Armando Peraza, flamboyant Cuban bongo drummer, has died
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A self-taught musician, Armando Peraza performed with jazz artists like Dave Brubeck and George Shearing, and spent two decades with Carlos Santana, David Colker reports in this obituary for The Los Angeles Times. Follow the link below for the original report.
Cuban-born drummer Armando Peraza, a self-taught musician who transformed himself from a homeless orphan in Havana to a world-recognized bongo and conga expert who performed with Carlos Santana for nearly two decades, died Monday in a South San Francisco hospital.
The cause was pneumonia, said his wife, Josephine Peraza. Peraza had also battled diabetes for many years.
Officially, Peraza was 89, but he admitted that he made up a birth date to give to authorities when he came to the…..[Full article HERE]
April 18, 2014

Armando Peraza, flamboyant Cuban bongo drummer, has died

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A self-taught musician, Armando Peraza performed with jazz artists like Dave Brubeck and George Shearing, and spent two decades with Carlos Santana, David Colker reports in this obituary for The Los Angeles Times. Follow the link below for the original report.

Cuban-born drummer Armando Peraza, a self-taught musician who transformed himself from a homeless orphan in Havana to a world-recognized bongo and conga expert who performed with Carlos Santana for nearly two decades, died Monday in a South San Francisco hospital.

The cause was pneumonia, said his wife, Josephine Peraza. Peraza had also battled diabetes for many years.

Officially, Peraza was 89, but he admitted that he made up a birth date to give to authorities when he came to the…..[Full article HERE]

READ A BOOK:
Cuba on My Mind: Book Spotlights Ramiro A. Fernández Collection
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Cuba Then: Rare and Classic Images from the Ramiro A. Fernández Collection (The Monacelli Press, 2014), with a foreword and poems by Richard Blanco, gathers spectacular vintage photographs of the island of Cuba. For example, the photo on the cover (above) shows Josephine Baker and Italian singer Ernesto Bonino in Havana in 1952. According to this article by Lorna Koski, this is the second book based on Cuban-born Ramiro A. Fernández’s collection. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

Fernández, who lives in New York’s Chelsea district, left Cuba as an eight-year-old in 1960 and, when he grew up, became a photo editor. In 1981, when he was working as a receptionist at the Museum of Modern Art, a man came in one day with an album of albumen prints by the Spanish-born Cuban photographer José Gómez de la Carrera, which he offered to sell to photo curator John Szarkowski. The curator wasn’t interested, so Fernández decided to buy the album himself in installments. That was the beginning of his collection, which now spans from 1850 to……[Full article HERE]
March 31, 2014

READ A BOOK:

Cuba on My Mind: Book Spotlights Ramiro A. Fernández Collection

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Cuba Then: Rare and Classic Images from the Ramiro A. Fernández Collection (The Monacelli Press, 2014), with a foreword and poems by Richard Blanco, gathers spectacular vintage photographs of the island of Cuba. For example, the photo on the cover (above) shows Josephine Baker and Italian singer Ernesto Bonino in Havana in 1952. According to this article by Lorna Koski, this is the second book based on Cuban-born Ramiro A. Fernández’s collection. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

Fernández, who lives in New York’s Chelsea district, left Cuba as an eight-year-old in 1960 and, when he grew up, became a photo editor. In 1981, when he was working as a receptionist at the Museum of Modern Art, a man came in one day with an album of albumen prints by the Spanish-born Cuban photographer José Gómez de la Carrera, which he offered to sell to photo curator John Szarkowski. The curator wasn’t interested, so Fernández decided to buy the album himself in installments. That was the beginning of his collection, which now spans from 1850 to……[Full article HERE]

Kern Spencer freed in Cuban light-bulb trial - News
Contestants At Havana Cigar Festival Try To Make Longest Ash

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Pungent smoke filled the room, obscuring the lights and leaving clothing and skin reeking. There were applause, shouts and laughter, and above all plenty of H. Upmann Sir Winstons — formidable 7-inch Cuban cigars.
More than 450 stogie aficionados took part in an unusual contest Thursday at Havana’s annual marquee Cigar Festival: competing to see who could create the longest unbroken ash, the Associated Press reports.
"I love it," Argentine sommelier Flavio Lanfredi said good-naturedly despite falling out of contention early on. "For me this is like going to Mecca, or a kid entering a toy store and they tell you to grab whatever you want, it’s yours. It’s really exciting."
In a cavernous room in Havana’s Palace of Conventions, contestants exhaled clouds of smoke and handled their cigars gingerly to keep the gray ash intact as long as possible. They lolled on luxurious leather chairs set amid tables holding dozens of ashtrays, lighters, chocolate-flavored hard candy and snifters of aged Cuban rum.
Many, like Lanfredi, lost their ashes before smoking even halfway through. Others managed to keep going until their cigars were little more than tiny stubs.
"It was a little bit stressful, and I’m somewhat dizzy," said Cuban restaurateur Andres Espinosa, one of the better finishers with a 6.2-inch ash.
Just over a half-hour in, only a handful of finalists remained. Judges milled about the room handing out rulers to measure the results.
The winner was to be announced Friday.
It would be hard to top Olivia Terri, also from Cuba, who smoked her Sir Winston down to a stub with an ash that grew to 6.6 inches before it crumbled.
The Sir Winston is a chubby cigar with a rich brown color and a hint of toasted gold. It’s hand-rolled with a selection of tobacco leaves from the western province of Pinar del Rio, the cradle of Cuba’s tobacco country.
The event was both a light-hearted competition and also an exhibition calculated to show off Cuba’s premium tobacco, which is among the most coveted in the world. Some 1,500 smokers from 80 countries are attending the weeklong festival.
"This (contest) in particular is aimed at people being able to appreciate the quality of our product," said Ana Lopez, marketing director for Habanos SA, a Cuban-British joint company that produces and distributes Cuban cigars exclusively. "Only products of magnificent quality can make the ash take on a permanent consistency for a long time."
March 19, 2014

