Eric Caraballoso

Eric Caraballoso

Corresponsal acreditado de OnCuba en La Habana.

Practical lesson on Cuban regional cuisine during the Cuba Sabe 2020 International Culinary Workshop. Photos: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Cuba Sabe 2020: between Cuban cassava and gourmet cuisine

Between the very Cuban cassava and world-famous Italian pastas, between the excellence of gourmet cuisine and the interaction of the culinary with the visual arts; this is how the 2nd Cuba Sabe International Culinary Workshop, which concluded last Saturday in the Cuban capital, took place. Around 200 delegates and guests from nations such as Spain, the United States, Italy―the guest country in this second edition―, the United Kingdom and Cuba shared three intense days at the Iberoestar Grand Packard Hotel, the venue since the first edition of an event that transcends the field of gastronomy to highlight cuisine’s cultural resonances. Cuba’s culinary art, with its traditions, regional recipes and contemporary stylizations, was the main protagonist of the event, which shared its knowledge and flavors between lectures―among them, one on food sovereignty by Brazilian theologian Frei Betto, and another dedicated to the history and present of cassava, given by Cuban researcher Domingo Cuza―, practical lessons, tastings, exhibitions, concerts and book presentations. More than a “rescue” of Cuban cuisine, the workshop became a celebration of its recent declaration as a cultural heritage of the nation. “This is not an event to rescue Cuban cuisine, but to appreciate its values, its traditional knowledge,...

2nd Cuba Sabe Culinary Workshop. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Cuba Sabe: from the farm to the table (going through the kitchen)

In less than a decade, Osmel Corrales turned an eroded and low-yielding plot of land into a paradigm of organic farming in Cuba. The goats and his perseverance were the key so that El Olivo farm, in the tourist valley of Viñales, not only improve the land, but also gain fame for the variety and quality of its cheese. This was confirmed by the participants at the 2nd Cuba Sabe International Culinary Workshop, which began its sessions this Thursday at the Iberoestar Grand Packard Hotel in Havana, with the presence of chefs, producers, sommeliers, academics, artists and specialized journalists. Corrales was one of the Cuban farmers who exhibited their artisanal organic products during the opening day, which was attended by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, among other invited personalities. Cheese with paprika, rosemary, a la guayabita del pinar, yogurt and cream made by him and his workers were shown―and tasted―along with cheeses and sausages from other independent producers, as an example of the potential of a movement still insufficiently known and exploited on the island, and of which Cuba Sabe aims to showcase. The cheeses, milk and other products of...

People line up at the Galerias de Paseo shopping center, in Havana, where on October 28, 2019, electrical appliances started being sold in foreign currency through debit cards associated with bank accounts. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE.

Havana stores start selling in dollars

Monday, October 28, 10:30 in the morning. A hundred people, perhaps more, are grouped inside the Galerias de Paseo shopping center, in Havana. The line, which goes up the ramp that connects the ground floor with the upper floors, becomes thicker and more agitated as it approaches the door of the store where as of today different electrical appliances are being sold in dollars. The store is downstairs, at the back of the mall, at the beginning of the ramp. It is one of the 13 that opened its doors on Monday in the capital and in Santiago de Cuba, as part of the new economic measures announced days ago by the Cuban government. One of those that sell through debit cards associated with bank accounts in foreign currency. Many people look through the store windows. Others remain standing, or sitting on benches or on the edge of the ramp, waiting for their turn to go in. Some onlookers wander among those who wait. New buyers continue arriving and asking who the last person is on the line. Those in front crowd around the employees who answer their questions and try to organize the entry. There are also police officers...

