As every other country, Cuba has its share of artists who create their works out of the mainstream, far from the academy, unaware of or oblivious to the “art world”, and without the need of an audience or a marketplace. Often mentally disabled or homeless, they tend to work with humble materials including found objects or discarded packaging. Notable among these Havana based creators is Miguel Ramon Morales Diaz (“Ramon”).
Almost 20 years ago, during one of my visits to Salvador, Bahia, I came across an incredible, don’t know what to call it - carnival costume / wearable altar / art brut installation / outsider art assemblage. A dozen and a half years later I lent the piece to a spectacular exhibition at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City: When the Curtain Never Comes Down: Performance Art and the Alter Ego. The maker of this incredible work is Raimundo Borges Falcão, about whom not much is known. The exhibition produced a fabulous catalog. I wrote a page about Borges Falcão and his incredible work:
From an essay on Cuban art collecting to a Billboard take on el paquete and the island’s music industry, this season has brought in-depth, thought-provoking coverage of Cuban art and culture. Here are Cuban Art News’ picks for must-read stories, plus a video. 
Cementerio Colón is a vast green expanse in El Vedado, Havana’s leafy seaside district. According to Wikipedia, “Colon Cemetery is one of the most important historical cemeteries in the world and is generally held to be the most important in Latin America in historical and architectural terms, second only to La Recoleta in Buenos Aires". On any regular day locals visiting family graves mingle with foreign tourists and with Cuban pilgrims who flock to the tomb of Señora Amelia Goyri, better known as La Milagrosa, a high society woman who was buried here in 1903 together with her infant after dying in childbirth.
Brazilian ex-voto sculptures - wooden heads, torsos, body parts - represent a special art form without “artists”. Made for generations by anonymous creators, men and women from rural communities who were never exposed to the concepts of art, three-dimensional ex-votos are unique to Brazil’s Northeast (“Nordeste”) - a world synonymous with poverty and backwardness. 
New Year’s Eve before last we were in Havana as part of a multi-week Cuba stay (our 10th or 11th in 25 years). We settled into our lovely little apartment on the Plaza del Cristo and were ready for whatever  would happen as midnight on the 31st approached.  The balconies up and down and across Calle Amargura, our street, are filled with people. Then comes the moment, and we pop our bubbly. All our neighbors are raising glasses, too (most likely cider), and we all toast to each other, from balcony to balcony. Then comes the first splashing sound, and moments later the entire street sounds like a waterfall for just a few seconds. 
Anybody even vaguely familiar with Mexican folk art knows about the Linares family and their paterfamilias, Pedro Linares, who invented a new folk art form in the 1930’s which has been imprinted on Mexican popular arts ever since.
José Francisco Borges (J. Borges) lives and works in Bezerros, Pernambuco, Brazil where he was born in 1935. He is a self-taught woodcarver, woodblock printer and poet who started as an itinerant peddler of home-made illustrated chapbooks addressing popular themes, folk tales and legends native to the impoverished Northeast (Sertão). This unique art form - "literatura de cordel" (string literature) - consists of written verses and woodblock prints illustrating the rhymed stories. Traditionally, the cordel booklets were sold at country fairs and rural markets where they hung from a piece of string or clothesline.
In the rural areas and villages of indigenous Guatemala, masks have long been an integral part of life, binding past and present with tradition, ritual and ceremony. For many generations, folk artists of Maya descent have skillfully carved elaborate masks from different woods, painted in various colors, to be used in choreographed dance dramas. The most apparent quality of Guatemalan masks is their diversity.  Although the regional centers from which they originate may be only a few miles apart, the masks are unique and distinct. 
Since a Papal visit to Cuba in 1998 forced the Castro government to undo its ban of religious practices, worshippers of all flavors were out in the open again, yet none more so than the adherents of the Yoruba based religion which, fused with Catholic elements, has been practiced widely in Afro-Caribbean regions since the beginning of trans-Atlantic slave trade. Santería, conducted in secrecy during much of the Cuban revolution, had started to bubble up to the surface again.
To tell the story about how we - that is Michael and I - became friends with Juan Roberto Diago Durruthy, commonly known as  “Diago”, I have to tell it backwards.The last time we saw him in Havana, in January of 2017, Diago started reminiscing. How long had we known each other? More than a dozen years, and much had changed. Now that he is an international star in the contemporary art world, he is represented by major galleries, and his works are included in international museum collections and featured by leading auction houses. 
José Garcia (“Pepe”) Montebravo was one of Cuba’s truly great self-taught artists, populating his canvases with his famous “Infanta” women, with Afro-Cuban deities, and with winged creatures both human and animal. In many of his paintings turtles, lizards, roosters, blackbirds, fish, dogs, suns and moons intersect with other-wordly characters in human form. The titles of his works are as mysterious and multi-layered as the pieces themselves: Stew of Fantasies, Confused Situation, Time Trapped, Hazards of Memory….  
One of the most important deities in the Yoruba pantheon of western Africa is Ogún, god of war and of ironworking, patron of blacksmiths and of all who use metal in their occupations. He continues to rule the spirit world of black cultures throughout Brazil and the Americas. Ogum (in Portuguese) embodies the transformative power and sacred role of iron and as such has given ritual blacksmiths (ferramenteiros) a magical gift. 
In 2005 we went to Cienfuegos, Cuba, for the first time. Our main objective was to get to know several Cuban artists whose works we liked, and visit some art galleries we had heard of. One evening we were invited to a gallery opening somewhere, and afterwards the party shifted to Miguel Angel’s house. Everybody came along, including that terrific musician duo who had played during the opening. Steeped in Cuban musical tradition, they were the perfect team for the occasion.
I met Derek Webster by accident in 2001 when I got lost driving around South Chicago and made a wrong turn. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. 
Each June, thousands of Ecuadorians flock to indigenous highland communities like the ancient village of Pujili in the Andean province of Cotopaxi. The occasion is Corpus Christi, a week-long, boisterous pageant  whose highlight is the parade of El Danzante. This festival, celebrated throughout Ecuador’s highlands, is like no other, a joyous pagan ritual honoring sun and earth and harvests blended with Catholic elements. 
Victor Teodoro Caceres was born in Tilcara in the Province of Jujuy, Argentina around 1940. His native region is a province in Argentina’s remote northwest populated by indigenous Quechua villages and surrounded by desert landscapes and stunning multi-colored rock formations. Spanish colonial traditions are very much alive there today, along with indigenous cults. For decades, Caceres worked diligently to adapt his town’s Semana Santa (Holy Week) ritual to his own ideas and transform it into something else altogether.