Jorge Carrasco

Jorge Carrasco

Jorge Carrasco está obsesionado, más que con otras cosas, con los trágicos, construidos y grotescos mundos del Pop Art. Y con los clips de video en los que mujeres con pelucas platinadas hacen en cámara lenta gestos sin ningún sentido. A Jorge Carrasco no le pueden faltar un Ipod y una canción pop infame y barata, de las que dicen: «Yeah, you´re maybe good looking but you´re not a piece of art».

Photo: Alain L. Gutierrez Almeida

Old School is Cool: Touring Havana in a Convertible

Few things are more exciting for foreign tourists in Cuba than a ride around the city in the back seat of a vintage convertible with the top down. Havana is full of old American cars of all kinds manufactured before 1959, when the triumph of the Cuban revolution and the ulterior severance of diplomatic relations with the United States put an end to imports from that country. More than 60,000 old cars from the U.S. are still used in Cuba, re-assembled with parts that are not those of the original manufacturer, and newly equipped with diesel engines, that are not as consuming as the original gasoline engines. This has cheapen their use, and today they take care of a huge percentage of the transportation of passengers in the country -a very necessary complement to badly serviced public transportation lines. There is among them, however, an elite group: the vintage convertibles that offer tourists tours in Havana and some other cities, like Varadero. Photo: Roberto Ruiz The first to offer convertible rides in Cuba was Gran Car, a state-run company that for a long time remained the exclusive provider of the service. But a few years ago,...

Gone With the Rain

From this balcony, the boys from the neighborhood would jump head-first into the deep river that Gloria street had turned into this past April 29, after 188 millimeters of rain was recorded at the Havana weather station in Casablanca in the course of four hours. Three people died, parts of and entire buildings collapsed and the authorities reported that over ten thousand people were affected by the sudden downpour in the Cuban capital. Today, Gloria street is already dry. Children can play out on the street again. The children, still too young to have any sense of the danger or losses, seem to be the only ones who are happy right now. OnCuba immediately published the stories of some of the people affected by the strong showers that day. We have returned to those places on several occasions to follow these people in their mourning and recovery. Two weeks after the floods and collapses, we return to find out what’s become of these people and what support they have received after a tragedy which, according to Cuba’s Civil Defense Department, left 1,400 homes flooded. *** On Thursday, May 7, we met with a sad, unsatisfied and angry Patricio Armas, the...

Photy by Alain Gutierrez

Madame Mompié: The Scent of Haila

One of the things you want to ask Cuban singer Haila Maria Mompie when you learn that a perfume named after her will soon be launched in Cuba, is if she's not afraid she will be made fun of by those who have always considered her as one of the most eccentric Cuban celebrities. Her answer is emphatic, and although she does not explicitly say that she isn’t concerned about what people think of her and her perfume, that’s what she implies: "We live in a society where people love to criticize everything, and where it is unusual for artists, athletes, and celebrities to have their own clothing, cosmetic or perfume line. I’d love if that were common here. We have talented designers and perfumers, as well as popular artists who can represent these kinds of products.” We meet Haila in Miramar, in one of the many new restaurants that have been opening in Havana over the last few months. Photo by Alain L. Gutierrez Her stage name, “The People’s Diva”, has earned her ample criticism from people who think she undeservingly proclaimed herself as such. Haila says that the name has stuck with the public,...

Richard Quest during the shooting of his program in Havana / Photo: Alain L.Gutierrez Almeida

Richard Quest, for the first time live for CNN from Havana

Monday Richard Quest looked happy recording for the first time from Havana his popular commentary and analysis program on business and economics Quest Means Business, of the CNN International chain. Quest had his set of transmission in one of the balconies of the CNN correspondent in Havana, overlooking the Bay and the Louis Cristal cruise, which brought this time to the city more than 1400 tourists, and it is for him irrefutable evidence of increased tourist traffic to Cuba after the process to restore diplomatic relations with the United States began. Exclusive to OnCuba Richard Quest said that "changes here will happen slowly, but that's exactly what should happen." "What would scared me, the danger for me would be that the changes occur very quickly," said the reporter while smoking a cigar, one of the things which he also came to enjoy in his first visit to Cuba. "I think you do not want American Capitalism. You want to see the changes translated into things: Internet, Iphones, travel. All that will happen, "he added. Quest Means Business, edition from Havana, had in one of its sections an interview with Cuban-American businessman Hugo Cancio, president of Fuego Enterprises, Inc, Fire Media...