Chef Eddy Fernández, president of the island’s Federation of Culinary Associations and a tireless defender of Cuban cuisine. Behind, a statue of chef Gilberto Smith, founder of the Federation and one of the essential figures of culinary art on the island. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Chef Eddy Fernández: “Cuban cuisine deserves being recognized as a national heritage”

The mother of Eddy Fernandez, as well as of his three brothers, would not let him into the kitchen "because of the machismo of that time." However, more than four decades later he is one of the most recognized chefs in Cuba, president of the island’s Federation of Culinary Associations and a tireless defender of Cuban cuisine, who aspires that it be recognized as a national heritage. He’s been working for several years to achieve this from the institution he presides over. He has already delivered a report, the result of a thorough investigation and "with more than 40 national and international references," to the offices of the National Council of Cultural Heritage and is awaiting its opinion. It’s currently studying the proposal following the established standards for these cases. For Eddy, that this aspiration becomes a reality would be, above all, an act of justice, a victory that, beyond the Culinary Federation, all Cubans deserve. "I think all of Cuba deserves that our cuisine be recognized as a heritage," says to OnCuba the 58-year-old chef, 16 of them at the head of the Federation. "We are not seeking to exalt it for our benefit, because ultimately any organization or...

Going to the beach on this island is like going to a party. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE.

Let’s go to the beach

The beach in Cuba generates unlimited affection. Sometimes it seems like a principal religion, above all the divine, black, white, Chinese and mulatto heads. In Cuba, where it is hot the year round, and increasingly more with global warming, going to the beach in July and August is the right time. For Cubans, it is anguishing if the water isn’t warm. For us neither March nor October are good for going to the beach. Group psychology dictates, then, that to take a dip the main thing is that there be a lot of sun and many people. The more, the better. It doesn’t matter if the compass leans towards the elitist Varadero or the proletarian beach of 16 in Miramar, Havana's Guanabo or Santiago de Cuba’s Siboney, what cannot be postponed is going to the beach in summer, to feel the whiplash of the saltpeter in the middle of the afternoon and the impact of the sea on the retina. All that surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people. There’s nothing like it. Big families all get under the beach umbrellas to get away from the sun for a bit. Photo: Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE. To...

Rum Santiago of Cuba. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Rum Santiago de Cuba, to Europe and beyond…

The rum Santiago de Cuba, the second most important Cuban premium rum after the famous Havana Club and for many connoisseurs the highest-quality rum of spirits produced on the island, is headed toward the growing European market. And also beyond. This Monday, a subsidiary of the British firm Diageo―world leader in the premium alcoholic beverage segment―and the Cuban state corporation Cuba Ron S.A. formalized the creation of a joint venture to distribute the renowned spirit internationally. The new venture, named Ron Santiago S.A., will have the exclusive global distribution rights, with the intention of multiplying the sale of Cuban rum throughout the world. "The specialized publications consider that the Cuban premium rum represents approximately 9% of the sales of premium rum worldwide. And the main objective of this joint venture is to make this number grow and more," said David Cutter, president of global production and purchases at Diageo. https://www.facebook.com/UKinCuba/posts/2344629945591515 Two reasons support, according to Cutter, the commitment of his company―which markets such renowned brands as Smirnoff vodka, Johnnie Walker and J&B whiskeys, Tanqueray gin and Guinness beer―to the rum Santiago de Cuba. The first of these is the unquestionable quality of this Cuban drink. "The Santiago de Cuba is...

Mexican Ambassador to Cuba Miguel Díaz Reynoso. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Cuba and Mexico at an “exceptional moment”

Cuba and Mexico are living an “exceptional moment” in their bilateral relations. This is the opinion of the new Mexican Ambassador to the island, Miguel Díaz Reynoso, who argues that the turn to the left of the Mexican government with the arrival to the presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has opened a new range of opportunities strongly rooted in historical and cultural links. "It is not only about the temporary coincidence of two new administrations: that of López Obrador and that of Miguel Díaz-Canel, but also the coincidence of visions and objectives, the interest of each government in improving the living conditions of its people, to meet their daily needs and promote their well-being," says Díaz Reynoso in an exclusive interview with OnCuba. For the diplomat, appointed last March and who still hasn’t presented his credentials before the Cuban authorities, a convergence "also of politics" is now added to the "long centuries of relations" between the two nations. "It cannot be overlooked that next to López Obrador on the day of his ‘Taking of Protest’ in Mexico was President Díaz-Canel, as a clear sign of the link between the two countries and the two new governments. And that marks...

