María Isabel Alfonso

María Isabel Alfonso

María Isabel, during her first days in NY.

New York, a Cuban woman from the epicenter of the pandemic

My son runs into the room with an irrepressible emotion: Mom, it’s snowing! Come! Come! Snow in New York? In May? In the middle of this pandemic? They are just a few quick flakes, but in effect, it’s snowing. One of those arctic fronts that we have every year. First time I see one in May. Another of the oddities of 2020. Maybe that’s a good thing, my neighbor Linda texts me. She is upset that some people have been going out for a walk or jogging in New York since the weather started improving. Not keeping a distance! she says. Maybe the cold forces them to calmly stay home. I’m sure the Greeks would have found a much more far-reaching meaning for this snow in the spring. Anyway, what matters is that it’s cooling us, getting us out of the daze we’re experiencing. I arrived in a NY with no twin towers, in 2007. Since then, this city has been getting under my skin without authorization. I have come to hate it. To love it. To miss it, especially when I’m away. Photo: María Isabel Alfonso. The first few years I enjoyed every minute of the summer. I monopolized...

Photo: Kaloian

Dialogue with Cuban emigration: how can we help the country really grow?

December 1977 That December of 1977 would be different for fifty-five young residents in the United States and Puerto Rico, who embarked on a trip that few imagined: that of the return to their home country, Cuba, from which they had been abruptly taken when they were children, because of what their parents would consider the worst threat to humanity: the arrival of communism. Astonishment. Reunion. Tears. Hope. Mixed feelings, hard to explain. Everything is smaller; I remembered other colors; the smell is the same.... Could you let me go up to the roof? This is the house where I grew up…. The Antonio Maceo Brigade was born. The documentary Cincuenctaicinco hermanos, by Jesús Díaz, captures those rare seconds in which the loose ends of the universe seem to connect for an instant. Some of those who were now returning had been sent to the “north” alone, as part of the Peter Pan operation. They wonder in front of the camera, taking stock of the multiple traumas and even abuses they suffered, if all that had been really less bad than the communism that now opened the doors and welcomed them as prodigal children. But that December was also different...

"The mother"/Ivette Ávila´s animation

Americas Media Initiative: A Cuban Visions Series that Closes Distances

Alexandra Halkin is the Director of Americas Media Initiative (AMI), a non-profit organization that works with Cuban filmmakers living in Cuba. Her work in Latin America goes back to 1998, when she founded the Chiapas Media Project, an award winning bi-national organization that has trained over 200 indigenous men and women in video production in Chiapas and Guerrero, Mexico. In 2004, Alexandra was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for the Latin American Indigenous Video Initiative (LAIVI) and in 2007 was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for the Indigenous Audiovisual Archive (IAA) in Oaxaca, Mexico. She has produced four documentaries in Guerrero, Mexico and her work has been screened at film and video festivals worldwide. In 2010, she completed a short documentary, LIVING JUAREZ, which looks at the neighborhood of Villas de Salvárcar where 15 youths were murdered at a birthday party in January 2010.  Alex Halkin (left) Since January 2019, Alexandra has been programming the Cuban Visions Film Series, a new film series organized by AMI and Full Spectrum Features, presenting the work of Cuban filmmakers to Chicago audiences, providing a unique window into both early revolutionary and contemporary Cuban society. The bi-monthly series includes six programs at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago...

Photo: Yailín Alfaro

Obama’s visit: Hope for the future of Cuba

In just a two-day visit Obama has achieved what no other president of the United States in almost sixty years has: lay the foundation for a constructive dialogue between both governments and peoples of both nations; put the hostilities aside and use the tool of diplomacy to its maximum capacity. He has managed to turn the page of a history sequestered by hate and guide us towards hope. In his speech at the Gran Teatro of Havana he criticized the Ameircan status quo as much as Cuban immobility. He called for the end of the embargo and pointed out the necessity of eliminating the dual currency in Cuba. He acknowledged the problems with the exercising of one’s civil rights in the U.S. pertaining to health care, education, and the justice system. He recognized the legacy of slavery in both countries, while at the same time criticizing the lack of civil liberties on the island. Obama noted the faults of American democracy, yet referred to the necessity for Cuba to open up to a greater pluralism, boosted by open access to information, especially the Internet. He said it in a respectful tone that recognized Cuban nationalism and the right of all...