The Culture of Printing, Design, and Bookselling in Havana
Guest post by David Sellers of Pied Oxen Printers
While visiting Cuba in December I came across several places in Havana’s Old Town (Habana Vieja) related to printing, graphic design and book-dealing. Taller Experimental de Grafica de la Habana (Callejon del Chorio) has a nice collection of old etching and lithographic presses and, most interesting, a c.1830s French iron hand-press. A 10-15 minute walk away is a restaurant named La Imprenta (Calle Mercaderes, 208), located in the former premises of a printing shop, with printing presses and bookbinding equipment in situ. Some of the restaurant’s chair backs are stenciled with information about typefaces, and stools are in the shape of letters. Another 5-10 minute walk leads to the palm tree lined Plaza de Armas, with its statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, an early fighter for Cuban independence. The plaza also serves as Havana’s second-hand book market, with stalls cheek by jowl on all four sides of the square. Another 10-15 minute walk in the direction of central Havana is a bookstore named Librería Fayad Jamís (Obispo 261), whose window had a very eclectic list of authors stenciled on its glass, including Hemingway, Cicero, Mayakovsky, Byron and Trotsky, among others. Note: While it’s easier to travel to Cuba at the moment, U. S. citizens must qualify for a general license (requiring only self-certification) or obtain a special license (a more time-consuming application process). Tourism is still not allowed.