Ciro Bianchi Ross

Ciro Bianchi Ross

Photo: Ariel Chang

Things about Christmas and New Year’s Eve

Christmas Eve supper, and that bucket of water that people throw out the window at midnight on December 31 continue being essential landmarks in the celebration of Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Cuba. Other rites, like cider and the grapes that accompany the last 12 bell strokes of the old year, disappeared for a long time and have returned now as if they had always been maintained, while going out with a suitcase around the block and the rag doll that is burned are striving to spread and to become consolidated when until now they perhaps haven’t been practiced very much. There are timid discounts in the shops and the Christmas tree is a fiesta for all ages. The jubilation increases and the pace of work slows down. There’s a respite in diseases. Those who usually do not drink alcoholic beverages have a drink since it’s just once a year. Congratulation cards are received; they say more or less the same thing: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This is how the birth of Baby Jesus is celebrated. But in Cuba, like in other many countries, the celebration has been debunked and those days have become a pleasant...

I am La Virgen de la Caridad

They say that El Cobre, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, is the island’s most visited town. And to be more exact: it is the site of a basilica where people go to worship an icon of the Virgin of La Caridad (Charity), Cuba’s patron saint. In the Yoruba pantheon she is Ochún; the virgin of love—as indicated by her name among Catholics—reigns over the waters and fertility, sexuality and gold, and also over love. Some visitors come very far to see her, many of them fulfilling promises; others are inspired by devotion or simply curiosity. Attending the masses that are officiated there is somewhat secondary for most people who visit the sanctuary, but nobody wants to leave without a glimpse of the virgin standing on her 18th century silver-plated base, with her crown and the splendor of her 1936 investiture, the rosary she was given by John Paul II, and her golden robe, where the Republic’s coat of arms shines on her breast. In her chapel, Cuba’s patron saint provides an unsurpassable image. She turns on her base; if mass is being said, she faces the temple, and if not, she faces the chapel, a space that...

Up&Down / Photo: Alain L. Gutiérrez


It is an atypical establishment, with a striking architectural composition and interior design. According to Havana’s night owls, it’s one of a kind. Is it a restaurant, a bar, a party hall? Up&Down, located at the corner of 5ta and B streets in Vedado, is all of those things; it is a quiet place with good music where you can go alone, with a companion or with a group of friends to enjoy excellent food and an extensive list of beverages and cocktails. Las croquetas del Up&Down se incluyen entre los platos más demandados / Foto: Alain L. Gutiérrez. The space is divided into two levels, upstairs and downstairs, hence the name. It is open every day from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., and becomes increasingly packed with the lateness of the hour. It was designed for an essentially Cuban clientele, although it is also frequented by foreigners who live on the island, especially from diplomatic and business circles.  Cuban celebrities have made Up&Down a favorite hangout, with customers like Descemer Bueno, Haila Mompié, Pachito Alonso, Pablo FG and Lazarito Valdés, and it’s not unusual to find entire production teams there celebrating after having finished shooting a film or soap...

Hotel Nacional

Hotels with history

THE AURA OF AN EPOCH HANGS OVER IT. IT HAS ITS own tradition and hallmark. Distinction, elegance, and luxury combine with efficient services at an establishment whose guests over the years have included England’s King Edward VIII; Ava Gardner and Marlon Brando; Graham Greene and García Márquez; Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg, and many, many other celebrities, including Alejo Carpentier, María Félix, Libertad Lamarque, Jorge Negrete, Pierre Cardin, and Nat King Cole…. Cuba’s Hotel Nacional, which opened on Dec. 30, 1930, is the most majestic and imposing on the island; it is, simply, classic. It stands on a rocky hill at the entrance to the Havana neighborhood of Vedado, making it an obligatory highlight of the capital’s cityscape, on the site of the former Spanish colonial Santa Clara cannon battery. And that location makes it possible to enjoy an unsurpassable view of the city and sea from the hotel, which merges into both land and seascape, with front gardens that project outward toward the city and rear gardens that seem to melt into the waters of the Gulf. This beautiful building’s architecture is a mixture of eclectic and modern, with elements of art deco and so-called Cuban colonial style. Its...