Eduardo del Llano. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Eduardo del Llano: Nicanor O’Donell for president

In Eduardo del Llano’s ideal Cuba, Nicanor O'Donell should be president. At least "I’d vote for him," he says. For 15 years, the writer and filmmaker born in 1962 in Moscow, in the former Soviet Union, has made a series of short films with Nicanor as a central character, as an archetype of the common Cuban who, with mordancy and humor, reveals the contradictions and absurdities of contemporary Cuban society. The shorts, starring Luis Alberto García and Néstor Jiménez, have gone from flash memory to flash memory like hot cakes on the island, even though distrust and official silence have sidelined them from the state distribution circuits. However, despite the underground popularity of the "Nicanor" series, Del Llano has decided to end his successful saga. Last week he officially released in Havana Dos veteranos, short number 15 of the series, which according to its author will be, once and for all, the last. OnCuba talked with the also screenwriter of films like Alicia en el pueblo de Maravillas and La vida es silbar about this closure and its meanings, and about his remaining career in film and literature. He also revealed his reasons for not emigrating and for continuing to...

Five of the members of the MSK private enterprise. From left to right: Gretel Garlobo, Michel Hernández, Gilberto Grave de Peralta, Mirsa Martínez and Dayron Avello. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

MSK, a private enterprise for Cuban music

The catalog of MSK, an undertaking dedicated to the promotion of Cuban music in the digital sphere, includes from son musician Manolito Simonet to the Cimafunk phenomenon, from jazzman Alejandro Falcón to the Conga de Los Hoyos, from singer-songwriter Luis Franco to the Golpe Seko rappers. When it began just six months ago it had only three names in its catalog; today it has around 40. And not only from Havana; also from Matanzas, Villa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, Pinar del Río. And even from outside the island. "The goal is to promote good Cuban music, wherever it comes from and regardless of the genre," explains to OnCuba Gilberto Grave de Peralta, a computer scientist and project director, who, along with his wife, the designer and musician Mirsa Martínez, had a previous experience in artistic marketing with the now extinct Habana2Go magazine. MSK was born with this and other antecedents, but with a more comprehensive and ambitious idea; an enterprise for which they had been preparing more than half a year until its launch last December 13. MSK logo. It hasn’t been an easy road, but it’s very comforting, according to its members, only six and...

Photo of the historic visit of former U.S. President Barack Obama (left) in March 2016 at Havana’s San Cristóbal Restaurant, where he is greeting its owner, chef Carlos Cristóbal Márquez (center). The image is kept in the restaurant. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

San Cristóbal, from Obama to Trump

Three years ago, Havana’s San Cristóbal Restaurant became a symbol of the new era that Cuba and the United States were living. During his visit to the island, in March 2016, then President Barack Obama dined with his family in the "paladar" founded in 2010 by Chef Carlos Cristóbal Márquez and the entire world had its eye on the spot. "It was a unique moment. That he chose us over other excellent restaurants in Havana has been very important for us," recalls Márquez, who has a recognized experience as a chef in emblematic Cuban hotels such as the Riviera, the Capri and the Nacional, and also outside the island. It’s not the only famous visit to the restaurant on San Rafael Street, in Centro Habana, where politicians like former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and former Brazilian President Lula da Silva have eaten, as well as celebrities such as Kardashian and music stars Beyoncé and Jay-Z. However, Obama's dinner, as explicit support for the island's private sector, marked a before and after, and left a trail that many foreign visitors have tried to follow. Above all, from the United States. But today’s reality is very different. [gallery jnewsslider_title="Private Restaurant San Cristóbal....