Contestants At Havana Cigar Festival Try To Make Longest Ash

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Pungent smoke filled the room, obscuring the lights and leaving clothing and skin reeking. There were applause, shouts and laughter, and above all plenty of H. Upmann Sir Winstons — formidable 7-inch Cuban cigars.

More than 450 stogie aficionados took part in an unusual contest Thursday at Havana’s annual marquee Cigar Festival: competing to see who could create the longest unbroken ash, the Associated Press reports.

"I love it," Argentine sommelier Flavio Lanfredi said good-naturedly despite falling out of contention early on. "For me this is like going to Mecca, or a kid entering a toy store and they tell you to grab whatever you want, it’s yours. It’s really exciting."

In a cavernous room in Havana’s Palace of Conventions, contestants exhaled clouds of smoke and handled their cigars gingerly to keep the gray ash intact as long as possible. They lolled on luxurious leather chairs set amid tables holding dozens of ashtrays, lighters, chocolate-flavored hard candy and snifters of aged Cuban rum.

Many, like Lanfredi, lost their ashes before smoking even halfway through. Others managed to keep going until their cigars were little more than tiny stubs.

"It was a little bit stressful, and I’m somewhat dizzy," said Cuban restaurateur Andres Espinosa, one of the better finishers with a 6.2-inch ash.

Just over a half-hour in, only a handful of finalists remained. Judges milled about the room handing out rulers to measure the results.

The winner was to be announced Friday.

It would be hard to top Olivia Terri, also from Cuba, who smoked her Sir Winston down to a stub with an ash that grew to 6.6 inches before it crumbled.

The Sir Winston is a chubby cigar with a rich brown color and a hint of toasted gold. It’s hand-rolled with a selection of tobacco leaves from the western province of Pinar del Rio, the cradle of Cuba’s tobacco country.

The event was both a light-hearted competition and also an exhibition calculated to show off Cuba’s premium tobacco, which is among the most coveted in the world. Some 1,500 smokers from 80 countries are attending the weeklong festival.

"This (contest) in particular is aimed at people being able to appreciate the quality of our product," said Ana Lopez, marketing director for Habanos SA, a Cuban-British joint company that produces and distributes Cuban cigars exclusively. "Only products of magnificent quality can make the ash take on a permanent consistency for a long time."

“Ballet doesn’t have to be elitist”
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Kevin Griffin (The Vancouver Sun) recently interviewed Alicia Alonso, prima ballerina assoluta and director of the Cuban National Ballet, which performed Don Quixote at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, Canada, last week. Here are excerpts with a link to the full review below:
Classical ballet is often seen as an elitist art form. But ballet has flourished in Cuba, a country with a socialist regime dedicated to treating everyone equally. How has it been possible for the National Ballet of Cuba to thrive in a communist country over the past 50 years?
Ballet does not have to be an elitist art.  If large segments of the public have at their reach a good ballet show, they will greatly enjoy it. Cuba has worked for years to attract new audiences, through lectures, conferences and demonstration courses in workplaces, schools and even in army units. We also have television and radio shows that support and spread the art of ballet. In Cuba, ballet is a popular art, which has large audiences in all sectors of society. Furthermore, since the triumph of the revolution in 1959, the government has supported it completely.
In 1959, you supported Fidel Castro and the revolution. At the time that was a very courageous act. You could have stayed in the United States and continued your incredible international career. Instead, you returned to Cuba. Why did you do that?
Due to very deep personal convictions. I felt and I still feel obliged to contribute to the development of the culture of the country where I was born. It is a moral principle, to be aware, at all times, of what your moral duty is. […]
What distinguishes the dancers of the Compañía Nacional de Cuba, from dancers from other companies?
All major companies have their own personality, which is formed by their school, their artistic line and the idiosyncrasy of their dancers and choreographers. Ours is a national company, formed by Cubans all from the same school. It’s up to the audience and critics to discover their characteristics.
I can tell you that they come from a strong classical heritage, and we care very much to keep the style of each piece. The dancers perform, with a high degree of drama. These are young people with strong technical backgrounds who cherish very much the joy of dance.
During the U.S. tour in 2003, a number of your dancers defected – as they did in Montreal last year. How does that make you feel?
Those things happen sometimes, and it is very sad. From an early age, these young people receive free training, are trained with love and care. It is expected of them to join a tradition, to hand in their efforts to the company of their country, which helped them to become artists.
Some, very few, go on to sell their work elsewhere. We worry very much about it because most of the time they are lost as artists. Very seldom do they keep artistic careers. But notice that these defections are covered with unprecedented propaganda. In all companies in the world, there are dancers who leave the group, sometimes inappropriately. But when it happens to the National Ballet of Cuba, they make it a media event, and sometimes even try to give it a political meaning…..Full article HERE
February 25, 2014

