were from the United States, it is clear that the increase in opportunities for American citizens to visit the Cuba via 'people-to-people' tours and the licensing system has coincided with this rise in visitor numbers.

One upshot of the increase in tourists is that local accommodation providers have been able to increase their prices – even triple them in some cases - which is good for the local economy and puts some much-needed extra money 'into the pot'. Where demand is so high, the supply will often set the agenda.

Of course, this can have its own curious side effects too. In November the Havanatur agency reported that they had witnessed a number of tourists sleeping rough in the church plaza in Vinales town. Local BandB's (Casas Particulares) were so stacked with guests that this particular group of holiday-makers had no alternative.

This is, perhaps, the ugly side of mass tourism....and ensures that Reynerio Tamayo's work looks all the prescient as a result.


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