Hugo Cancio

Hugo Cancio

Empresario y activista, presidente de Fuego Enterprises, Inc, Fuego Media Group. Fundador y Editor en Jefe OnCuba Magazine y ArtOnCuba

David the Cuban

David is much younger than me, is a better dancer (anybody is a better dancer), and smokes and knows as much or more as I do about Cuban cigars. His Cuban music collection is larger than mine, and it’s not because he is—or thinks he is—more Cuban than me; it’s just that David loves Cuba, and without any exceptions whatsoever, he loves all of its derivatives. They tell me that before he learned how to jump, run or swim, he was dancing to Cuban music, and when he learned to talk the first thing he said was: “And why wasn’t I born in Havana?” Well, if he didn’t say it, he thought it. David is “not” Cuban. Well, espera/hold on; if he is, he isn’t legally so, because he wasn’t born in Cuba (he was born in Miami), and even though his parents are Cuban, Cuba still doesn’t offer citizenship to persons born in the USA to Cuban parents—and there are so many of them! But this doesn’t bother David; it doesn’t torment him, knock him out of kilter or take away from his Cuban-ness. David smells and dresses like Cuba, and when he talks (Spanish-Cuban) he is as much...

Varadero, 1980

I don’t always have a clear idea of what I’m going to say when I sit down to write my editorial. This time, to find a little inspiration I decided to look over the more than 3,000 photographs that I have from Cuba. Images that have accumulated over the years, from before I left until today; images that, scanned all together at top speed like we used to do with our storybooks as children, feel like a silent film that could well reveal a story that is still happening, with an ending impossible to predict. I poke through the photos and find one that I didn’t remember having. It is a Polaroid, one of those instant photos you used to blow on and shake to watch the image appear like magic. It was stuck to the back of another old photo as if it were hiding, so that I wouldn’t be forced to remember. I study it at length and remember the moment clearly. Shirtless and skinny, I’m wearing Speedo swim trunks and my hair is a mess. It was a cloudy day, and the sea seemed to be at rest. I’m sitting on the wall of the Hotel Imperial,...

William and Liz (Princess Liz)

A few days ago I got an unexpected call, one of those that you don’t feel like answering because you sense that what you’re about to hear will affect your state of mind. The caller was so insistent that his number engraved itself on my memory. The person who called was a friend of mine, a bit of a nutcase, who’s hard to shake off; not because I’m party to his craziness, but because he is a good person, and I care about him. “Hugo, buddy, why don’t you answer my call,” he reproached me in an authoritative voice. He knows why I didn’t answer: it’s because he always has some urgent problem to keep his adrenaline going. “You’ve got to help me with this. There’s this gentleman that I know who needs to travel to Cuba. There aren’t any tickets, and the flights are really expensive. Can you help me out?” But, hold on, who is this gentleman and what kind of problem does he have that requires you to ask for my help so desperately? “Just listen to him,” he said. “He’ll tell you.” I agreed to meet with William, the gentleman with the problem, at about 6 p.m. in a park near a house where I usually meet up...

Foto: Adriana Rodríguez

There is only one mother, and that goes for fathers, too

As a child, I used to hear people say, “There are plenty of fathers, but there is only one mother….” I have no idea where this famous saying came from, that is, who came up with the idea of defending, supporting, and reaffirming the sacrifice and effort of mothers and so weakly describing the responsibilities of fathers, although I assume it was a woman, and a mother. It’s embarrassing for me to refute that assertion and I do not dare to speculate on the possible reasons for its taking hold. In fact, during those innocent childhood days—with my hairless chin and orthopedic shoes—I would ask my mother about the meaning of that refrain, which she repeated so often, even though in my case it could have been justified due to my father’s absence. The embarrassment lies more in the fact that I refuse to accept that my duty as a father should be so indiscriminately minimized, or the duties of many others who have assumed the role of mother, or, in fact, are as much a mother as the best of them. Of course “defending” the role of fathers does nothing to diminish the courage, heroism, and unconditional, sacred love...


Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of traveling to Cuba knows that the Miami-to-Havana flight goes by almost like the blink of an eye; it is not just any flight. The abnormal situation begins the moment you decide to travel. That decision brings on a real mixture of feelings, including old resentments that you had forgotten about, or at least preferred not to remember. A sweeping, indiscreet glance is enough to detect uncertainty and anxiety among the passengers. Each has his or her own reasons; each person is a walking history; every boarding pass is a ticket into a time machine. I am sitting in 1D, an aisle seat, on the left side of the plane. I don’t usually take a window seat, and I only scoot over to the window to scan the Cuban coastline. As soon as I can see it, I almost always feel like I can embrace it. But this time that won’t be possible, because I have company. A young woman is seated next to me. She is slender, almost blond, dressed in a sleeveless white blouse, worn-out leather sneakers and simple blue jeans. She seems to be subdued, as if talking would betray...