“Ballet doesn’t have to be elitist”

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Kevin Griffin (The Vancouver Sun) recently interviewed Alicia Alonso, prima ballerina assoluta and director of the Cuban National Ballet, which performed Don Quixote at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver, Canada, last week. Here are excerpts with a link to the full review below:

Classical ballet is often seen as an elitist art form. But ballet has flourished in Cuba, a country with a socialist regime dedicated to treating everyone equally. How has it been possible for the National Ballet of Cuba to thrive in a communist country over the past 50 years?

Ballet does not have to be an elitist art.  If large segments of the public have at their reach a good ballet show, they will greatly enjoy it. Cuba has worked for years to attract new audiences, through lectures, conferences and demonstration courses in workplaces, schools and even in army units. We also have television and radio shows that support and spread the art of ballet. In Cuba, ballet is a popular art, which has large audiences in all sectors of society. Furthermore, since the triumph of the revolution in 1959, the government has supported it completely.

In 1959, you supported Fidel Castro and the revolution. At the time that was a very courageous act. You could have stayed in the United States and continued your incredible international career. Instead, you returned to Cuba. Why did you do that?

Due to very deep personal convictions. I felt and I still feel obliged to contribute to the development of the culture of the country where I was born. It is a moral principle, to be aware, at all times, of what your moral duty is. […]

What distinguishes the dancers of the Compañía Nacional de Cuba, from dancers from other companies?

All major companies have their own personality, which is formed by their school, their artistic line and the idiosyncrasy of their dancers and choreographers. Ours is a national company, formed by Cubans all from the same school. It’s up to the audience and critics to discover their characteristics.

I can tell you that they come from a strong classical heritage, and we care very much to keep the style of each piece. The dancers perform, with a high degree of drama. These are young people with strong technical backgrounds who cherish very much the joy of dance.

During the U.S. tour in 2003, a number of your dancers defected – as they did in Montreal last year. How does that make you feel?

Those things happen sometimes, and it is very sad. From an early age, these young people receive free training, are trained with love and care. It is expected of them to join a tradition, to hand in their efforts to the company of their country, which helped them to become artists.

Some, very few, go on to sell their work elsewhere. We worry very much about it because most of the time they are lost as artists. Very seldom do they keep artistic careers. But notice that these defections are covered with unprecedented propaganda. In all companies in the world, there are dancers who leave the group, sometimes inappropriately. But when it happens to the National Ballet of Cuba, they make it a media event, and sometimes even try to give it a political meaning…..Full article HERE

January 17, 2014

First American Paintings to Be Shown in Cuba in 50 Years Read more: Cuba U.S. Art Exchange – Mario Sanchez at Museo Nacional in Havana

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Key West folk artist Mario Sanchez to be exhibited at Havana’s national fine-arts museum, Lily Rothman reports for Time Magazine. Follow the link below for the original report and a gallery of paintings.

On Jan. 14, less than one month after the departure of the first commercial flight from Key West to Havana in more than 50 years, another kind of U.S.-Cuba exchange will begin: the first cross-cultural gallery exchange in just as many decades.

In Havana, at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the project (dubbed One Race, the Human Race) will kick off with an exhibition of work  by the late Mario Sanchez — a selection of which can be seen below. Sanchez, a Key West folk artist, was a second-generation American descended….[Full article HERE]

Cuban propaganda posters at Kemistry Gallery

A post by Peter Jordens.