Jon Lee Anderson: Getting to Cuba was like a release

You have to talk ab out Cuba and Cubans with the American journalist Jon Lee Anderson, as if there were nothing more important to talk about and as if Cuba and Cubans were like the navel of the world. Anderson knows the island as he knows the palm of his hand. He was a neighbour of his people, pioneers, worn-out car, his neighbourhood and his family witnessed the exodus of boat people, his home was supplied by waterpipes in the early 1990s, when he moved here with his wife and three small children to write what qualifies as one of the most complete biographies of Che. The journalist who has written the most frightful stories about conflicts in Angola, Afghanistan, Lebanon ... The author of texts which should already be classics as "Afghans love flowers", "The Power and the tower" and so on, was in Cuba a few days ago. The New Yorker sent him here to "feel" the situation of the process of normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States to write about it, perhaps. Anderson talks to OnCuba. In Afghans love flowers; besides the portrait of all the dramatic situation of war, you describe the customs...

Photo: Jorge Carrasco

Craving for potatoes

The Cubans crave potatoes and potatoes are sold in Cuba once a year. Once a year people stop what they are doing and ask the last, and get into lines, and get desperate, and buy all the potatoes they can buy. One pound costs one peso. The physically disabled and pregnant go first. In Calzada and K, in the downtown Vedado, there is a green market, and in that market yesterday, before 9 am, a truck had stocked it with potatoes. Minutes later, two ladies, quite old already jumped at each other´s neck in the line to buy. In 33 and 44 streets, Playa, similar events took place. In Santos Suarez, in Revolution Square, in Old Havana, we witnessed similar brawls. Sale of potatoes in Cuba / Photo: Jorge Carrasco There are people that miss the time when potatoes came as part of the the ration book. "We ate little; some say, but we all ate. Then that was left was sold by the free. "Those who miss those times, say not many police were needed to control the queues and the problem that brings each queue, which always is that everyone wants to go first....

Coca Cola Galiano, by Kadir Lopez, was sold a year ago for $ 45,000 to US actor Will Smith

Cuban art after thawing

Apparently, there is still good news for Cuban art. Last Friday, the United States State Department lifted most of the restrictions on the import of goods and services from Cuba and works of art are also included in the new list. After the announcements last December 17 it was predicted that more collectors, art connoisseurs and representatives of various institutions would prepare to travel to Cuba in the new scenario, although the devotion and curiosity of many for Cuban art and brought to the island long before Barack Obama and Raul Castro made public their dialogue. Cuban art, its value abroad and their potential for expansion in the international market seem to have a promising future with the new landscape. Many experts have alerted that Cuba should even prepare for an "invasion of collectors". Given a path of some edges are already revealed, but of which ultimately we do not know its outcome, some uncertain issues arise in the new context: Could 2015 mark the emergence of Cuban art as announced mecca of art, as many have predicted? What artists will benefit in the long run with relaxations? What will happen to our art, once it loses its appeal of...

Grave thieves

Not even after death you get a break. Not even in your grave you are safe, finally. The Garcia brothers had arrived the day indicated at the municipal cemetery in Guantánamo, in order to exhume the body of their mother, after two years buried. The gravedigger introduced himself, greeted the Garcia brothers and began to open the family vault. A few minutes later everyone would cry to heaven instead of finding the body of their mother, found another body, completely unknown. The lady had literally disappeared from the cemetery. The trick rabbit in its gloomy version: now you see it, now you don’t. Then, because it is natural and because the dead do not go walking like that out of their own graves, the brothers asked for an explanation. Those who run the cemetery told them they would find the coprse, which could not have magically disappeared, and were to resolve the matter in a couple of days. Sonia Garcia, who lived for years in Havana, got stiff when she got the call from his brothers from Guantanamo. "In the cemetery they say not to worry, Mommy has to appear" consoled her one. Usually, when a corpse disappears at the...

