Eric Caraballoso

Eric Caraballoso

Corresponsal acreditado de OnCuba en La Habana.

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez

Havana, de-escalation and the Malecón

These days Havana is no longer like it was a few weeks ago. The beginning of a new de-escalation, with the improved epidemiological indicators in the city, has brought changes in the general panorama, but, above all, in people’s perception, divided between those who enthusiastically embrace the “flexibility” of the restrictions and those who observe the new scenario with caution and even fear. Along with the restart of table service in restaurants and cafeterias, announced a week ago, with logical limitations, the long-awaited reopening of the beaches, swimming pools, gyms and the Havana Malecón seaside walk returns in more than one aspect the Cuban capital to the previous panorama upon the arrival of the coronavirus and gives the coup de grace to an idea of ​​confinement that, in reality, never fully came into being. And the fact is that, unlike other Cuban provinces and localities, which have applied more severe strategies during the prolonged and complex wave of COVID-19 in recent months, Havana has been more flexible with the measures and closing times and it has even kept urban transportation running throughout 2021. After more than a year of reporting its first cases, and with the masks already becoming...

Cuban Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Alejandro Gil. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Alejandro Gil: “We are prepared to take advantage of any economic opening with the U.S., but it doesn’t depend on us”

The deputy prime minister and head of the island’s economy also assured in a press conference that the monetary reorganization process “has not been a failure” and said that despite the complex scenario that the island is going through, his government does not renounce an economic growth of around 6% in the current year.

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez

Havana, between more infections and vaccinations

If someone from abroad were to walk the streets of Havana today, they would probably not be able to believe that the city is going through its most complex epidemiological situation of the entire pandemic. That every day an average of more than 600 new infections are diagnosed—more than half of those in all of Cuba—and several deaths due to COVID-19. That is not the gloomy panorama the city reflects, what people’s faces reflect. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez Despite the dire statistics that are reported every morning, the continuous calls from the authorities and the protocols established to stop the infections, even when vaccination—by way of massive intervention—has been underway since this Wednesday, the Cuban capital is living a kind of reality limbo that seems to contradict all of the above. Although far from doing so, it reinforces it.   Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez It is an explosive cocktail that, almost miraculously, has not caused an even worse health outbreak; a scenario in which exhaustion and precariousness, the lack of risk perception and exigency, the irresponsibility of many and the indiscipline of many others, the accumulated need and stress, the spread of the most contagious strains of the coronavirus and also, why...

Parque de la Fraternidad

Faces and stories of the Parque de la Fraternidad

The daily and cosmopolitan life of Havana has one of its most representative places in the Parque de la Fraternidad. This vast esplanade, with its trees, benches, and monuments, is one of the Cuban capital’s points of greatest confluence, a place of passage and meeting, of rest and contemplation, and even of love dates and sexual skirmishes, although today the pandemic imposes an unusual landscape to its days and nights. Its real name, shortened by popular usage and rationality, is Parque de la Fraternidad Americana, and long before it is what it is today, the lands it currently occupies were mangroves and groves, in a colonial Havana that grew to encounter it. At the end of the 18th century, it would become a field for military exercises that would improve in its layout and infrastructure, and as such, with the name of Campo de Marte, it would reach the Republic. Then it would renew its image again and almost hosted a zoo, but the devastating cyclone of 1926 would destroy it and change its future. The Parque de la Fraternidad, in Havana. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez. In a short time, it would recover from nature’s fury to emerge as the Parque...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Animal welfare in Cuba: the regulations to come (II)

In the year that is just beginning, Cuba must finally have specific legislation on animal welfare. According to the legislative schedule updated at the end of 2020 by the National Assembly, the Council of State, a permanent collegiate body of the island’s parliament, must approve in February a decree-law on the subject, which would then be ratified by the Assembly in its next period of sessions. In addition, the Cuban government must also approve a state policy, of which the decree-law will be the legal instrumentation, with which both documents would unify, expand and update what has been regulated until today on this issue in the country and would respond to the hitherto postponed desires and requests of many people and animal groups that have gained visibility and multiplied their actions in Cuba in recent years. The Ministry of Agriculture (MINAG), whose functions include attention to animal health on the island, has been in charge of coordinating the drawing up of the policy and legislative regulation, with the support of other state entities and associations related to them. For this, a large working group was created, which remained active throughout 2020 and whose work has been based on the problems...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Animal welfare in Cuba: the regulations to come (I)

