I (El Mac) came to Havana tired from having just painted a ten story high mural in Mexico City the week before, but was so excited to be there that I overcame the exhaustion and spent my first few days in the country going around with my camera and absorbing inspiration. I walked around the city taking photos, meeting people and doing little impromptu photo-shoots with a few intrigued Cuban models. As a U.S. citizen, I’m not really supposed to go to Cuba, much less paint a mural there, so this was a huge opportunity. This project was a collaboration for the 11th Havana Biennial between Primary Flight out of Miami, the Cisneros-Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO), and the UNEAC, (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba). CIFO is a highly respected and influential institution, whose main participation in the Biennial was a huge exhibition of works from the Cisneros-Fontanals collection at the National Museum of Fine Arts, and this mural was their only other project for the Biennial. UNEAC, on the other hand, is essentially a cultural branch of the Cuban government, and for them to support a U.S. artist in painting a mural in Cuba is groundbreaking. There aren’t many non-political murals at all in Cuba, and there’s not that much graffiti either. Being a US citizen, and considering the ongoing history of strained relations between the two countries, and the fact that nobody had any idea what I would paint, and considering this was a highly visible wall facing Havana’s “Avenue of the Presidents”, I felt a lot of pressure. I almost always feel a sense of obligation when painting public murals to do something that can inspire people, maybe something that can uplift in some small way, but I felt that more than ever with this project. I ended up painting a figure based on photos I took of a local lady named Adis Naranjo, who works in the kitchen at the UNEAC offices. I wanted to paint someone that could personify the average Cuban, and Adis seemed perfect for this with her mix of African, Native and European ancestry. She is represented as powerful and hopeful, and the colors around her hands can suggest energy or creativity. The title of the mural is “El Corazón de un Sueño Palpita Entre Mis Manos”, which is from a poem by the great Cuban poet Jose Ángel Buesa.