- May 27, 2020 -
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Leyda Machado

Leyda Machado

Copy of Ortelius Atlas returned to Cuba by the Boston Athenaeum Library. Photo: Ismario Rodríguez.

First modern atlas of the world returned to Cuba

The first modern atlas, of which there are only three copies in the world, belongs to the collections of the National Library of Cuba (BNC). But it has not always remained there. In the 1990s an expert in valuable works stole it from the institution and sold it to the Boston Athenaeum. Now, two decades later, the copy has been returned to the island. The atlas published on May 20, 1570 in Belgium collects for the first time maps of America, the Antilles and Cuba. For Dr. Eduardo Torres Cuevas, outstanding historian and director of the National Library, one of the document’s greatest values is the location of Cuba in the Antillean, American and world geography. It is a collection of 53 maps with their corresponding texts made and engraved in copper plates that show how the world looked at that time. “America appears here very disfigured, which is logical if we take into account that it is made following the description of navigators. But at least thanks to Ortelius the island of Cuba is included in an atlas, although drawn much smaller than Santo Domingo, typical of 1570,” says Torres Cuevas. Its author, the erudite and geographer Abraham Ortelius,...

Photo: IHOS Plasencia.

Graffiti artist

Yulier P. has been flooding the streets of Vedado, La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), Playa and Centro Habana for three years with his unique graffiti, where he finds most of his work. They are strange, sad and frightened beings who dialogue with the city and the people who inhabit it. His pieces are souls that --said by himself--, talk about the Cubans, their defects and their reality that is not exactly beautiful, "but complicated and aggressive”. Photo: IHOS Plasencia. With old printing inks and varnishes of all kinds, Yulier P. goes to paint, in broad daylight, the walls and facades of the Cuban capital. The essence of urban art, he says, is the street. He looks for the centric places, above all, the most dirty and destroyed walls, to put face and color where there is not. Photo: IHOS Plasencia.

Photo by Areito Studio

Zafiros, a family history

“Miguelito, there are some foreigners who want to make a documentary about us,” Los Zafiros’ El Chino of said one day to Miguel Cancio. A while later, Cuban television was exhibiting a film telling how Ignacio had died at 81 from a cerebral hemorrhage. El Chino was an alcoholic and lived in Havana, and the other survivor had emigrated from Cuba in 1993. It was Heridos de sombras. “That material was very painful for my father,” says Hugo Cancio, the oldest of Miguel’s four children, “especially because when El Chino told him that, he thought it was a lie, that it was delusions due to his inebriation. “He also felt very bad because the documentary did not do justice to the career of Los Zafiros. I remember that I told him: ‘Don’t worry, I’ll go to Cuba and I’ll make a documentary that shows the other side of the coin.’” That was the start of Zafiros, locura azul. The film that later evolved into a feature length with actors directed by Manuel Herrera started off as Hugo’s promise to his father to feature the history of a sweeping musical phenomenon in the Cuba of the 1960s: Los Zafiros. The film,...

Old Havana, a city in motion. Photo: El Taburete.

Havana in motion

Dancing in the streets, on the cobblestones, taking a look into a house and embracing the people with dance is the purpose of “Habana Vieja en Movimiento” (Old Havana in Motion), a project that last night inaugurated in the Historic Center of Havana the 22nd edition of the Urban Landscape International Dance Festival and the 12th of the Havana Dance. Motion and City Videodanza Festival, two parallel events that are taking over diverse spaces in the capital from March 29 to April 2. “We are interested in unusual things happening. The entire historic center will have surprises. There’s a part of the festival that cannot form part of any structure: it is the daily show, the life of the people passing through the streets that we want to surprise all the time,” said Eugenio Chávez, general coordinator of the event. In streets like Mercaderes, Oficios and Obrapía, many of the guest artists will make at any time in the day urban interventions, performances and choreographies not included in the program. For Isabel Bustos, director of the company Danza Teatro Retazos - the event’s organizing group – the challenge and driving force of Retazos lies precisely there: facing a wall, a...