A woman to be discovered

Did she really exist? Or is she just a fictional character, as many believe? How much of her memoir is really true and how much is legend? Some 160 years after the end of the U.S. Civil War (1861-65), the figure of a Cuban woman Loreta Janeta Velázquez, who fought for the South dressed as a man, is still waiting to be discovered by historians. Meanwhile, a film made for U.S. public television by Ecuadorian director María Agui Carter placed Velázquez rightly in her place, although it is a film that should be viewed with a critical eye. Loreta Janeta Velázquez’s case was not unique. An estimated 1,000 women fought in the war, but they are rarely remembered in its accounts. Velázquez’s book, The Woman in Battle, reveals a person with a life straight out of fiction and ahead of her time, as she herself says: “What a woman may do if she only dares, and dares to do greatly.” WHO ARE YOU? Loreta was born in Cuba on June 26, 1844, to a wealthy family. As a girl, she was educated in the traditional way, to be a lady. Her parents wanted her to be refined, to know how...

Liberals of Perico! Run!

This story has two different versions, but both feature the same scenario, are set in the same era, and have the same main character. The title of this article is an expression that was inscribed in the collective imagination, and despite the passage of time, it is still used or cited when the situation calls for an appropriate retreat. Back in 1916, conservative president Mario García Menocal was set on remaining in power; he ran for re-election and lost to liberal candidate Alfredo Zayas. Menocal wanted to admit defeat gallantly, but his cronies advised him to do otherwise, and he proclaimed himself the victor. The liberals then took up arms in Camagüey and Oriente provinces, took over the provincial capitals, and began advancing on the national capital. This is known as the La Chambelona Rebellion. As the Army took on the insurgents, conservatives sowed panic in cities and towns, breaking up meetings of their opponents at gunpoint, no matter how peaceful. Despite the violence, liberals in the bucolic village of Perico, Matanzas, organized a rally; a young black politician, Aquilino Lombart, prepared to give a speech. Sure of himself, Lombart was beginning his remarks with a resounding “Liberals of Perico!”...

Foto: Iroko Alejo

Mother’s day

In much of the world, people celebrate Mothers’ Day on the second Sunday in May. In some countries it is called Mother’s Day, but it has the same meaning everywhere. While it is about love that is –or should be– expressed all year long, this day is set aside as a special moment for honoring mothers. When this chronicler was a boy, we all used to leave the house wearing red or white carnations, depending on whether our mothers were alive or deceased. Men wore them on their lapels, and women, on their blouses. In recent decades, those carnations have disappeared, at least in Cuba, giving way to Mother’s Day-themed postcards that are supposed to reach the recipient right on that date. Love for our mothers continues to be expressed, and not just for our own mothers; it is extended to all of the women we love and those to whom we are bound by ties of gratitude, whether or not they have children. It’s like another International Women’s Day, but more intimate. Leading up to the date, stores make a fortune, because nobody wants to honor his or her mother with empty hands, even though a kiss is present...

Jahresende in Havanna

Das Jahr ist ein Beispiel des zyklischen Prozesses; es steht in analoger Beziehung zu Prozessen wie der Tag, das Leben des Menschen, das Werden einer Kultur… alle mit einer aufsteigenden und einer absteigenden Phase. Das Jahresende ist für den Menschen immer eine Gelegenheit, Bilanz zu ziehen; der geeignete Moment, um Erfolge und Misserfolge zu überdenken und das Erreichte zu vergleichen mit dem, was man nicht geschafft hat.