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A collection of over 40 Cuban propaganda posters is on display at Kemistry Gallery, 43 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch, London, UK, until January 25, 2014. The exhibit is called the OSPAAAL (Organization in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia and Latin America) Posters Show and admission is free.
To most people Cuba is famous for cigars, rum, salsa and baseball however perhaps lesser known is the unique propaganda art that flourished thanks to the Cuban Revolution and its more infamous leader Fidel Castro. As a lone communist outpost in the Caribbean in the 1960s, only 200 miles from the US mainland, Cuba became a key source of Cold War propaganda – most notably the state-sponsored poster art that flourished as some of the country’s most talented artists and graphic designers embraced Castro’s enlightened declaration: “Our enemies are capitalists and imperialists, not abstract art.” In contrast to the socialist realism of Soviet and Chinese propaganda, Castro determined the style of the Revolution would be internationalist, yet steeped in Cuba’s diverse cultural, ethnic and artistic heritage. This melting pot of influences, combined with a characteristic wit and exuberance, resulted in a vibrant and highly original Cuban aesthetic.
Amongst several agencies established to promote education, industry, sport and the arts, OSPAAAL reflected the moral, material and military assistance Cuba provided throughout the developing world. The organisation’s quarterly publication Tricontinental, which at its peak was distributed in four languages to 87 countries, served as a noticeboard, guide book and lifestyle magazine for various liberation movements seeking to emulate Castro’s popular revolution. Bold, colourful and eclectic, OSPAAAL posters are widely considered the front-runners in propaganda art. They reveal the idealistic spirit at the core of the Cuban Revolution, intent on fighting globalisation, imperialism and defending human rights. Politics aside, they are a testament to the creativity of the Cuban people, an important legacy that has put Cuba at the centre of cultural activity in the Hispanic world for a generation.
The above text is from Kemistry Gallery, http://kemistrygallery.co.uk/ospaaal, an independent design gallery established in 2004.
December 31, 2013

Cuban propaganda posters at Kemistry Gallery

A post by Peter Jordens.

(PLEASE FOLLOW BOTH Tumblr’s  HERE & HERE)

A collection of over 40 Cuban propaganda posters is on display at Kemistry Gallery, 43 Charlotte Road, Shoreditch, London, UK, until January 25, 2014. The exhibit is called the OSPAAAL (Organization in Solidarity with the People of Africa, Asia and Latin America) Posters Show and admission is free.

To most people Cuba is famous for cigars, rum, salsa and baseball however perhaps lesser known is the unique propaganda art that flourished thanks to the Cuban Revolution and its more infamous leader Fidel Castro. As a lone communist outpost in the Caribbean in the 1960s, only 200 miles from the US mainland, Cuba became a key source of Cold War propaganda – most notably the state-sponsored poster art that flourished as some of the country’s most talented artists and graphic designers embraced Castro’s enlightened declaration: “Our enemies are capitalists and imperialists, not abstract art.” In contrast to the socialist realism of Soviet and Chinese propaganda, Castro determined the style of the Revolution would be internationalist, yet steeped in Cuba’s diverse cultural, ethnic and artistic heritage. This melting pot of influences, combined with a characteristic wit and exuberance, resulted in a vibrant and highly original Cuban aesthetic.

Amongst several agencies established to promote education, industry, sport and the arts, OSPAAAL reflected the moral, material and military assistance Cuba provided throughout the developing world. The organisation’s quarterly publication Tricontinental, which at its peak was distributed in four languages to 87 countries, served as a noticeboard, guide book and lifestyle magazine for various liberation movements seeking to emulate Castro’s popular revolution. Bold, colourful and eclectic, OSPAAAL posters are widely considered the front-runners in propaganda art. They reveal the idealistic spirit at the core of the Cuban Revolution, intent on fighting globalisation, imperialism and defending human rights. Politics aside, they are a testament to the creativity of the Cuban people, an important legacy that has put Cuba at the centre of cultural activity in the Hispanic world for a generation.

The above text is from Kemistry Gallery, http://kemistrygallery.co.uk/ospaaal, an independent design gallery established in 2004.

Islamic Art Scholar Traces Havana’s Mozarabic Influences
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Dr. Alka Patel (University of California-Irvine) is a scholar of 12th- to 18th-century art and architectural history of South Asia, focusing on the region’s Islamic influences and its connections with Iran and Central Asia. As Miryam Haarlammert (Cuban Art News) reports, Patel’s interest in Cuba sprang from her study of Muslim communities in southern Spain and northern Africa and their diasporic movements. In pursuing the consequences of such historical events as the “Reconquest” and Inquisition in Spain, Patel landed—literally and figuratively—in Cuba. See excerpts here with a link to the full article below:
Based on her research on the island in 2003, Patel contributed an archive of approximately 600 architectural photographs to ARTstor, a nonprofit digital library of more than 1.6 million images in the arts,……Full article HERE 
December 28, 2013

Islamic Art Scholar Traces Havana’s Mozarabic Influences

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Dr. Alka Patel (University of California-Irvine) is a scholar of 12th- to 18th-century art and architectural history of South Asia, focusing on the region’s Islamic influences and its connections with Iran and Central Asia. As Miryam Haarlammert (Cuban Art News) reports, Patel’s interest in Cuba sprang from her study of Muslim communities in southern Spain and northern Africa and their diasporic movements. In pursuing the consequences of such historical events as the “Reconquest” and Inquisition in Spain, Patel landed—literally and figuratively—in Cuba. See excerpts here with a link to the full article below:

Based on her research on the island in 2003, Patel contributed an archive of approximately 600 architectural photographs to ARTstor, a nonprofit digital library of more than 1.6 million images in the arts,……Full article HERE 