Vestiphobia, complicated conversation in the Fábrica de Arte

Vestiphobia is not a conspiratorial show. On the contrary, it is a provocation and a constant dialogue with the spectator about the fashion industry and the art of dressing. The Fábrica de Arte (FAC) reserved for it its Section 3 from February 23 to 26. “Who has had a bad day wearing a pair of Levi’s?” or “That looks sinful on you” are some of the ideas in the narrative line of this bilingual project that communicates with the public through multiple languages: contemporary dance, acting, video installation and live music. “We hope the layers of all these genres will create a complicated conversation about our relation with clothes, especially in a country like Cuba where fashion is a phenomenon very different from the rest of the world. More than fashion, one would have to talk here of style, which has to do not just with the economic condition but rather with the cultural condition, with certain ways of ‘resolving’ that are very particular to this country. For us it is fabulous to be in a place where fashion responds to the idiosyncrasy, to the historic moment and not to the major tendencies of the international market that end up...

Leo Canosa, artist founder of La Marca, a tattoo studio gallery in Cuba. Photo: Ismario Rodríguez.

The man behind La Marca

Artist Leo Canosa and Ailed Duarte – his wife – opened the first professional tattoo studio in Cuba in January 2015. “That was an old dream we had as a couple. We had spent a lot of time wanting to create a place for tattoos in Havana because there were no spaces of that type on the island,” Leo says. At that time body art did not have – it still doesn’t have – a legal backing in Cuba, so they decided to present the project as a studio gallery and to give a space there to other types of activities. In its first two years La Marca has made around 2,000 tattoos, seven exhibitions and five concerts under the A. Muleta Music label; it has backed independent cinema and censored plays, creating in Old Havana a community around design and visual art. Now the festivities for the second anniversary have started with a new exhibit called Remanga&Son, in which renowned Cuban tattoo artists and designers like Ramiro Zardoya, Raúl Valdés (Raupa) and Nelson Ponce present on diverse supports 12 “sleeve” sketches: tattoos that take up shoulder, arm and forearm. Photo: Ismario Rodríguez. “In these two...

Twenty years of “Locura Azul”

Bárbaro Marín, Néstor Jiménez, Luis Alberto García and Sirio Soto are Los Zafiros of the Cuban film. Four very young actors seated at a bar talk about the group being formed and about what to name it.  Thinking about precious stones the name zafiro (sapphire) comes up and thus the quartet was baptized. It is Zafiros, locura azul, in 1997. The film was premiered that year at the 19th Havana International New Latin American Film Festival and won the popularity prize. It is still today one of the greatest box office hits of Cuban cinema. “It was a very expected film because Los Zafiros have left a very great imprint in popular memory; in the 1960s they had been one of the great landmarks of Cuban music. When Manuel Herrera assumed the film he revived for many the myth of Los Zafiros, but he also replaced another, because the actors who gave life to the quartet went on to also form part of a legend,” journalist and critic Pedro de la Hoz explains. Zafiros, locura azul is celebrating its 20 years and a part of the film’s team met this Monday in the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba...

Rachel Flowers, music to see

California, December 1993. Rachel Flowers, the eldest daughter of musicians Jeanie and Dan Flowers, is born 15 weeks before the due time. The doctors identify a retinopathy in the premature baby girl and after some studies confirm that she will be blind. “So much in life is visual, how will she experience it without that reference framework?” Jeanie asked herself. “Before I used to go crazy thinking about how Rachel perceived the world. I understood that she has to depend more on her other senses, on what her cane tells her and what she hears.” Rachel Flowers with her mother Jeanie. Photo: Marie Gregorio. Rachel cannot see. Her two ears, two perfect ears, replaced her eyes. At four she played harmonies and complete movements by Bach and Beethoven by just listening to them a few times. “Her ear was so exquisite that it could not stand listening to something out of tune. The enjoyment of music, a gift for any child, is in her a magical, mythical victory of sound over vision,” says the father. First it was the piano and afterwards the flute. She became a classical flutist and jazz pianist in the Music Conservatory...

