Recently we had a chance to visit Hector Pascual Gallo Portieles (“El Gallo”) - a former barber, then diplomat, now visionary artist/obsessive collector - and his “Garden and Gallery of Affections”, the yard in front and the interior of his humble apartment.  We arrived by public bus with no prior appointment. We asked our way to his front door and knocked. El Gallo, now in his nineties and walking with a cane, opened the door, and with a wide smile he let us into his own world. For the next several hours we walked around in awe of the installations we were seeing, and of their maker.
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. 
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.