Van Van to Perform Anniversary Concerts throughout Cuba
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The legendary Cuban band Los Van Van plans to celebrate its 45th anniversary with a series of concerts across the island, bandleader Juan Formell announced.
Formell, a bass player, creator of rhythms like the songo, and winner of the 2013 Latin Grammy Musical Excellence Award, confessed that he always enjoys performing for the grassroots audience in Cuba, to which he dedicated his award last week.
He said the band plans to perform all of its anniversary concerts during early 2014.
Revered as the so-called “Train of Cuban Popular Music,” Los Van Van was created on December 4, 1969, and its quality and popularity has earned it the nickname The Rolling Stones of Salsa.
Formell, who is popular by critics and the public alike, is considered a fundamental figure of Cuban and international music.
This year he has been honored with a number of awards, including the Womex World Music Award and the Latin Grammy.
December 2, 2013

Van Van to Perform Anniversary Concerts throughout Cuba

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The legendary Cuban band Los Van Van plans to celebrate its 45th anniversary with a series of concerts across the island, bandleader Juan Formell announced.

Formell, a bass player, creator of rhythms like the songo, and winner of the 2013 Latin Grammy Musical Excellence Award, confessed that he always enjoys performing for the grassroots audience in Cuba, to which he dedicated his award last week.

He said the band plans to perform all of its anniversary concerts during early 2014.

Revered as the so-called “Train of Cuban Popular Music,” Los Van Van was created on December 4, 1969, and its quality and popularity has earned it the nickname The Rolling Stones of Salsa.

Formell, who is popular by critics and the public alike, is considered a fundamental figure of Cuban and international music.

This year he has been honored with a number of awards, including the Womex World Music Award and the Latin Grammy.

Buildings Collapse under Heavy Rains in Cuba
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Cuba’s Meteorological Institute recorded 2.8 inches of precipitation during a single three-hour period in in Havana and accumulations of up to 7.8 inches overnight.Two people are dead from these torrential rains that lashed Cuba for more than 24 hours. The deluge caused multiple collapses in dwellings in Havana, Granmareported.
A man and a woman were killed in one structure that caved in. Yunior Amesa, nephew of the deceased man, told the Associated Press he had left for work just before their building came down. ‘‘It was raining very hard and there was a lot of weight (from the water) up there. They went to bed. Minutes before, I was sitting in there,’’ Amesa said. ‘‘When I went to work I heard the building had collapsed and caught them both sleeping.’’
The rain arrived early Friday and fell near constantly throughout the day. Traffic snarled and some cars were stranded, as intersections flooded and streets turned into rushing rivers. Cuba’s Meteorological Institute recorded 2.8 inches (72 millimeters) of precipitation during a single three-hour period in the afternoon in Havana, and accumulations of up to 7.8 inches (200 millimeters) overnight.
Rain continued to fall in the capital early Saturday, and the famed seaside Malecon Boulevard remained closed because of high surf that was breaking over the seawall and onto the street. Granma said the area affected ranged from the western province of Artemisa to Ciego de Avila in the central part of the country.
For post in English, see http://www.boston.com/news/world/caribbean/2013/11/30/cuba-says-dead-heavy-rains-collapse-buildings/dkezS641SLG6UWxqe3xHEJ/story.html (Any attempts to find the original news on the Granma site yields Verizon ads!)
December 1, 2013

Buildings Collapse under Heavy Rains in Cuba

(Follow our blogs HERE & HERE)

Cuba’s Meteorological Institute recorded 2.8 inches of precipitation during a single three-hour period in in Havana and accumulations of up to 7.8 inches overnight.Two people are dead from these torrential rains that lashed Cuba for more than 24 hours. The deluge caused multiple collapses in dwellings in Havana, Granmareported.

A man and a woman were killed in one structure that caved in. Yunior Amesa, nephew of the deceased man, told the Associated Press he had left for work just before their building came down. ‘‘It was raining very hard and there was a lot of weight (from the water) up there. They went to bed. Minutes before, I was sitting in there,’’ Amesa said. ‘‘When I went to work I heard the building had collapsed and caught them both sleeping.’’

The rain arrived early Friday and fell near constantly throughout the day. Traffic snarled and some cars were stranded, as intersections flooded and streets turned into rushing rivers. Cuba’s Meteorological Institute recorded 2.8 inches (72 millimeters) of precipitation during a single three-hour period in the afternoon in Havana, and accumulations of up to 7.8 inches (200 millimeters) overnight.

Rain continued to fall in the capital early Saturday, and the famed seaside Malecon Boulevard remained closed because of high surf that was breaking over the seawall and onto the street. Granma said the area affected ranged from the western province of Artemisa to Ciego de Avila in the central part of the country.

For post in English, see http://www.boston.com/news/world/caribbean/2013/11/30/cuba-says-dead-heavy-rains-collapse-buildings/dkezS641SLG6UWxqe3xHEJ/story.html (Any attempts to find the original news on the Granma site yields Verizon ads!)

