Pambiche Mural

This 35ft. x 50ft. mural was painted on the east side wall of Pambiche, a Cuban restaurant located at NE Glisan and NE 28th Ave. in Portland, OR. I collaborated with local artist Emily Beeks (www.emilybeeks.com).
To learn more about the iconography represented in the mural, you can pause the slideshow at any time and scroll through the images at your own pace by clicking anywhere on the large image. Detailed descriptions will appear below each image.

Pambiche slideshow1-resized

The mural is a cultural depiction of Cuba, inspired by its history, people and traditions. It blends Cuba's unique music, dance, religion, historical figures, and natural beauty. Cuba has had a colored historical relationship with the United States and has been a topic of controversy for an entire generation. This public art project, which is international in scope, provides an opportunity to give visibility to the historically misconstrued people and culture of Cuba, and hopefully create civic dialogue around changes that are likely to happen in the near future for Cuban-American relations.

Photo by Joel Conrad Bechtolt

Pambiche mural distanceshot resized

This project was largely funded by a grant awarded by Portland's Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC).

Twice-life-size versions of famed musicians Benny Moré and Celia Cruz, rich flora and fauna, and a host of cultural and historic figures tempt mural viewers to forget they are 3,000 miles away from the island nation of Cuba.

Photo by Dan Kvitka

Pambiche mural Dan centered resized

In this image, the telephone wires have been removed so as not to slice through the figures in the mural. The mural captures the attention of pedestrians and motorists on this busy stretch of NE Glisan.

Photo and editing by Dan Kvitka

tommy-resized

The colorful mural brightens up a gloomy Portland day. The mural was painted on the Apambichao Building, which has unique architecture identical to that of central Havana. It houses the popular Cuban restaurant and bakery, Pambiche, with its lively Hispanic/Caribbean atmosphere.

Photo by William Rihel

streetcorner-resized

This view shows the front of Pambiche, with its already tropical color scheme facing NE Glisan St. The massive figures rise above the trees and surrounding architecture, and can be seen from over half a mile away. As one of the early establishments to open on the now trendy East 28th Avenue, Pambiche is part of a group of entrepreneurial businesses that has helped change the Kerns neighborhood into a vibrant hub of Portland's East side renaissance. The brilliant colors in the mural contribute to the revitalization of the neighborhood, draw more people to the area to support the local businesses, and give exposure to an underrepresented population in our city.

Our hope in creating this project is that the mural can take viewers along on a journey of discovery and pique public interest in Cuba’s fascinating and frequently misunderstood culture. The mural is an opportunity to overcome the political and geographical barriers that separate the United States from Cuba.

Photo by Dan Kvitka

Pambiche mural before+after

Before and after: This mural provides an opportunity to demonstrate a more diverse cultural landscape in the City of Portland, transforming an otherwise unattractive wall into a large-scale and inviting piece of public art. We had fun incorporating the architecture into our design. Obtrusive windows in the building’s upper story apartment complex disappear into folds of fabric, unsightly vents are disguised as festive three-dimensional palm trees, and a challenging central recessed area anchors the piece with Cuba’s Coat of Arms. With this piece, there was no challenge too great!

Photo on the right by Tommy Spencer

Benny3-resized

Benny More, famed as one of the greatest Cuban singers of all time, keeps watch over the mural and leads the viewer in. He played in Havana bars and cafes in the 1940's until he replaced one of the singers in Trio Matamoros, a musical trio that is also depicted in the mural. Benny later went on to gain popularity in the 1950's as he toured with his band, Banda Gigante.

Sugarcanecuttersresized

Sugarcane cutters cut and gather sugarcane, Cuba's principal crop. A burlap sack full of sugar ("azucar") sits at the entrance of the stalks.

Above the field workers (and found spanning the entire width of the wall) is a scroll that depicts the sheet music with the actual notes of Guantanamera, the most widely recognized melody of Cuba.

sunset on sugarcane cutter-resized

The late summer sun sets on the sugarcane cutters. A large Cuban flag that is lit up at night serves as a permanent fixture of this beloved restaurant. The blue robe of the Virgin of Charity flows into the blue stripes of the flag.

Photo by Joel Conrad Bechtolt

Virginresized

La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady of El Cobre) is The Virgin of Charity, patroness of Cuba. The men in the boat below were recorded as having seen the Virgin floating over the ocean off the shores of a town called Cobre. The myth of her guiding them to safety is described in more detail below an image later in the slideshow.

Pambiche slideshow3-resized

The thriving palm tree below the mural ties in all of the shades of green we have to represent Cuba's lush, tropical plant life. Foliage is a binding motif in our mural, which pays homage to the sugarcane, tobacco, royal palm, and white butterfly flower found all over the island.

Photo by Joel Conrad Bechtolt

Pambiche mural-angels resized

The Virgin of Charity is usually accompanied by angels. We wanted to give these 2 figures an ethereal appearance, perched above the Virgin in the clouds. The angels watch over her with spread wings and float up into a blue sky, which is especially magical on a clear sunny day in Portland.

Pambiche mural-boat figures resized

The Virgin of Charity is usually seen with 3 men in a boat, under a crescent moon. The men set out into the Bay of Nipe in search of salt, but they encountered a severe storm. They prayed to the Virgin Mary and suddenly the storm subsided and the waters were calm. The men discovered something floating in the water, which turned out to be a statue of the Virgin Mary. She had a sign that read, "Yo Soy la Virgen de la Caridad" or "I am the Virgin of Charity." The men returned to shore and told of the miracle that had saved them, and the Virgin has been honored and celebrated by the people of Cuba ever since.

