“Whatever you do, you HAVE to go to La Fábrica. Kim Kardashian went there,” a friend told me before I left for Cuba. It seemed that everyone on my program had heard of this incredible venue before we arrived, and the fact that it was closed for the first 10 days of our program only added to the intrigue of La Fábrica. Every 5 months or so, the establishment closes for a few weeks to switch around the art and the furniture. La Fábrica, which means “The Factory” in Spanish, is named such because the 3-story cultural center was once a textile factory. Now it is one of the most popular attractions on the entire island, with exhibits showcasing local art and live music every single night. After eagerly anticipating its re-opening night, we finally arrived on February 2nd as its doors opened once more.
A group of friends and I arrived at 8:30pm and waited in line for over an hour. Would it really be worth it? The answer would be a resounding “yes.” After a thorough pat-down and a cover charge of $2, we finally entered the world-renowned venue. Another group of friends who arrived at 10pm that night wouldn’t have the fortune of entering, because La Fábrica was already at capacity. Upon entering, I was greeted by a slew of Cuban art in a variety of exhibits. With a mojito in one hand and a phone camera in the other, I perused the two full floors of Cuban art. Some was extremely abstract – one series of pieces simply depicted various drops of colorful paint on a canvas. Other rooms showcased powerful images of Cubans, celebrating all colors of people – though focusing on Black and Afro-Cuban people. One exhibit was devoted entirely to photos of naked women looking directly into the camera, staring down the male gaze and powerfully daring the viewer to take away her power. One portrait on a lonely wall was an old, shirtless Afro-Cuban man with scraggly white hair and a cane, whose body depicted the diagrams of crowded slave ships.
La Fábrica would have been enough had it just been a nighttime bar and art gallery. However, at 11pm, I was surprised to be escorted to a busy concert hall with an anxious crowd awaiting a band. After ten more minutes of waiting, six band members entered the hall to a chorus of cheers. They played upbeat alternative rock. The room next door had a live jazz band, and we stayed at La Fábrica until they finished their set at 2am. On other nights, we have seen local musicians playing all genres, from salsa to rock to rumba. Every night from Thursday to Sunday, La Fábrica showcases talented local artists, from painters to sculptors to DJs to musicians. People come from all around the world to experience all of this art, paying with just a wait in line and a $2 entrance fee. In my first 5 weeks here, I’ve already been 5 times and I’ve yet to get tired.