How Cuba’s artists took to the kitchen to earn their crust in lockdown

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Not far from Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion, where Che Guevara stares out nine storeys high from the side of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior, Julio Cesar Imperatori perches on the edge of a table in the kitchen of a shuttered restaurant.

“We started to run out of money,” he says of himself and two friends, Osmany and Wilson. “Everyone was closing down. No one was buying pictures. So we decided to do something. We thought, everyone’s gotta eat and my grandmother, Eldia, she has a recipe for pie. And so … the American Pie company.”

Julio is a street photographer. “I opened an exhibition in the Galeria Servando Cabrera in March. Lots of people came to the opening and then, the next day the city was locked down.” He grins. “It must be the longest running show in Cuban history, but nobody’s seen it.”

He disappears and returns with a pie. It is the work of an artist, the vivid orange of mango locked behind latticed bars of pastry as bronzed as a 1970s beach bum. When cut, it oozes. The crust breaks between my teeth and the mango’s richness arrives with the intensity of the Caribbean sun. There are beers on the table and a lot of laughter.

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