Photo: jocymedina.com

Special Period’s heraldry

The memories of the “Special Period” in Cuba have been engraved in cast iron for those of us who lived it. More than 20 years have passed, at least since its crudest stage, and it is still hard to freely speak or laugh about all its shortages and vicissitudes. At some point in the dialogue, it does not matter whether at the beginning or at the end, the shadow of the trauma takes over, and what was a simple list of experiences ―many, logically, similar― becomes an act of exorcism. In a spiritual cleansing so that those dark times don’t return. Now that the ghost of that period is again soaring over Cubans and that the long lines and other "symptoms" seem like an ominous prediction, many rescue the stories of that time to give themselves courage for what they suppose is coming and to teach the younger people ―who didn’t live or don’t remember the hardships suffered― about the crisis using the most acute list of words. Cuba, certainly, is not the same as in the 1990s and whatever the times that will come ―if they’re not already here― they wouldn’t have to be the same. But in any...

Cuban railroad. Photo: Abel Rojas Barallobre / Cubahora / Archive.

Cuban railroad’s slow journey

After decades of lurching and putting on the brakes, the Cuban passenger railroad is trying to recover. The recent arrival of 56 Chinese cars, as part of the 240 agreed between Beijing and Havana for the next months, worth 150 million dollars, has started to materialize the intention of giving back the lost dignity to this means of transportation. Or at least, some of that dignity. These are the first cars with zero mileage that have arrived to the island in 44 years. They will be joined by another 24 within a few days to complete the first batch of 80 that, according to Cuban Transportation Minister Eduardo Rodríguez, "will be in service this summer." Since 1975, long before the fateful “Special Period” and even the "golden" 1980s, did such "brand-new" wagons disembark in Cuba. Not even those of the trains popularly known as "Locura azul" ―because of the color of their cars reminiscent of the film about Los Zafiros― and "the French" ―because of their country of origin―, were brand new. The most "luxurious" Cuban travelers remember in the last three decades already had quite a bit of mileage when they began being used in Cuba. And because of...

Ramón Jiménez, director of operations of American Airlines in Cuba. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

American Airlines’ long-term bet on Cuba

Although the Trump administration threatens to further limit trips to Cuba by Americans and lawsuits under the Helms-Burton Act could reach U.S. airlines, American Airlines (AA) is seeking to increase its flights to the Island. "Our experience here has been very satisfactory. It has allowed us to continue growing, to increase the number of operations and to consolidate us as the airline with the most flights between the United States and Cuba," Ramón Jiménez, director of AA operations on the Island, assured OnCuba. "That’s why our approach is to make a long-term bet on the Cuban market." The U.S. airline opened a commercial office two years ago in Havana, at a time when the number of flights and travelers from the U.S. was growing exponentially after the Obama era’s thaw. Since then, despite the rollback promoted by Trump and contrary to what happened with other companies, AA has not stopped growing in Cuba. AA currently operates 12 daily flights to several cities on the Island, after the beginning in early May of the route between Miami and Santiago de Cuba. But in the coming months the company will increase the number of its departures. https://oncubanews.com/cuba-ee-uu/santiago-de-cuba-recibe-el-primer-vuelo-de-american-airlines/ "We are very enthusiastic about...

Hotel Prado y Malecón, under construction in Havana. Photo: Kaloian

Havana’s future hotels

A few months before celebrating its 500th anniversary, Havana is strongly committed to international tourism. In the midst of the recovery of the recent tornado and the uncertain economic situation Cuba is experiencing, the construction of new hotels and the restoration of others, until recently in ruins, continues. Only this year, the Havana authorities are envisaging the opening of a dozen, to raise the number of rooms to more than 12,500, just over half in four- and five-star facilities. A few days ago, during the FitCuba 2019 International Tourism Fair, two of them opened: Palacio Cueto, in Old Havana, and Vedado Azul, in Vedado. But the state plans go further and include the rehabilitation of others such as the Deauville, the Lincoln, the Sevilla, and the Neptuno-Tritón, and the revival of extra-hotel services that include restaurants, marinas, centers and golf courses, in an ambitious plan that will go on throughout the next years. The most recent business portfolio for foreign investment is even proposing plots currently occupied by buildings or public spaces, such as the intersections of the well-known 23 and B, Línea and Paseo, and Boyeros and 19 de mayo streets. The intention, according to Xonia Beltrán, delegate of...

