Students tune their violins before class at the Manuel Saumell music school in Havana, Cuba.   (AP)

Students tune their violins before class at the Manuel Saumell music school in Havana, Cuba. (AP)

Damaged violins hang on the wall at a state-run workshop where craftsmen make and repair violas,   cellos and violins. (AP)

Damaged violins hang on the wall at a state-run workshop where craftsmen make and repair violas, cellos and violins. (AP)

Andres Martinez repairs a viola for high school student Liliam Riera while she watches him at   the state-run Luthier Workshop of Havana. (AP)

Andres Martinez repairs a viola for high school student Liliam Riera while she watches him at the state-run Luthier Workshop of Havana. (AP)

Music Makers

Posted: March 2, 2015

Your mom sends you to the grocery store for salt. But when you get to the salt shelf, it’s empty. So is the juice shelf. The potato shelf and the toilet paper shelf are bare too. What are you going to do?

People in Cuba have this problem. But they’re missing more than groceries. Stringed instruments are growing scarce, too. Violin-maker and repairman Andres Martinez will tell you all about it. 

Mr. Martinez’s workshop is cluttered with tools. He is busy carving wood. He will use it to fix violins. Good thing! Left as they are, the violins of Cuba will hurt your ears. People have been playing them for many years. They are badly out of tune.

Cuba is famous for its music. In fact, many young people study Cuban music at free schools. But when they graduate, they often have nothing decent to play. That’s because in Cuba, there just aren’t enough good violins to go around.

Why don’t Cubans just make more? Things aren’t that simple. In Cuba, the government controls businesses. Usually, that makes business run poorly. Mr. Martinez only gets to make violins because he works for an organization from Belgium. Will violins one day be made freely in Cuba? Only time will tell.