And Napoleon Conquered Cuba
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The travel section of El País (23 October 2013) recently offered a peculiar and charming description of a hidden jewel of Havana, the Napoleonic Museum [El Museo Napoleónico]. Here are excerpts translated from the original article:
In a mansion in Havana, a few hundred meters from the front steps of the University, lies one of the best preserved treasures: the Napoleonic Museum (115 San Miguel Street; phone number: 537 8791412). The collection comprises more than 7,000 objects related to Napoleon Bonaparte, which were gathered through the years by Julio Lobo, Cuban sugar magnate. Today, all of those items share a space in the former home of Orestes Ferrara, a multifaceted and influential politician in the times of Gerardo Machado.
The four floors of this impressive dwelling with numerous hidden corners evoke the universe of the first consul and emperor, his family and close friends, his empire and its shadow; from personal effects to items from his campaigns or from the context of his time, including gifts or objets d’art for his first wife Josephine. Everything related to Napoleon has a space in the extensive …..[Full article HERE]
November 23, 2013

And Napoleon Conquered Cuba

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The travel section of El País (23 October 2013) recently offered a peculiar and charming description of a hidden jewel of Havana, the Napoleonic Museum [El Museo Napoleónico]. Here are excerpts translated from the original article:

In a mansion in Havana, a few hundred meters from the front steps of the University, lies one of the best preserved treasures: the Napoleonic Museum (115 San Miguel Street; phone number: 537 8791412). The collection comprises more than 7,000 objects related to Napoleon Bonaparte, which were gathered through the years by Julio Lobo, Cuban sugar magnate. Today, all of those items share a space in the former home of Orestes Ferrara, a multifaceted and influential politician in the times of Gerardo Machado.

The four floors of this impressive dwelling with numerous hidden corners evoke the universe of the first consul and emperor, his family and close friends, his empire and its shadow; from personal effects to items from his campaigns or from the context of his time, including gifts or objets d’art for his first wife Josephine. Everything related to Napoleon has a space in the extensive …..[Full article HERE]

Old-World Charm in the Caribbean
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Sheila Bautz focuses on the old-world charm and relaxation available in Cuba, from Havana and Varadero to the resorts of Cayo Santa Maria and Cayo Coco (the article is mainly directed at Canadian tourists):
One of Cuba’s hot spots is Varadero, a popular destination located on the long peninsula. Many of Varadero’s resorts are located close to the town, making ventures on-and off-resort convenient. “Ernest Hemingway has a home in Varadero also that tourists can see. This was Hemingway’s little area to write and getaway,” said Barb Crowe, president of Ixtapa Travel in Saskatoon. Crowe’s background is with Air Transat, where she was responsible for taking travel agents to various Cuban resorts. […] Cuban resort entertainment and excursions are comparable to Mexico. Excursions offered include sailing, scuba diving and snorkeling, safari tours, fishing trips and dolphin shows.
Another option is a two-centered holiday between Varadero and Havana. For instance, vacationers can spend four days in Havana and 10 days in Varadero during a two-week vacation. “Havana is a must-see because of the history and architecture. You can close your eyes and imagine what it would have been like in the 1500s,” said Crowe. Havana provides the experience of oldworld and vintage time periods. Most people in the city drive cars from the 1950s. The architecture is centuries old, providing the experience of time travel in your mind.
Although Havana does not offer all-inclusive stays - usually breakfast and sometimes dinner are included - the cost of meals is reasonable. “If you just want to go sit on the beach and read a book, and are not too worried about the sightseeing aspect or leaving the resort, Cayo Santa Maria and Cayo Coco are definitely two destinations options,” said Crowe. “It’s more of a ‘stop the world with beautiful beaches and nice, calm, warm turquoise-blue water’ experience.”
Flights to Cayo Coco land in………….[Full article HERE]
November 18, 2013

Old-World Charm in the Caribbean

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Sheila Bautz focuses on the old-world charm and relaxation available in Cuba, from Havana and Varadero to the resorts of Cayo Santa Maria and Cayo Coco (the article is mainly directed at Canadian tourists):

One of Cuba’s hot spots is Varadero, a popular destination located on the long peninsula. Many of Varadero’s resorts are located close to the town, making ventures on-and off-resort convenient. “Ernest Hemingway has a home in Varadero also that tourists can see. This was Hemingway’s little area to write and getaway,” said Barb Crowe, president of Ixtapa Travel in Saskatoon. Crowe’s background is with Air Transat, where she was responsible for taking travel agents to various Cuban resorts. […] Cuban resort entertainment and excursions are comparable to Mexico. Excursions offered include sailing, scuba diving and snorkeling, safari tours, fishing trips and dolphin shows.

Another option is a two-centered holiday between Varadero and Havana. For instance, vacationers can spend four days in Havana and 10 days in Varadero during a two-week vacation. “Havana is a must-see because of the history and architecture. You can close your eyes and imagine what it would have been like in the 1500s,” said Crowe. Havana provides the experience of oldworld and vintage time periods. Most people in the city drive cars from the 1950s. The architecture is centuries old, providing the experience of time travel in your mind.

Although Havana does not offer all-inclusive stays - usually breakfast and sometimes dinner are included - the cost of meals is reasonable. “If you just want to go sit on the beach and read a book, and are not too worried about the sightseeing aspect or leaving the resort, Cayo Santa Maria and Cayo Coco are definitely two destinations options,” said Crowe. “It’s more of a ‘stop the world with beautiful beaches and nice, calm, warm turquoise-blue water’ experience.”