No Wifi for the time being

Cubans who read the "news" about opening the WiFi in Santiago de Cuba were eager, waiting for the indicated day. Although the alleged price were around 5 cuc per hour (half of what they cost in almost all hotels in Cuba), and few would have been able to afford, and some began to talk about it on the street, thanking any vestige of progress in access to the Internet. But on page 2 of Granma on January 13, a headline read: Etecsa clarifies on wireless internet services. And two paragraphs after reading "Etecsa clarifies all its customers that this information is false and that has not been issued by this entity." According to the statement of the Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba SA through Granma, the WiFi service to be provided in recreational Technological Park of Santiago de Cuba is for navigation on the Intranet (only Cuban websites) and through its own network of Young Club Tinored. Rumors indicate that the alleged service would have a speed of one megabyte per second, and presumably would have been available in late January. "As it has always characterized our company each time a new service starts we promptly inform them through the...

Haydee Milanes in concert this Wednesday

After passing through genres like pop, soul, funk, jazz, Brazilian rhythms to rock, Haydee Milanes reaches Filin, with her new album Palabras (Words), consisting of 14 songs with lyrics by composer Marta Valdes and her own musical arrangements. To honor Valdés, Haydée will sing Palabras (Bis Music, Artex) live Wednesday at 8:30 pm, at the Avellaneda Hall of the National Theatre. According to the author herself, who grew up listening to the songs of Marta thanks to her father, the album took her two and a half years and collects "complex issues, with a special atmosphere that I love and make me feel very identified with." Palabras has already had two live performances, and has sold about 600 copies of the first edition. The official record must be in Cuba in time for the concert today. Interpreting songs by Marta Valdes on her new album, according to Haydée, has represented the end of a cycle of her life, for when her father, Pablo Milanes, recorded an album with her compositions, Haydée was still in the belly of her mother. When making the decision to make Palbras, the singer was also pregnant with her baby Haydée Oromi, so the album grew...

Xiomara Laugart / Photo: Roberto Ruiz.

We Love you so much, Xiomara Laugart!

Xiomara Laugart returned to Havana again to play the most famous songs from her repertoire and share with the audience that crowded Che Guevara room at Casa de las Americas on Saturday. This time La Negra (The black woman), as Cesar Portillo de la Luz baptized her, was accompanied by her son, pianist Axel Tosca Laugart, completely dressed in white, with her hair in the same red tousled bun the Cuban public quite recognizes. Her special guests were Tania Pantoja and Pablo Milanes, from who Laugart said: "He always helped me , to this day, and I consider him as family." La Negra sang the endearing hits Yolanda and Que manera de quererte with Pablo and Tania, respectively. "People love and cheer you, Cuba has never forgotten you" improvised Pantoja, who also called Xiomara " a good friend, like family." Although the context of Casa de las Américas seemed not appropriate to singing and dancing, those who went to see Xiomara (including also Gerardo Alfonso and a group of relatives and friends of the artist) were most of the time standing in, dancing and humming the old letters of classic Cuban music hits as Paria, De mis recuerdos and Se...

How do Cubans abroad react to The News of the Year?

Many Cubans currently living abroad, either as definitive emigrants or temporary residents for tourist trips, are also surprised by the latest news about the conciliatory dialogue between Havana and Washington, and speculation on what will happen now with the future of the island. OnCuba contacted via the Internet with Cubans abroad, to see how they live right now in some of the countries where there are currently many Cubans, including Spain, Ecuador, and the United States. Ailyn and Yelena, from Ecuador: "Here in Ecuador a census produced that there are more than 10,000 Cubans living in the country, says Ailyn (21), whose story is already old on the island. She has been temporarily living for a month in Ecuador (specifically in the Chimborazo Province, Alausí Municipality), where she traveled as a tourist to bring clothes that would then be sold in Cuba. "I heard the news on the Internet. That is really great to improve a bit! So I will go back to Cuba. I wish all that to be true, because in Cuba I was having a real "bad time" economically. At the time of coming here I was working for 345 Cuban pesos, with which I could not...