Although the issue of animal welfare and protection has been on the table for years in Cuba, with so far unfinished attempts to establish specific legislation in this regard, it has gained strength in recent times along with the claims of a growing sector of Cuban civil society. The popular debates around the island’s new Magna Carta, approved in a referendum in February 2019, exposed to public opinion the criteria and concerns of many Cubans about the treatment of animals in the country, both by state entities as well as by society itself, and they reinforced the need for up-to-date and comprehensive legal regulations, in tune with international advances in this direction. In this scenario, the actions of an active animal-friendly community, articulated mostly independently, which has developed numerous animal health and protection actions, has insisted on the approval of new regulations and has played an outstanding role in unprecedented events until recently on the island, such as peaceful protests and a march authorized by the government, as well as some spaces for dialogue and participation with state institutions. At the same time, the Cuban authorities finally gave the green light to the drawing up of a state policy and...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Monetary unification: putting accounts in order

When Ramiro found out about the new electricity rate that will be in force in Cuba as of January 1, as part of the monetary reorganization process, he lost sleep for a few days. “I started to do the math and couldn’t sleep,” this 51-year-old electronics technician, who works in a state appliance repair shop in Havana, confesses to OnCuba. His new salary will be over 3,000 pesos, but only in electricity he can spend more than 2,000, if he does not manage to lower his household consumption from the more than 350 Kwh usually devoured by his family, made up of his housewife wife, his mother-in-law , now old and sick, and his daughter, who is studying at the university. “And if you add to that the prices at the agricultural market, those of anything on the black market and even those of the supplies on the ration book, I don’t know where we’re going to end up, and I don’t have someone to send me dollars from abroad,” he says. It’s true that until now his salary was not enough, not even with his mother-in-law’s pension―which will also go up―and what his wife “invents,” so “to complete,” like...

Funeral honors for City of Havana Historian Eusebio Leal, at the National Capitol, on December
17, 2020. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Eusebio Leal in the heart of Havana

The death of Dr. Eusebio Leal on July 31 left Havana orphaned, the city to which he consecrated his life and that this Thursday, as a full tribute to his work, went to give him his choral and at the same time intimate goodbye at the National Capitol. There, in the monumental building that he got to see restored, in the symbolic Hall of Lost Steps, at the foot of the gleaming statue of the Republic, his ashes received the last tribute from the people of Havana, from all Cubans. Floral wreaths, the national ensign and a beautiful portrait of he who was and will always be for many the Historian of Havana, he who devoutly kisses the Cuban flag, accompanied his remains, while thousands of people passed in front of his ashes in silence, sad, grateful, moved. Box with the ashes of Havana Historian and a portrait of him in which he kisses the Cuban flag, placed for his funeral in the National Capitol, on December 17, 2020. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez. From great artists and figures of the country’s public life to students and humble workers, townspeople, came this December 17 to say goodbye to Eusebio. Loyal to Leal―as...

Audiovisual Varentierra coworking workshop, organized by the WajirosFilms production company at its headquarters in Havana, with young Cuban filmmakers. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Varentierra coworking: in Wajiros code

Varentierra: it is said in Cuba of a rustic construction made from the royal palm, typical of rural areas, with one room, a gabled roof that reaches the ground and only a front wall with its door, used by farmers to store provisions, materials, farming tools and even their crops, and also as a shelter during storms and cyclones. But for Cuban cinema, since this weekend―or actually a little before, since its call was launched in early November―Varentierra is much more. It is a network still in the making of audiovisual support and collaboration, but already with its first and promising results, in which independent producers and state entities, young filmmakers and renowned figures of the seventh art converge, and whose main organizer and promoter is, not coincidentally, WajirosFilms. Guajiro: it is said in Cuba of the farmer, of the rural man and woman. But if instead of “G” it is written with “W,” then its meaning expands to other dimensions within the extensive universe of Cuban audiovisuals. “At Wajiros we defend the traditional, but from the contemporary, that’s the reason for the ‘W’,” explains to OnCuba Carlos Gómez, director and journalist, leader of this audiovisual group, legally legitimized thanks...