Photo: Alejandro Ulloa

Yissy García and Banda XX in Jazz Plaza

Cuban drum virtuosa Yissy García changed her BandaAncha band for the Banda XX just for the 32nd edition of the Jazz Plaza Festival. It’s an only-women project – thus the play on words with the female chromosome – that perfomed past December 16 at 9 pm in the Mella Theater, when the outstanding saxophonist Christian McBride as well as The Family Low, from the United States, also performed. Yissy’s influences come from Interactivo, Alexis Bosch, Yasek Manzano, Joaquín Betancourt and his Jazz Band, projects which she formed part of up to 2012, when she started working with her own group on a very particular jazz. Her style follows the routes of Latin Jazz mixed with rumba, Afro, funk and live electronic music based on DJ Jigue’s scratches. With Jigue on the devices and Yissy García on drums, BandaAncha also comprises pianist Jorge Aragón, trumpet player Julio Rigal and Julio César González on the bass. Design: Nelson Ponce. On the second night of the Jazz Plaza Festival, Yissy will appear with the musical production of Banda XX, a project that brings together a group of talented women of the Cuban scene like Dayme Arocena, Zule Guerra and Yissy...

Procession of the Cabildo in Regla. Photo: Yaniel Tolentino.

The Orishas Returned to the Street in Regla

The town of Regla is blue, the same blue as that of the sea and of Yemayá. Everything got to it through the sea: the first slaves and Santeria. “Now they have forbidden walking the virgin around here,” says Moraima, sitting on a wall by the bay, “but that is what she is asking for. That she is taken through the sea and that a basketful of fruit be given to her so that this town follows the path it needs.” That’s how it was before, every September 7 and 8 during the procession of Our Lady of Regla and the Cabildo (African ethnic association in colonial Cuba). But fruits are no longer offered to her, everything has disappeared, the fruits and the Cabildo; although the latter has appeared again 55 years after its last exhibition. According to Angelito, one of the island’s most respected Obba Oriaté, in that last Cabildo held in 1961 the images had to enter before because of an incoming storm. Since then the town of Regla has never again been able to stroll its orishas (Santeria deities) to the rhythm of the batá drums, but this September 9 Saint Barbara and Our Ladies of Mercy,...

Amaury Cepeda wins the first place. Photo: Tito Meriño

Cuba wins the mixology Grand Prix

With an artisanal grinder and pressed sugar cane the Cuban bartender Amarury Cepeda arrived at the final of the 2016 International Cocktail Grand Prix. The challenge was to present a new cocktail that would combine Cuban taste, culture, and tradition. He came up with ‘Cunyaya’ a drink based on aged rum, sugar cane juice, honey and bitter orange. So, going back to the very origin of Cuban rum and also giving a nod to the first manual mill used in the island, this bartender won first place in the competition, which places Cuba at the forefront of the competition for the third time in its history. ‘I am always inspired by the cocktail they ask for, wherever it is. This year they asked me to base it on Cuban tradition, so that’s why I went back to slave history, their customs where I found out that the first mill that they used in Cuba was called Cunyaya. It occurred to me that I should start my drink there’, says Amaury, who is now the most famous barkeeper in the land of the Yayabo. The competition judged just that, the creativity of the finalists to create a drink based on Cuban...

The Hemingway International Billfish Tournament is the oldest of its kind in the Americas. Photo by Julio Batista.

U.S. Boats Take Part in Hemingway Billfish Tournament

For the first time in 35 years, fourteen fishing boats from the United States have been authorized by the U.S. Department of Commerce to sail to Havana and take part in the Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Tournament. Commodore of Cuba’s International Yacht Club, Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, said that the participation of American teams in this year’s tournament is the beginning of the establishment of closer ties between Cuban and American sports fishing. This has been possible thanks to the interests both countries have in re-establishing diplomatic relations, as announced on December 17, 2014. After those announcements, the Hemingway Marina in Havana has hosted two international events which have been attended by American participants: the Havana Challenge Regatta from May 16-21, and the Bone Island Regatta. For the billfish tournament, participants must pay a 450-dollar registration fee, and they can either come to Cuba in their own yachts, or rent one from the Yacht Club for 3,000 dollars. In February 2015, when it was announced that the 65th edition of the tournament would take place in May, Commodore Escrich said that ten Cuban boats were expected to participate, and that the Hemingway Yacht Club would be covering some of the...