Cuban self employed: It was already time for change

The reaction of Cubans in Havana to today’s news is , as a rule, of joy. Although many common Cubans do not specifically know what the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States entails, they know it's the start of something good. Others remain skeptical by the weight of the years in which economic precariousness and ineffective official discourse have left the people incredulous to the news announcing the change. And it is, to some extent, justifiable: after years of seeing so far what has now happened, one day the country wakes up, turns on the television and listens to the news contradicting the fact that everyone wanted to see changed, but which immobility many took already for granted. OnCuba went out (after the telephone contact between Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro became public) to interview some self-employed and private businesses owners of varying economic weight, to see how they received the news, what their wishes and thoughts are to what President Obama announced as the beginning of a new chapter in bilateral relations. In 23rd and M Craft Fair, at Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, like other businesses, many of the salesclerks and owners of tables...

Most Cubans living in villages move to the cities by these trucks, with no minimum security / Photo: Raquel Perez.

Private transport vans: If you are greedy, you will end up with nothing

Private transportation vans in Cuba have become a means, which although have somewhat eased the precarious transport situation, that is one of the most dangerous, due to the high speeds at which drivers drive, passengers supersaturating and defective technical condition of many of these vehicles. A few years ago, just few of these vans were seen in Havana. They have, from the beginning, been a means of transport rather in the interior of the country, for interprovincial travel. Nowadays many of them have even the same routes of state buses in the capital, covering usually 5 pesos ($ 0.20), cheaper than the ¨almendrones¨ (ancient American cars used as taxis) which prices range from 10 to 20 pesos. These vans and also trucks are allowed to carry as many passengers as seats to have. But drivers and conductors transport people as cows, after collecting as many as there are in the street. If you are too greedy, as we shall see, you will also end up with nothing this time. On April 26, 2012, around 7 am, Bibi got on one of those private trucks carrying passengers from Artemisa to Havana. Like most students, she could not afford a taxi covering...

The interprovincial tickets black market includes the employees of the terminals / Photo: Jorge Carrasco.

“Everyone has to live”

In Florida, Camagüey, Olivia's family used to have a business. Her mother, grandmother, brothers and cousins took advantage of living opposite the Railway Terminal, and waited in long lines to buy tickets, which were then resold in the same Terminal for double, triple, or even four times the original price, depending on the time of the year and how desperate the passenger was. You could only buy three tickets per person, and each train ticket to Havana cost 17 pesos. So, once resold the tickets, earnings, though were still insufficient, solved the most basic everyday expenses, even if none of the family had been employed by the state. The family of Olivia and others were neither are the only way to wangle a ticket for interprovincial trips by bus or train, avoiding the lines to book in advance at the terminals, or the legendary waiting lists of which one never knows what time you will leave. The black market prices at La Coubre Terminal, in Old Havana, rise a little bit more. There is a long chain of people that begins in the worker who buys the ticket at the terminal and ends in those who finally sell it to...

Saborear lo cubano: to rescue a culinary culture

What we are gastronomically? And what should our kitchen express?, were among the issues discussed by Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, Historian of the city, in his inaugural lecture at the Saborear lo cubano Event, V Meeting for the Rescue and Development of Culinary Culture in Cuba. "It would be a mechanical reduction to take strictly to the table the issue of food, remarked Eusebio Leal. The table is a sequel, it's a necessity. But mostly it is a cultural and even geographical expression, mainly in countries whose culinary tradition is very important. Habanaguanex Tourist Company, which develops the Saborear lo Cubano event until February 15, now has nearly 40 restaurants and 60 cafes in the historic center of Old Havana, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, along with its fortifications system. The gastronomy of these Habaguanex establishments is now a major attraction in Old Havana, and has accompanied the restoration and social work undertaken in the area by the Office of the City Historian. What we are gastronomically? Eusebio Leal talked about the roots of Cuban cuisine and the introduction on the island of some of its identity elements. "When we read the chronicles of the time, we realize how...

Neptuno Bar / Photo: Jorge Carrasco.