Fernando Pérez, National Film Award (2007). Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Three voices of Cuban cinema: betting on dialogue and not on violence

More than a week after the concentration of Cuban artists and intellectuals, mostly young, on November 27 (27-N) in front of the Ministry of Culture (MINCULT), and the meeting ―until the early hours of the 28th―of a group of their representatives with Deputy Minister Fernando Rojas, the replicas and ramifications of that event keep the island, and in particular its artistic community and its cultural fabric, in a telluric tension. It is a complex scenario, which had as an immediate trigger the events related to the so-called San Isidro Movement (MSI), but which undoubtedly surpasses it in purposes and motives, and germinates in a terrain fertilized by previous debates and contradictions. Since then, a spiral of events and reactions has been generated, ranging from calls for dialogue, to condemnations and denunciations of the other party, not always in an edifying and objective way, in the media and social networks. In the midst of this rapidly evolving panorama, which has among its most recent seasoning the MINCULT statements after an email received with new demands from those meeting with the deputy minister―or, at least, from a part of them―and that the cultural authorities considered “unacceptable,” and the meeting this Saturday of...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Havana and Havanans, beyond San Isidro*

Havana woke up this Tuesday gray, wintry. In its oldest part, including the San Isidro neighborhood―center of gazes and comments on the events of the last days―and also beyond. The cloudy sky and the north winds left no room for doubt. The first cold front of the season entered the city just as December began and the thermometers and the people of Havana were thankful. “And it was needed,” says a man who prefers not to reveal his name, “to see if it refreshes the atmosphere a bit, because things have been quite hot in recent days. You know.” I know, you know, he knows, we all know. In the Cuban capital―and also throughout the island and even outside of it―no one is exempt today from this conjugation of the verb to know in the present tense of the indicative mood. We all know, in one way or another, of what happened in San Isidro and the Ministry of Culture, of their sagas in Havana itself and in other cities of the country, of the “tángana” in favor of the government in Trillo Park, of the Cuban Foreign Ministry complaint that the United States intervened in the matter, of...

Havana’s Paseo Promenade. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Havana’s Prado Promenade, despite COVID

Through time it has been officially known as Alameda de Extramuros or Paseo de Isabel II or Paseo Martí, but for the people of Havana of yesterday and today—and surely also of the future—it has always been and will be the “Prado.” Just like that. A place that neither time, nor storms, real and metaphorical, nor the COVID-19 pandemic have been able to shatter its charm. This extensive two-kilometer-long avenue, built at the end of the 18th century and transformed several times throughout its history, is one of the indisputable symbols of Havana and also one of its most emblematic places. A meeting and resting point, dating and commercial operations, strolling and children’s games, street activities and art exhibitions. Children playing on Havana’s Paseo Promenade. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez. Although the wide, tree-lined Paseo, with its marble benches, lampposts, and iconic bronze lions—sculpted by Frenchman Jean Puiforcat and Cuban Juan Comas—is its most recognizable face, the Prado actually begins earlier, at the Fuente de la India and in front of the busy Parque de la Fraternidad, and extends to the famous Malecón in Havana, passing through the esplanade of the Capitol and Parque Central, with its monumental sculpture of José Martí....

Photo: Monica Rivero

Flights to Cuba in the new normal

Cuba is now one month into the “new normal.” At least, almost the entire island. Since last October 12, most of the Cuban provinces officially entered that status, which seeks to boost the economy after months of the coronavirus pandemic, although without neglecting epidemiological surveillance and hygienic-sanitary measures to prevent a new wave of COVID-19. Only Ciego de Ávila, Sancti Spíritus and Pinar del Río—which had to regress due to a strong outbreak of the disease—remain in the phase of limited autochthonous transmission; while Havana, even though it has shown favorable indicators in recent weeks, continues in phase 3 of the recovery stage, in which many of the services and activities have already been restored. As part of this normalization of life in the country, all Cuban international airports reopened to commercial flights in mid-October, with the exception of José Martí in Havana, which will finally do so next Sunday, November 15. The air terminals of the tourist destinations of the keys adjacent to the island had already been authorized, the only ones that until then offered their services to international tourism, although in practice only Jardines del Rey, in the north keys of the central Cuba, did so. It...

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