Flights to Cayo Coco land in………….[Full article HERE]

Trinidad, Cuba Recognized as Caribbean Natural Museum
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The village of Trinidad, Cultural Patrimony of Mankind located in this Cuban central province, is recognized as the biggest natural museum in the Caribbean according to Norberto Carpio, director of the Preservation Office.

Trinidad reaches 500 years of its foundation by the Spanish colonizers in January 2014, and treasures the distinctive hallmark of the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries, featured by the great desire of fortune by Spanish and Cuban settlers. The historical center of Trinidad still preserves the riches of the Cuban colonial architecture, with the harmony of different styles.

An example of local affluence are the residences of the Sánchez Iznaga family, current Trinitarian Architecture Museum and the Cantero Palace, a jewel of the customs of the Creole aristocracy. The Brunet Palace, now the Romantic Museum, is now representative of the era of more splendour in 1850. In the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of Sugar Cane Mills), a place with 106.9 miles of extension, 80 archaeologic sites have been located, representing what was -at times of the Spanish colonization- the blossoming Cuban sugar industry. In the 19th century the Valley had 44 sugar mills in production, making the area the third largest in the country.

This place has an attractive natural heritage, with high landscape values, endemic fauna, abundant landforms such as mountain ranges, the sea and the presence of three rivers, including the mighty Agabama River.
November 16, 2013

Trinidad, Cuba Recognized as Caribbean Natural Museum

(Follow our blogs HERE & HERE)

The village of Trinidad, Cultural Patrimony of Mankind located in this Cuban central province, is recognized as the biggest natural museum in the Caribbean according to Norberto Carpio, director of the Preservation Office.

Trinidad reaches 500 years of its foundation by the Spanish colonizers in January 2014, and treasures the distinctive hallmark of the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries, featured by the great desire of fortune by Spanish and Cuban settlers. The historical center of Trinidad still preserves the riches of the Cuban colonial architecture, with the harmony of different styles.

An example of local affluence are the residences of the Sánchez Iznaga family, current Trinitarian Architecture Museum and the Cantero Palace, a jewel of the customs of the Creole aristocracy. The Brunet Palace, now the Romantic Museum, is now representative of the era of more splendour in 1850. In the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of Sugar Cane Mills), a place with 106.9 miles of extension, 80 archaeologic sites have been located, representing what was -at times of the Spanish colonization- the blossoming Cuban sugar industry. In the 19th century the Valley had 44 sugar mills in production, making the area the third largest in the country.

This place has an attractive natural heritage, with high landscape values, endemic fauna, abundant landforms such as mountain ranges, the sea and the presence of three rivers, including the mighty Agabama River.

Professional Sport Returns to Cuba after 50 Year Ban
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Agence France Presse reports that professional sport returns to Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years when the first pitch is thrown in the communist island’s national baseball league. Apparently this is part of a government bid to halt the flow of sporting defectors overseas. In a landmark policy shift announced in September, Cuba said it would relax its strict rules forbidding professional sport from January 2014 in an effort to “perfect sports, generate sources of income, and encourage quality.” The country’s popular baseball league will be the first to benefit from the move as the 2013-2014 season gets under way this weekend.

For decades, Cuba thumbed its nose at international pro sports, paying hardworking and fabled athletes close to nothing for the honor of representing their proud nation. The new ‘policy of retribution’ allow Cuban athletes to keep 100 percent of prize money from overseas sporting tournaments. Previously athletes were only allowed to pocket 15 percent of their earnings, with 85 percent going to the state. Legendary Cuban high-jumper Javier Sotomayor has welcomed the change in the regulations saying they would serve as an “incentive for athletes, giving them greater motivation, pushing them to higher performances.”

Sport has emblematic status in Cuba, the dominant Olympic power from Latin America and the Caribbean between 1972 and 2004 before it was overtaken by Brazil and Jamaica at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. For years, a succession of hugely gifted Cuban athletes shunned the possibility of untold riches overseas by electing instead to become national icons in their homeland. It was an attitude perhaps most famously summed up by legendary amateur heavyweight boxer Teofilo Stevenson, winner of three Olympic gold medals between 1972 and 1980. Boxing promoters in the United States dreamed of luring Stevenson to their shores, where a Cold War-era bout with Muhammad Ali would have been among the most lucrative fights of all time.

Stevenson, who died aged 60 in 2012, snubbed all attempts to persuade him to defect, however. “No, I will not leave my country for one million dollars or for much more than that,” Stevenson told Sports Illustrated in 1974. “What is a million dollars against eight million Cubans who love me?” Yet the hardships faced by many Cuban athletes, and the steady flow of defectors overseas, persuaded Havana’s communist rulers to rethink the decades-old resistance to professional sport. Under the new policy for example, Cuba’s beloved Greco-Roman wrestling hero Mijain Lopez, a gold medallist at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, or baseball star Yulieski Gourriel, widely regarded as the best player in Cuba, will now earn more than $800 a month.