Argentinean León Gieco will sing in Cuba in 2015

Four years after his last visit to Cuba, the prominent Argentinean singer León Gieco announced his return to this country next January for a tour of presentations by various cities of the island as Santa Clara, Trinidad and Havana, accompanied by another colossal Argentinean artist, the pianist Luis Gurevich, coauthor with Leon of many of the most famous Latin American songs. After the premiere in 2009 of his documentary Mundo Alas at the Havana Film Festival, the author of Solo le pido a Dios, En el país de la libertad y Canción para Carito assured he would return soon to Cuba and since then this city awaits those songs that promised would not take long in coming: "It might not take me five or six years without being here, I must come every year, or at least once every two years. Cuba is a reservoir of culture and those of us who live out of culture, must constantly come here, "he said then excited, without even noticing that his desire might stumble later against his huge working agenda. Maybe that's why the recent invitation of the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Center to make a small tour that includes...

Much of the population travels hitchhiking, even within cities / Photo: Raquel Perez

Treaty on “hitchhiking”

Waiting patiently for the 20, 30 or 45 seconds of red- light, depending on the traffic light, and lean out in a hurry on the window of the first car stopped in front of you, maybe summarizes the act of " hitchhiking"; but those who have some years of practical experience in the subject know that many other factors determine the success of that routine. Travelling in Cuba is a very serious thing; having to do it every day from Bejucal to Havana and vice versa is it even more. Six years following a daily journey where the only possible routes on public transport are P16 or P12 (buses) -from the first to the last stop- would sometimes forces you to stand in certain corners, try your luck with your finger and reach your destination stretch to stretch. The passenger transport not always has the minimum security measures / Photo: Raquel Perez. "Good morning, do you continue for Boyeros Street? –Yes, it fits me until Tulipan Street." And I quickly, almost without giving chance to think, cross the street, open the door and sit beside him. This could be the start of a lucky day, where...


JoJazz Contest: Reserve of Cuban music

At the end of its seventeenth edition, Jojazz contest is reaffirmed as a thermometer of the genre in Cuba and a prism that allows seeing the talent at music conservatories and art schools. With a dozen winners who mostly do not exceed 20 years, the event met this year its mission to draw attention on a group of guys who for sure will soon be the new promises of Cuban jazz. " The competition is not only an important platform for the development of jazz in the country but also for the development of popular music in art education, because right now the boys enter the middle level –at 15 or 16- and are already studying to participate in the contest. This is a process that has been accelerated in recent times but previously there had other ways or it took more time because there was not a space like this, "Brenda Besada, musicologist of the National Centre for Popular Music and one of the organizers of the event, told Oncuba . During three days of competition in the various categories: Composition and Interpretation of Minor Soloists (16 to 20 years), Senior Soloists (21-30 years) and Small Format (with a...

Labor discipline is not a characteristic of the state gastronomy; clerks are more attentive to their private business than to the customers / Photo: Leyda Machado

State Gastronomy “on the left”

La Rusa knows no other trade, has no experience in other workplace having worked as a gastronomic since she was 16 years old, and already accumulates another 30 behind counters. So this woman is no stranger to any secret of her business, or the convoluted paperwork of the warehouse or recurrent variants to augment product lists and pockets. La Rusa does not like to talk about theft because she ensures that "since the counter is little or nothing that you can steal" because the products have to be on display with prices, which the inspectors that periodically visit state cafes always review. "If they find problems with the prices the fine is for sure, although with most that can be arranged with 20 or 30 dollars." The issue price is not profitable. Alter them is to encourage inspectors that show up like vultures coming to celebrate with the decomposed corpse. "Changing them is very risky because of the issue of inspections, so it is best to bring goods from outside." La Rusa notes that in this sense there are other areas where theft is more direct, such as food processing and bulk sales, because with one egg you make two...