The croquette is ordinary

Whoever invented the phrase probably went through a state cafes on Neptuno Street, perhaps by the Neptuno Bar in Central Havana, on the corner of Marqués Gonzalez and, after looking at the dumpy tablet which also read Ronda Rum, Aromas and Criollos cigarettes, said: "Give me a croquette and bread", and paid one peso and fifty cents. This bread and hambergue (kind of flat croquette) I just bought at the Neptuno Bar / Photo: Jorge Carrasco. A few minutes after buying it I ate it, at the risk of what could happen. The stomach of Cubans born with the Special Period is tough, I thought. And to know how it was I had to try it. The taste of a croquette (and its cousins, the fried one, hamburger and others) of a State café in Neptuno Street is semiacid. Unable to determine if they have this flavor since fried, or acquire it after they have spent eight hours in an uncovered box, less than two feet from the street, gathering dust, saliva from the clerks, and getting stiff to the smoke old cars let loose by the exhaust, when they are going on Neptuno. The bread...

Scrabble: more than a game of rare words

A World Championship has just finished in Havana, and no one seemed to notice it. The 18th Scrabble World Cup in Spanish, held in Cuba for the first time, was developed from October 12 to 18 at the Riviera Hotel, with the proclamation of Mexican Jesus Ortega as world champion of the classic modality. In this category, the Argentine Luis Acevedo finished second, while the Cuban Miguel Stevens, debutant in the tournament, ended third, from a total of 86 players. As a team, Cuba was runner-up behind Venezuela in the Nations Cup, which included for the first time an entirely Cuban squad. It is also the first occasion in which such a large team (11 Cubans) can participate in a Scrabble World Cup. Cuban players have potential " The Cubans´ level is very high. They have been playing for about 8 years and have progressed much more than other countries, "the Mexican Evangeliana Mayorga, coordinator and organizer of several World Cups, told OnCuba. Mayorga says that Spain, Argentina and Venezuela are currently on top of the Spanish Scrabble worldwide and then Cuba appears after them. The Cuban players have potential for Scrabble, the 11 participants finished 14th, 30th, 31st, 33rd,...

El dúo Buena Fe durante los ensayos / Fotos: Kako.

Israel Rojas: “You grow more in sorrow than in praise”

In these fifteen years of work, Buena Fe has redirected its essence. "Before we used to throw rocks to see what came out. Now our way of projecting the art, instead of pursuing the Hit Parade, has found other ways to distribute music for it to reach to the public, but especially those who care about what we do. " "I have no frustrations as an artist. Every year I have reason to write songs, "Israel Rojas also says in this interview, published two days before Buena Fe performs in the Miami Dade County Auditorium, with singer-songwriter Frank Delgado, for a concert in tribute to Cuban cinema. Hopefully this concert, away from planting reasons for the isolation and dissection of an already hit Cuba, serve to unite all the shores in the same country, to make it closer in time. The concert will be an apology to Cuban cinema. What will the repertoire be? The music will go through some essential passages of Cuban cinema and iconic actors like Reinaldo Miravalles, Sergio Corrieri. It will reflect the films of directors like Titón, Frank Padrón and parts of different cartoons, which are now part of the popular cultural heritage of Cubans....

Isaac Delgado´s Concert opens Habanarte 2014

Habanarte 2014, the first edition of an ambitious festival that will gather in Havana "All art at once" from September 11 through the 21, officially will start at 11 pm at the recreation center El Sauce with a concert by Isaac Delgado. More than one thousand artists from almost one hundred cultural institutions covering all art forms on the island, will participate for ten days in what is expected to be an unprecedented event, given that the coexistence of the presentations equivalent to ten simultaneous music , dance, theater, visual arts and literature festivals. The organizing committee announced that more than a thousand Venezuelans have arrived in Havana to attend the festival. Other large delegations are those of Mexico, United States and Colombia. Prices for access to any demonstration shows are the usual prices in local currency. However, the Agency for Cultural Tourism Paradiso, the official tour operator of Habanarte 2014, has already on offer different packages for both domestic and foreign public who wants to have full pass to any of the presentations and workshops and tours especially designed for these offers. In the Paradiso packages, which went on sale yesterday at the ALBA Cultural House,  stand out the...