The smaller figures swirling in the waves are Los Balseros, the people who, over the decades, have sought to escape Cuba by raft, putting themselves at the mercy of the open ocean. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Los Balseros sought to escape the crumbling Cuba, and they represent all Cuban immigrants from the various exoduses over the past 5 decades.

Pambiche mural Joel boat resized

The men in the boat were drawn to the Virgin of Charity, and they found comfort in her guiding them through the storm. We wanted to portray this feeling of relief and protection by having their boat leave the violent waves and float into the moonlit safety of her robe.

Photo by Joel Conrad Bechtolt

Pambiche mural-Marti resized

Jose Marti was a leading revolutionary in the fight for Cuban independence from colonial rule. He is framed by books in this image to reflect his intellectual influence as a prominent poet and philosopher. He was a national hero and an influential figure in Latin American literature.

Below Marti and serving as the centerpiece of the mural, is the Cuban Coat of Arms, a proud symbol of national heritage. The shield is divided into three parts: Cuba's geographical position is represented by a gold key in the sea between 2 rocks, one for Florida and the other for the Yucatan Peninsula. The rising sun in the background symbolizes the rising of the new republic. A key is a symbol of Cuba as Cuba is the key to the Americas. On the left are the stripes of the flag of Cuba but turned diagonally. On the right is a common Cuban landscape, with a palm tree and mountains in the background. An oak branch, a laurel wreath, and a Phrygian Cap also make up the Coat of Arms.

The inset is framed by Cuba's national flower, the "mariposa", or white butterfly. This beautiful flower is named after the delicate wing-like shape of its petals.

Pambiche mural palm tree-resized

The Cuban Royal Palm Tree is the national tree of Cuba, so we wanted to highlight the importance of this plant life by transforming the existing three-dimensional vents. The lush canopy served as a perfect way to make all of the linear aspects of the building a little more organic.

Symbols of Santeria (religion combining elements from different cultures) are carved into the trunks of the palm trees representing Olodumare (the creator) and Yemaya (mother of all living things). Important mystical orishas (saints) from the afro-cuban folkloric perspective have found a home in the mural.

To the left of the palm fronds, perched atop the scroll with a long fluffy tail, is El Tocororo, Cuba's national bird. It was given this title because its blue crown, red belly, and white throat and chest mimic the colors of the Cuban flag.

Below are the Trio Matamoros, one of the most popular musical acts in Cuba. They played boleros and son music, and were celebrated for their harmonies and lyrics. From top to bottom: Rafael Cueto; Siro Rodríguez; Miguel Matamoros.

The plant life around and below the musicians is the tobacco leaf, which is found in large quantities throughout Cuba and harvested to make cigar tobacco. We also placed traditional Cuban musical instruments among the leaves, including: guitar, conga, maracas and Cuban drums.

The iconic architecture of Havana is represented by “El Moro”, the fortress built to protect the Port of Havana.

Pambiche mural celia resized

Celia Cruz, one of the most popular salsa performers of the 20th century, sits atop the upper right window with her microphone and a fun polka dotted dress. This Cuban singer/performer was renowned as "The Queen of Salsa", and as such, is remembered as the most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music.

Below Celia is a rooster, one of the most common creatures in Cuba. Roosters exist in nearly all of the houses in the island's countryside.

Pambiche mural-city + dancers resized

We wanted to illustrate the iconic architecture of Havana in our city scene that makes up the lower right hand side of the wall. With its Neo-classical and Baroque style of architecture, Havana is the capital city of Cuba and the center of commerce and entertainment. The buildings are: “El Capitolio Nacional”, the Capitol dome (modeled after our own), and “La Catedral”, Havana’s cathedral, which was modeled after the cathedral of Cadiz, Spain. Cuba’s well-known vintage American automobiles are also represented on the narrow sloping streets and below the overhanging residential balconies.

Below is a glimpse into Havana's nightlife with a pair of dancers. Cuba is the birthplace of multiple dance forms, including Cha-cha, Son, Danzón, Danzonete, Mambo, Rumba, Salsa, Bolero and others, so we really wanted to portray this expressive art form in the mural. The dancers perform a dramatic dip over the artist's signatures, almost as though the duo is taking a bow where we have signed our names.

Pambiche mural Joel dancers resized

photo by Joel Conrad Bechtolt

nightcuba-resized

We redirected the light that was affixed to the exterior of the building so that it illuminates the Virgin of Charity at night. We wanted her beauty and grandeur to be highlighted, and the placement of the fixture worked well with the moonlit water.

cubanight-resized
Pambiche slideshow1-resizedPambiche mural distanceshot resizedPambiche mural Dan centered resizedtommy-resizedstreetcorner-resizedPambiche mural before+afterBenny More, famed as one of the greatest Cuban singers of all time, keeps watch over the mural and leads the viewer in. He played in Havana bars and cafes in the 1940's until he replaced one of the singers in Trio Matamoros, a musical trio that is also depicted in the mural. Benny later went on to gain popularity in the 1950's as he toured with his band, Banda Gigante.Sugarcanecuttersresizedsunset on sugarcane cutter-resizedLa Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre (Our Lady of El Cobre) is The Virgin of Charity, patroness of Cuba. The men in the boat below were recorded as having seen the Virgin floating over the ocean off the shores of a town called Cobre. The myth of her guiding them to safety is described in more detail below an image later in the slideshow.Pambiche slideshow3-resizedPambiche mural-angels resizedPambiche mural-boat figures resizedPambiche mural Joel boat resizedPambiche mural-Marti resizedPambiche mural palm tree-resizedPambiche mural celia resizedPambiche mural-city + dancers resizedPambiche mural Joel dancers resizednightcuba-resizedcubanight-resized