Lis Núñez with one of her cats. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

“De la Calle,” an animal rescue network

When Lis Núñez moved to Guanabacoa, in November of 2017, she did it with six cats. They were, are, part of her "family" and they walk freely throughout the house and they’re "never going to leave," those which "chose" her and which she chose. But a year and a half later, they aren’t the only ones that are keeping her company. A year and a half later, Lis has more than 50 cats in her care. The figure, just hearing it, impresses. She reached it little by little, deliberately. When she bought the house ―when she had her own resources to do so―, she did it with the intention of turning it into a shelter, for sheltering wounded and abandoned animals in the street. And so it has been. Hers is one of the shelters that form part of "De la calle," a collective project dedicated to animal protection in Havana, which she shares with other independent protectors and who currently have the support of the U.S. Ocean Doctor organization. Lis Núñez wasn’t born in the Cuban capital, but in Cabaiguán, in the center of the island, and since childhood she felt a special connection with animals. She studied law...

Mr. Antony Stokes, Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Cuba. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

United Kingdom and Cuba, “in a positive and cooperative direction”

Three weeks ago, relations between Cuba and the United Kingdom lived a momentous moment with the trip of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall to the Island. Never before had a member of the British Royal House trod Cuban soil on an official visit. The symbolism and the impact of this fact are indisputable. "Although it was not a government visit, but a Royal one, due to its scope and extension it demonstrated the two countries’ progress in bilateral relations and the will to continue advancing," Mr. Antony Stokes, Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Havana, told OnCuba. "The visit was very substantial and emotional, with many different elements, which served for the Prince and the Duchess to learn about Cuban culture and life and to exchange with the people, not only with President Miguel Díaz-Canel and other government representatives, which was very important, but also civil society: artists, entrepreneurs, members of community projects, with people in the streets, something that interested them very much. "In addition, it allowed for showing substantive cooperation and bilateral exchange projects, and also for direct meetings by officials of our government, who accompanied Their Royal Highnesses, with Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno...

March against animal abuse, April 7, 2019 in Havana. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

March in Havana against animal abuse

Mili was picked up one night from a garbage container in Havana. A birth defect in one of her front legs had condemned her to abandonment and almost certain death. But, unlike other less fortunate dogs, her story is one of hope. This Sunday, Mili was one of the participants in the Awareness Walk, a pilgrimage to the tomb of American philanthropist Jeanette Ryder ―founder in 1906 of the Bando de Piedad for the protection of children, animals and plants― convened by animal protection activists in the Cuban capital. The dog made the whole march from El Quijote Park, in Havana’s centrally located corner of 23 and J in Vedado, to Colón Cemetery, in a small carriage pushed by activist Luisa Pérez. They were not alone. Hundreds of people and dogs walked with them about two kilometers of the way, carrying signs and orange bows and shouting slogans against the mistreatment of animals and in favor of the approval in Cuba of a law for their protection and welfare. "I brought Mili as an example to show that we need to raise people's awareness and have the government’s support to finally approve the...

Danaisy Alfonso at her home in Guanabacoa, seriously damaged by the tornado from last January 27, 2019. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Stories and inevitabilities of the tornado in Guanabacoa

"I have to get out of here, I have nothing left," says Danaisy Alfonso as she picks up the clothes scattered among the ruins of what was once her home. She does so restlessly, compulsively, keeping an eye on her three-year-old daughter Emilenys. The girl barely leaves her side. At times she tries to play with a broken toy, but she immediately returns to her mother’s side. Her eyes show her fear. Her face and back bear the marks of what she experienced last Sunday with the tornado. Since that night her 10-month-old sister has been hospitalized in the Pediatric Hospital of Centro Habana. Her older sister, seven years old, was also hit by the wall that came down. "I don’t even want to remember...," says Danaisy. The mother was putting her daughters to bed when the wind ripped out an avocado tree in front of her house, in Villa Primera, Guanabacoa, and threw it against the wall of her room. The frayed roof fell in the yard. Some time ago, she affirms, she had asked the forestry services to cut down the tree, "but they told me I had to wait, even though I had three young girls. And...