Carreras de "Arañas"

J., a fan of horse racing

There was five years ago in Güira de Melena town, in Mayabeque province, a memorable funeral. The Express, a golden horse that never lost a race or money to its owner or those betting on him, died at the end of the finish line. He was buried, with procession, flowers, tears and snot, on the grounds of its owner. That last time, The Express ran against his contender for half a million pesos ($ 20,000). As usual, before the race, the owner had gotten "on the side" some stimulant drugs in a State pharmacy, so that the horse was as fast as possible. But this time he went too far with the doping, and lost one of his major sources of cash. J tells me this, a big fan of betting on horse races, who lives in Melena del Sur (also Mayabeque). He has never been able to buy a horse, but the times of year when they will run and bets are made, he goes anywhere, and makes home recordings that then he jealously guards. The videos J shows me are on betting with horses pulling small carts to which they are called "spiders" or "spider" in countryside villages....

Las piscinas de particulares se han convertido en una opción para un sector de cubanos con ingresos medios / Foto: Raquel Pérez.

The Street of the Swimming pools

Now 236 Street in the Abel Santamaría is known throughout Havana as "The Street of the Swimming pools ". The Abel Santamaria neighborhood in Fontanar, Boyeros municipality, was once a residential neighborhood. In the 50s dozens of elegant houses with large gardens and swimming pools were built there. Now is a half decadent barrio with potholed streets. While the old rich of the area were never into renting out, the new owners of these beautiful homes are practically living in this business. Out of the business of helping people in a city where there are few affordable places to have fun especially in July and August. A team of A Fondo toured several of the more than 15 rental pools in this street, even as being located in the capital town peripherals, remains a much more affordable option than the cheapest pool of any hotel. 15 CUC per person is the cheapest rate to spend the day in the pools of some hotels like the Habana Libre, the Presidente and Riviera. In others such as Panorama hotel, the price is 20 CUC per person and at the Melias Cohiba and Habana those that are not guests or members of the...

"En la degustación se pudo catar 12 tipos diferentes de quesos de Lactalis, la mayoría de los que pertenecen a la marca Président" / Foto: Inversiones Pucara S.A.

In Cuba, cheeses of the French multinational Lactalis

These days the House of Cheese Le Marriage, one of the most exotic culinary initiatives in the historic center of the city, has invited sommeliers, chefs, hotel maîtress, restaurant workers and the general public to taste 12 different types of cheese that recently have begun been marketed in the House. Most of these cheeses are of the Président brand, belonging to the multinational Lactalis, the largest producer of dairy products in the world, and the second in food in France, behind Danone. Owned by the Besnier family, Lactalis also has brands like Lactel, Societé, Galbani and others, some of which are also sold to the public in Le Marriage. Elsa Plasencia, from the marketing department of the company IPSA (SA Inversiones Pucara), a Cuban food and beverage import companies of most notable quality in the country, told OnCuba that "The idea of ​​this tasting is that people get to know the place, which has very little time of existence. And for people to know the variety of products in the House. " Plasencia said "cheeses from Lactalis are well known internationally and are priced a bit high for its complex development process." In the tasting people could taste 12 different...

Silvio Rodríguez tour through Havana is not over yet

The book Por todo espacio, por este tiempo, comprising more than 200 images and 36 chronicles on a tour by Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez through Havana’s neighborhoods, which started on September 9, 2010, has been released for sale already. The main characters of Por todo espacio, por este tiempo, produced by Monica Rivero and photographer and producer Alejandro Ramírez, are “the humble Cuban neighbors that attend Silvio’s performances”, as stated by journalist Rosa Miriam Elizalde last Friday during the launching of the book at the Pabellon Cuba. Silvio and other artists like Omara Portuondo, Polito Ibañez and some others have visited more than 56 neighborhoods in the capital. The common element among all of these neighborhoods, including El Fanguito, Atarés, Pogolotti and others, is the lack of cultural proposals. During the final editing stage of Por todo espacio…, they had already offered 44 concerts in 44 different locations. The tour has continued in more than 56 neighborhoods and it seems it isn’t over yet. Mónica Rivero told OnCuba that Silvio has not outlined a final point for these performances. “Silvio said he would only feel satisfied with the tour and would only put and end to it when he feels...

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