Life as an Illegal Tattoo Artist in Havana

By Joe - 
Life as an Illegal Tattoo Artist in Havana

Cuban tattoo artist Che Alejandro has a hard time as a tattoo artist in Cuba, mainly because it's still illegal there.

Some people describe Cuba as a land frozen in time. Cars from the 1950's and 1960's litter the streets, widespread internet usage is still a dream, and home ownership only recently became a phenomenon.

It should come as no surprise then that another big trend Cuba is certainly behind the times on is tattooing. There are 201 types of private businesses on the communist island, and you guessed it — tattoo parlors are not on that list.

That makes life as a tattoo artist and enthusiast extremely difficult, and for Che Alejandro, this is the reality he lives each and every day.

Alejandro has a difficult time manning his tattoo shop in Cuba. #CheAlejandro #Cuba #CubaTattoo #CubaTattooArtists #Havana

Alejandro is frequently seen around Havana on his skateboard, covered in tattoos. His job as a tattoo artist is a risky venture and there are real consequences for breaking the law repeatedly. His shop has been shut down numerous times, his tools confiscated, fines levied, etc.

Despite this, he carries on with his life's mission. In the face of adversity, Alejandro doubles down on his passion, trying to find a way to get tattoos to infiltrate the mainstream culture of Cuba.

Alejandro's tattoo parlor has been raided multiple times and he has been fined by the government countless dollars. #CheAlejandro #Cuba #CubaTattoo #CubaTattooArtists #Havana

A short documentary about this struggle has been released on Vimeo, and gives us a snapshot into the hardships that come with being a body artist in Cuba. 

Che seems hopeful that Cuba will change, even if it takes time... a lot of time. Until the governmental and cultural norms on tattoos change though, he seems more than willing to shepherd change in Cuba, one tattoo at a time.

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