Los nietos de Hemingway en La Habana

With Hemingway’s grandchildren in the lobby of the Ambos Mundos Hotel

Hemingway arrived in Cuba on a boat, as it were a premonition of the relationship he later established with one of his most assiduous passions. Then in his house Finca Vigia, the man who traveled the world in search of adventure found refuge in the tranquility of a suburb of Havana. It was 1932 and Ernest carried behind a war and several novels when the boat Pilar entered Cuban waters. Since then much has changed in Cuba, but the memory of Papa still walks Cojimar as John and Patrick Hemingway, the two grandsons of a man who mixed his writing in impeccable English with vapors of the tropics and the pidgin Spanish of the fishermen with whom he shared his time on this island, could experience in their own flesh. For Patrick this is the fifth visit to the country, but for John is the first and he has felt the affection of Cubans toward Hemingway, perhaps by that emotion he always responds first to this conversation with OnCuba held in the lobby of the Ambos Mundos Hotel: "Actually, we could not really tour the city in all its magnitude because we've been back and forth participating in many other...

Fútbol en Cuba

Baseball and betting

When on September 21 the Matanzas and Pinar del Rio teams meet in Capitan San Luis stadium to start the 54th National Baseball Series, in many parts of the capital, I would dare to say that the entire country will begin for many the chance to make calculations, predict outcomes and also jeopardize their pockets. And the fact is that like so many other unlawful games seated in a society that comes to chance and luck to lighten its everyday needs, there is gambling in Cuba and it finds safe harbor in any sport game, either in the stadiums themselves, from the neighborhood or in the house of a member chosen as the venue to watch the game. But beyond that street practice, with some occasional basis, the phenomenon of gambling in sport has taken an unexpected scope and popularity, settled in Havana and other parts of the country where an entire game system is very well organized by bankers and colletors. Thus, once the National series starts, for each of the eight daily games a network of bettors who put their money into team that portend greater possibilities and a bank, responsible for receiving the total amount and set...

La oferta de paquetes a Europa ha tenido mucha más acogida de la esperada, ya han viajado 250 cubanos / Foto: Julio Batista.

Italy, “all inclusive”

Since last July Cubans that have 3000 CUC can enjoy sightseeing in Europe. Although the news has not caused too much commotion among the population perhaps because that option is still a pipe dream for the vast majority it is certain that the initiative of the International Group of Tour Operators and Travel Agencies Havanatur SA is an innovative approach in the Cuban tourist sector. In collaboration with the airline Blue Panorama and Blue Vacations travel agency, this project aims to provide a product that allows the travel of Cubans abroad as tourists, and then "sell the destination Cuba in countries like Chile, Argentina, Mexico, and continue to Europe, keeping the island in the middle of those combinations, "says Esther Góngora, Head of Group Multidestinos, Airlines & Travel Havanatur SA With the support of an airline Blue Panorama that operates Italy, and the arrangement of Blue Vacations to ensure all arrangements on Italian soil, Havanatur specialists designed the product and released three promotional packages: Best of Italy, which includes a tour of Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome; Traveling through Europe, including Milan, Rome, Paris and Amsterdam (one call); and finally, Rome, Eternal City, which focuses its activities in the Italian...

Cristian Alejandro

“My father is my best song”

Cristian Alejandro has moved from popular music to the television, and then to the cinema in his efforts to make his own way to the top. This young artist is also the son of one of Cuba’s most famous composers: Edesio Alejandro, and this fact presupposes a greater challenge in his career. As if gaining his own space within the broad Cuban musical scenario was not challenge enough, Cristian has to be up to par with his father, who is an icon within Cuban filmography from the past 30 years. What does it mean to be the son of Edesio Alejandro and to become a musician with that antecedent? My father is my idol; he is definitely my best song. Since I was a child I have been listening to his music. I recall he was once in a tour in Matanzas, I was about four years old, and one of the technicians of the band gave me a guitar that could barely sound and during a small reception I decided to go up on the stage and started singing a few of his songs. He was greatly surprised because he couldn’t imagine at that age I had learn by...


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