The Museum of Tarecos, a curious place par excellence
BY CARY CHAVIANO / PHOTOS: JOSÉ (TITO) MERIÑO
If one talks about curious places, there is one in the Cuban capital that grabs the attention of those who visit it, either deliberately or coming across it by chance: the Garden of Endearment or the Museum of Tarecos, as it is known by the local residents.
This site attracts attention because, in the middle of the street, there are several hundreds of objects discarded as useless, but given back their useful life by Héctor Pascual Gallo Portieles.
In the surroundings of his modest apartment, located in the Micro X area in Alamar, East Havana, this dreamer conceived a museum with objects that supposedly no longer had any use, but nevertheless he found a way to make them useful.
In the 1990s, Gallo, who was also a journalist and a barber, began to install various items he had accumulated during his travels as a representative of Cuban diplomacy. At first, he used the interior of his apartment as a gallery, which he called the Gallery of Endearment, and over time, the rooms became too small and he began to expand into the area around his building.
Gallo has installed many varied objects during the more than 20 years since he began the project considered as Art Brut (Raw Art), which defines “all kinds of productions that have a spontaneous and strongly imaginative character,” and which has contributed notably to raising the level of culture and education of the community’s residents, as well as its visitors.
The items that can be found range from small figures to objects as large as furniture, sewing machines, public pay phones, typewriters, and even an old and ramshackle motorcycle, many of them donated by family and friends.
But each one has its own meaning because, practically all of them are accompanied by a poster with a saying or a lesson, among them: To appreciate this work you don’t have to be crazy, but it helps; Love is blind: but the neighbors see, and even worse THEY TALK!; It’s worth taking care of the golden eggs, but it’s better to take care of the goose that lays them; Every cloud has a silver lining.
Gallo’s project, created as non-profit, has been visited by countless tourists and the population in general during all these years and was awarded the prizes Tierra y Libertad, Giraldilla de La Habana 2003 and Premio del Barrio 1998.
Gallo passed away in May 2020 and his work is currently being looked after by his son and one of his grandchildren, José Gallo and David Gallo, respectively, who through dedication try and pay tribute to and keep alive the spirit of the man who, in life, was an illustrious son of Campo Florido, his birthplace in the Cuban capital.