At the November of Entrepreneurs event, representatives of the Cuban private sector learned more about the social media as channels to give publicity to their businesses. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Internet and the social media: a new scenario for Cuban entrepreneurs

Since its first edition, Maricel Ponvert hasn’t missed a November of Entrepreneurs, an event that has been organized for three years by the CubaEmprende project in Old Havana’s Félix Varela Center. “I think the idea that we entrepreneurs can meet to share and learn is wonderful,” the head of the D’Marie Wellness Holistic Center, a salon that provides beauty, relaxation and mental and physical wellness services, as it announces on its Facebook profile, said to OnCuba. This time her presence was precisely motivated by the development on the online environment. Social media management and digital marketing were the thematic cores of the event that, along with experts in these fields, brought together some 140 representatives of the island’s private sector on November 22 and 23. For most of them, like for Ponvert, the social media are not an unknown space, but the lack of specialized knowledge, plus the usual difficulties in connectivity on the island, have limited their projection in these platforms. The CubaEmprende initiative sought to have an influence on that reality and fuel the participants’ interest. Maricel Ponvert (fourth from right to left) with other Cuban entrepreneurs attending the November of Entrepreneurs event in...

Transmission booth from the first decades of Cuban radio. Photo: Eric Caraballoso Díaz’ archive.

Cuban radio, also from a basement

Minimized and loved, followed by millions and vilified by those who prefer to contemplate the world from an ivory tower, radio is celebrating 96 years since of its first regular broadcasts in Cuba. It’s easy to say, but it is not so. This Caribbean island was one of the first countries of the American continent to have stable radio stations – a term actually grandiose for its artisan beginnings -, established even in the midst of shortages and improvisations, of its own obstacles and the astonishment of an audience that had never known the likes of it. The foundational ranks are owed to military musician Luis Casas Romero, who was the subdirector of the Band of the General Staff of the Army and who on August 22, 1922 inaugurated the 2LC, but the birth of this means was not a thing of one day, as neither was its consolidation. Cuban radio was created step by step, test after test, mistake after mistake. It was actually the result of the simultaneous effort, the search and the creativity of a tireless group of radio hams, not just in Havana but throughout the island, and also of the skillful businessmen who rapidly understood...

His Excellency Mr. Bader Abdullah Al Matrooshi, ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Cuba. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Cuba and United Arab Emirates: a road of friendship

Although geographically and culturally far away, Cuba and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been building close relations in recent years. This nation on the Persian Gulf has a high socioeconomic level, in principle boosted by its gas and oil production, and is a significant actor not just in the Middle East but also in the entire international context. “When thinking of the UAE, achievements like the highest tower in the world and Palm Islands usually come to mind, but behind its successes are the efforts of the country and its leadership, headed by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, to be able to accomplish these and other achievements,” affirmed His Excellency Mr. Bader Abdullah Al Matrooshi, ambassador of the UAE in Cuba. Since its foundation on December 2, 1971, the UAE had to face many challenges in key sectors like healthcare and education, said the diplomat to OnCuba, but what has been accomplished since then has made it possible to improve the life of Emirati citizens and give a hand in terms of cooperation to other nations in diverse fields, be they political, economic or cultural. Following that course, its Embassy on the island was inaugurated on October 5,...

Los propietarios Nora Belanzauran y Otto Hermos mantuvieron la mesa de estilo barroco de la década de 1950 y las sillas en suite en una casa de mediados de siglo diseñada por el maestro moderno Frank Martínez. Las persianas de madera y vidrieras de colores son características de la arquitectura de estilo moderno tropical. Foto: Alain Gutiérrez.