The disease of “Bureaumania”

When I originally decided to write for this page, conveniently titled Propositions—a responsibility that I took very seriously—the idea was for me to write, or propose, content that was in parallel with and equidistant to what was in the magazine or related cultural activities. It all started out just fine, but soon I reacted and realized that it was not good to be so narrow; ignoring social issues, a human responsibility, was an unfortunate waste of time and paper.

I know one thing: that I know nothing…

I know people who think they know everything…. In the name of knowing everything and defending an opinion, judgment or viewpoint, many errors and even injustices have been committed, some of them irreparable or difficult to amend or compensate…. Acting like you know everything, when everybody or a large majority depends on your decisions, is irresponsible. I admit that in the past, I have been a victim of the “know-it-all” syndrome.

Nein zum Konsumismus und ein riesengroßes Ja zum Glück

Bald schon ist Weihnachten und Neujahr... In wenigen Wochen beginnen im Radio und Fernsehen Weihnachtslieder bis zur Ermüdung zu erklingen, Feliz navidad von Jose Feliciano trällert sogar Chicho, mein Hund ... Ich werde von so vielem Wiederholen, Feliz Navidad y próspero año nuevo, trocken schlucken und keine Tinte und Schmerz im linken Handgelenk vom Unterschreiben der Glückwunschkarten haben.

No to consumerism and a giant “yes!” to happiness

Christmas and New Year’s are almost here…. In a few weeks, Christmas songs will begin playing on radio and television to the point of saturation; even Chicho, my dog, can hum José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad.” My mouth will go dry from repeating “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” so often, and I’ll get a pain in my right wrist from signing so many holiday cards. 

Die Stadt meiner Liebe

Trotz meiner Geburt in Havanna, der Stadt, in der meine Eltern geboren wurden und lebten, nahmen sie mich in sehr frühem Alter nach Varadero mit. Mein Vater, eifrig in seine Musik vertieft, begann sich mit seinem Quartett Los Zafiros bemerkbar zu machen, und meine Mutter applaudierte sein Bemühen von den Sitzen und Balkonen der renommiertesten Theater und Nachtclubs Havannas aus.

Havana, the city where I was born

Although I was born in Havana, the city where my parents also were born and lived, I was taken to live in Varadero when I was very young. In Havana, my father, immersed in his zeal for music, began to make a name for himself and his quartet, Los Zafiros, and my mother applauded his efforts from the seats and balconies of the city’s most prestigious theaters and nightclubs. My teen years in Varadero were an experience that I would repeat if it were possible to return to that age, when I would leave footprints in the sand and dream about mermaids and starfish. 

Stories of Cubans

How many times have we heard the question, “a Cuban from where?” followed by the comment, “We Cubans are everywhere!” How many times have we been astonished and dumbfounded to find that, wherever we might be, in whatever far-flung corner of the world, a Cuban has come, saw and conquered?

The Ocean and Us

I had almost finished writing my August editorial, in which I recounted my meeting with Tamara, a honey-skinned, curly-haired Cuban woman who followed her heart one day 11 years ago, woke up in Rome and still has not found her return ticket, when our editorial director subtly reminded me that this month’s edition of OnCuba was devoted to the ocean. 

More than a bridge

We have had bridges since prehistoric times; our need to shorten distances and to cross streams and rivers gave rise to them. According to those who are interested in unraveling history, the first bridge may have been a tree that was used to span two riverbanks. Later on, wooden planks and stones were used, and as time went by and the need to span rivers and facilitate transportation grew, we improved our techniques, eventually building the great bridges that today join mountains, cross bays and connect large cities and even countries.

A Chinese tale

The June edition of OnCuba is special edition. For me, the subject of Chinese immigration to our beautiful country is a very interesting one. The Chinese have had an undeniable impact on my life,and have created many memories.


My neighbor, an elegant man of few words who takes each step as unhurriedly as a sunset, is a very persevering Cuban. Every weekend he gets up at the crack of dawn, bends down on brittle kneels in his colorful garden and, with more determination than skill, attempts to plant a type of light-colored, shaggy grama grass that just does not take, no matter how hard he tries. We have lived in the same area for five years, but I have greeted him only three times; he is a very introverted and serious man. He seems to be a good person, though.


Despite being born into an extremely musical family and having learned to read music and play the majority of percussion instruments when I was little, I never wanted to be a musician or be associated with the world of entertainment.

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