 木棉对白人,黑人和中国人来说都是很神圣的,不能触摸的。他和棕榈一样,有着自己的品格。在没有神的允许下,暴风雨,飓风或者闪电不能伤害她,也不允许折断或者砍伐她。种植她的人便和她有了一辈子的承诺,因为从此她便决定着你的运气,健康甚至是命运。她是神圣的。在它的枝叶里住着“奥里沙”,先祖和天主教神。在桑迪利亚教里,Iroko,也就是木棉的信徒们,和Olofi,Obbatalá,Olorum,Oloddumare 还有Ochanlá都是一样的。她是神灵的书,也是神灵的家。用她来祈求可怕和崇拜的神明。 对木棉的祭拜就是绕着她转圈,在Natalia Bolívar《古巴:魔法世界的物语》一书中曾说道。用一根带着铃铛和带有小牛以及有着点燃蜡烛的棍子进行。还要祭献一些供给,鸭子和白火鸡。

Drei Runden um die Ceiba

Für Weiße, Farbige und Chinesen ist die Ceiba ein heiliger Baum. Unberührbar, Wie die Palme besitzt sie eine eigene.Persönlichkeit. Bei Sturm und  Wetter bleibt sie unversehrt. Sie wird nicht ausgeschnitten oder gefällt ohne die Erlaubnis der Götter. Wer sie pflanzt, schließt mit ihr ein Bündnis für das ganze Leben, weil von ihr sein Glück, seine Gesundheit und seine Entwicklung abhängt. Sie ist der Thron. In ihrer Krone leben die Orishas, die Vorfahren, die katholischen Heiligen.

Three times around the ceiba

For white, black and Chinese people, the ceiba is a sacred tree. Untouchable. Like the palm tree, it has its own personality. Neither storm nor hurricane nor lighting affects it, and it is not pruned or cut down without the permission of the gods. Anyone who plants a ceiba becomes committed to it for life, because his or her luck, health and general well-being depends on it. It is a throne. In its foliage live orishas , our ancestors and the Catholic saints.


随着时间出现和留下了一些短语。我不是指那些流行句子,比如我们总是在守灵的时候听到说“我们什么都不是”,也不是那个“过去写着的”用来表达克制。我也不想提及谚语,而是想说那些在一个特定环境下的句子,奇迹的出现然后用在比它起源更远的地方。我们把它们加入到了交流中同时也知道他们的起源。而且那些幽默家和音乐创作者创造了永久性的句子。不需要说的很深,这句“喝巧克力”是在50年代流行的阿拉贡乐队恰恰舞音乐中的迭句,从那个时代开始就像谚语一样被用在记住欠债人或是欠你承诺人。 这句短语“Cerro的龙头”,是1949年Fernando Noa创作的瓜拉恰舞的标题,改革了流行乐的乐器模式及加入一种新的音色的古巴流行的Arsenio Rodríguez的把它音乐化和流行化了。

Der Cerro hat den Schlüssel

Es gibt Redewendungen, die aufkommen und für alle Zeit haften bleiben. Ich spreche nicht von gewohnten Phrasen wie die wiederholte ”Wir sind nichts”, die wir bei fast jeder Totenwache hören, oder jene “Es stand geschieben”, wobei man eine Geste als Zeichen des Einverständnisses macht. Ich deute auch nicht auf Sprichwörter hin, sondern Wendungen, die bei einer gewissen Gegebenheit dem Erfindungsgeist des Volkes entsprungen und dann weit über das ursprüngliche Ereignis hinaus haften geblieben sind.

El Cerro “has the key”

There are expressions that arise and that remain for all time. I am not talking about common phrases such as “It was his/her time,” so often repeated at wakes, or “such is life,” implying resignation, nor am I referring to proverbs. Rather, I am focusing on expressions that spring from the popular imagination in certain circumstances and then continue to be used beyond the event that caused them to come about. Sometimes we include them in our conversations without knowing where they come from. Comedians and musical composers also create expressions that persist.

Biography of La Rampa

Photos: Denisse Guerra How many thousands of pedestrians – Cubans or otherwise – that daily walk up and down La Rampa know the history of this section of street that, for the last few decades, has been the Heart of Havana? It is the segment of 23rd Avenue that runs from Infanta Avenue to L Street, in Vedado. Or what is the same, the 500 yards that extend from the seat of the Ministry of Foreign Trade to the Habana Libre Hotel.