The Houses Hermes Mallea Discovers in Havana

Even though he has built a successful career in the United States and still prefers English to communicate with others, Hermes Mallea feels increasingly more linked to Cuba. Fourteen years ago he experienced a return to the roots, to the origins, thanks to the profession to which he has devoted his life: architecture. Mallea lived in Santiago de Cuba until he was five years old, but he grew up and carried out higher studies in Miami. In Columbia University, in New York, he did a master’s in the preservation of history and later, after a few years in Boston, he established himself in NYC. A study of the architecture of interiors shared with his couple, interior designer Carey Maloney, has been his work and passion for more than three decades. “We have been very lucky,” he says to OnCuba, “and what’s been the most important have been the clients, very special persons with which we have maintained a relationship of loyalty throughout time.” Hermes Mallea. Ten years ago, a Design Biennial in Havana opened an unexpected door to him: “It was the first time I returned to Cuba and I was captivated not just by the...

Mr. Thomas Karl Neisinger, German ambassador in Havana, on a visit to OnCuba’s office. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

“Germany can be very useful for the future of Cuba”

  Germany is not only the driving force behind Europe’s economy. It is also an actor with a great political influence in the community bloc and in the global context. Its ties with Cuba have gone through different stages and, although they have grown in recent years, its ambassador in Havana, Thomas Karl Neisinger, recognizes that “there’s still a lot to do.” At a time when Cuba and the European Union (EU) are living a new stage in their relations, after the signing of a bilateral agreement and the visit to the island by Federica Mogherini and other European government figures, Germany hopes to strengthen its ties with the island, as part of the regional bloc as well as independently. OnCuba spoke with Mr. Neisinger about bilateral relations and their perspectives, among other issues. At what point are relations between Cuba and Germany? A few years ago relations between Cuba and Europe were not at their best moment and Germany was interested in changing that situation. An important moment to achieve this was the visit to Havana of then Foreign Minister – and now Federal President – Frank-Walter Steinmeier, in July 2015. At the time a moderate cooperation document was...

Ron Perlman in the Cuban film “Sergio and Sergei”. Photo: sergioandsergeifilm.com

Ron Perlman, “so fucking proud” to film in Cuba

  For Cubans Ron Perlman will always be Vincent, the main character of the TV series Beauty and the Beast, a role that made an impression on several of the island’s generations ever since it was broadcast for the first time in the late 1980s. But starting now, Perlman – who has been Amoukar in Quest for Fire, Salvatore in The Name of the Rose, Angel in Cronos and in Hellboy in the saga of the same name – will also be Peter, the “quasi revolutionary Jewish journalist from New York,” in the Cuban film Sergio and Sergei. The film, directed by Ernesto Daranas (Los dioses rotos, Conducta), was premiered in Cuba as part of the 39th International New Latin American Film Festival, and the famous U.S. actor didn’t want to miss it. He traveled to Havana for a premiere that had to be suspended a few times but that finally had its reward last Wednesday in the Acapulco movie theater. “It was really exciting,” he said a day later to the press in the Hotel Nacional. “I was able to feel the spectators during the entire presentation: they laughed at every funny thing, remained very quiet and reverent with...

Islatur in FIHAV 2017. Photo: Claudio Peláez Sordo.

U.S. in FIHAV 2017: don’t close doors

The 35th Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2017) maintains the extensive convocation of previous editions, with more than 3,000 exhibitors from some 70 countries. But not all is growth in the ExpoCuba fairgrounds. In pavilion 7, where around 40 U.S. companies promoted their products and services in 2016 – the largest U.S. participation in the history of FIHAV, which doubled the biggest registry until then – now there are only a dozen. Even some that had previewed their presence in Havana, in the end, did not take up stands. The “cooling” of relations between the two countries caused by the Trump administration has left its imprint on the island’s principal trade marketplace. However, there are those who persevered with Cuba. Like last year, the Secretariat of Agriculture of the state of Virginia is present in the fair. Its topmost authority, Secretary Basil I. Gooden, thinks that the rollback in bilateral relations is “a temporary situation” and not wanted by many U.S. politicians and businesspeople. Gooden told OnCuba that in Virginia there is still “great interest in the Cuban market” independently of the Trump government’s position, and underlined that Governor Terry McAuliffe himself is backing that wish of his state’s businesspeople...

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