The sums are paltry compared to the millions available overseas, but in Cuba they represent a small fortune, more than 40 times the monthly wage of the average Cuban worker. For some Cuban athletes, however, the changes are too little, too late. Slugger Jose Abreu this week inked a six-year, $68m contract with Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox after nine seasons with Cienfuegos in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s top-level league
November 15, 2013

Professional Sport Returns to Cuba after 50 Year Ban

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Agence France Presse reports that professional sport returns to Cuba for the first time in more than 50 years when the first pitch is thrown in the communist island’s national baseball league. Apparently this is part of a government bid to halt the flow of sporting defectors overseas. In a landmark policy shift announced in September, Cuba said it would relax its strict rules forbidding professional sport from January 2014 in an effort to “perfect sports, generate sources of income, and encourage quality.” The country’s popular baseball league will be the first to benefit from the move as the 2013-2014 season gets under way this weekend.

For decades, Cuba thumbed its nose at international pro sports, paying hardworking and fabled athletes close to nothing for the honor of representing their proud nation. The new ‘policy of retribution’ allow Cuban athletes to keep 100 percent of prize money from overseas sporting tournaments. Previously athletes were only allowed to pocket 15 percent of their earnings, with 85 percent going to the state. Legendary Cuban high-jumper Javier Sotomayor has welcomed the change in the regulations saying they would serve as an “incentive for athletes, giving them greater motivation, pushing them to higher performances.”

Sport has emblematic status in Cuba, the dominant Olympic power from Latin America and the Caribbean between 1972 and 2004 before it was overtaken by Brazil and Jamaica at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. For years, a succession of hugely gifted Cuban athletes shunned the possibility of untold riches overseas by electing instead to become national icons in their homeland. It was an attitude perhaps most famously summed up by legendary amateur heavyweight boxer Teofilo Stevenson, winner of three Olympic gold medals between 1972 and 1980. Boxing promoters in the United States dreamed of luring Stevenson to their shores, where a Cold War-era bout with Muhammad Ali would have been among the most lucrative fights of all time.

Stevenson, who died aged 60 in 2012, snubbed all attempts to persuade him to defect, however. “No, I will not leave my country for one million dollars or for much more than that,” Stevenson told Sports Illustrated in 1974. “What is a million dollars against eight million Cubans who love me?” Yet the hardships faced by many Cuban athletes, and the steady flow of defectors overseas, persuaded Havana’s communist rulers to rethink the decades-old resistance to professional sport. Under the new policy for example, Cuba’s beloved Greco-Roman wrestling hero Mijain Lopez, a gold medallist at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, or baseball star Yulieski Gourriel, widely regarded as the best player in Cuba, will now earn more than $800 a month.

The sums are paltry compared to the millions available overseas, but in Cuba they represent a small fortune, more than 40 times the monthly wage of the average Cuban worker. For some Cuban athletes, however, the changes are too little, too late. Slugger Jose Abreu this week inked a six-year, $68m contract with Major League Baseball’s Chicago White Sox after nine seasons with Cienfuegos in Serie Nacional, Cuba’s top-level league

Sombras de Azul
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A long-form poem set to film and interspersed with dialogue, Sombras de Azulfrom Kelly Daniela Norris takes the viewer on a scenic trip to Cuba, Elizabeth Stoddard writes in this review for slackerwood.com.
Maribel, played by the director’s cousin Seedne Bujaidar, arrives in the country after the sudden death of her older brother Carlos. In the touristy areas, silent museums and colorful back streets of Havana, she looks for hints of her brother at the same time she pays a sort of tribute to him.
During her short time in the country, Maribel meets friendly cafe owners, a Swedish tourist (Charlotta Mohlin, True Blood), and carpenter/failed thief Eusebio (Cuban actor Yasmani Guerrero). Each in their different way aid in her healing process.
Sombras de Azul moves in quiet meditation, with Maribel’s reflections about her brother spoken over scenes of landscape, cityscape or beach. People in white congregate on the streets for an unnamed…[Full article HERE] 
November 13, 2013

Sombras de Azul

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A long-form poem set to film and interspersed with dialogue, Sombras de Azulfrom Kelly Daniela Norris takes the viewer on a scenic trip to Cuba, Elizabeth Stoddard writes in this review for slackerwood.com.

Maribel, played by the director’s cousin Seedne Bujaidar, arrives in the country after the sudden death of her older brother Carlos. In the touristy areas, silent museums and colorful back streets of Havana, she looks for hints of her brother at the same time she pays a sort of tribute to him.

During her short time in the country, Maribel meets friendly cafe owners, a Swedish tourist (Charlotta MohlinTrue Blood), and carpenter/failed thief Eusebio (Cuban actor Yasmani Guerrero). Each in their different way aid in her healing process.

Sombras de Azul moves in quiet meditation, with Maribel’s reflections about her brother spoken over scenes of landscape, cityscape or beach. People in white congregate on the streets for an unnamed…[Full article HERE