Yoel Rodriguez Tejeda

Yoel Rodriguez Tejeda

Danay Cruz

Danay Cruz: “Being a woman should not be an impediment to making people laugh”

A couple of years ago, Lola Mento (a pun for I'm sorry) burst onto Cuban television, an intrepid little farm girl and in love, as we can see in her adventures on social networks, a character built and well played by young actress Danay Cruz. Born in Holguín, she has developed her career precisely between television and theater. She decided to study acting at the age of 15, after having passed the aptitude tests of Bayamo’s Professional Art School (EPA). Theater has been one of the pillars in Danay’s career, although, as is common in Cuba, the leap to the small screen is vital to gain the preference of a large part of the national audience. At this time, the COVID-19 pandemic has stopped all previewed plans, precisely at the moment when the actress had started rehearsals with the El Portazo theater group, for the staging of “Todos los hombres son iguales,” where in addition to comedy, the actress can be seen dancing and singing. A real challenge, she told us. At the moment, comedy continues to be the driving force for Danay, “mainly in plays,” she tells us, “but it was not until July 2019 when I got into...

The audiovisual industry adapts to the current circumstances in Cuba due to COVID-19. Photo: Madwoman Agency Facebook profile.

Private businesses in the arts sector: solutions during pandemic

The Cuban private sector has been one of the most affected during the current pandemic caused by the new coronavirus, whose effects go beyond human health. In economic terms, private businesses in Cuba have had to almost perform magic tricks to face the current crisis, rethinking work mechanisms and methodologies, trying to subsist in their respective markets. Those enterprises that depend almost entirely on tourism are, without a doubt, the ones that have been most affected since March, when the period of confinement began in much of the country, a measure that many countries also took to halt the spread of COVID-19. Several projects associated with the artistic-cultural market have readapted to the new circumstances, adopting more common practices at a global level, taking into account the characteristics of the Cuban market and the island’s current circumstances. https://oncubanews.com/cuba/economia/quien-me-quiere-a-mi-sector-privado-cubano-frente-a-la-covid-19/ In the case of projects such as Producciones Almendares, with a diverse work routine that includes audiovisual productions and cultural events, it is difficult to adapt to current circumstances. “Sometimes we filmed several events at the same time, we responded to job requests that we could undertake simultaneously, there were many daily requests,” its director, Patricia Santa Coloma, tells us. “Suddenly,” she...

Juan Padrón and Elpidio Valdes. Photo: Ian Padrón

Elpidio Valdés, in the soul of a nation

It is difficult to find someone in Cuba that doesn’t know Elpidio Valdés. Children today may be excited about Mickey Mouse, Fernanda, or Dora the Explorer, but they know at least one phrase from the iconic cartoon created by Juan Padrón. The younger Cubans might not know as much about the heroes of Cuba's wars for independence, but they do know the mambí of the animated show. Some may not pay attention to history classes at school, or teachers might teach the contents for kids to learn it parrot fashioned, but if many of us today know what a trench was, or the leather cannons in our history, the military bugles, the types of machetes or firearms, guerrilla tactics and a part of the life in the 19th century Cuba, it is thanks to Juan Padrón and his oldest “son”, the one who yesterday celebrated his 50th birthday. With Elpidio we traveled back in time. It allowed us to know each other a little more as Cubans, our customs, part of them even incorporated or brought back by the hand of that character and the entire universe that surrounds him, created by that comic master who was Padrón, who by...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Who loves me?: Cuban private sector in the face of COVID-19

Since last March, the Cuban government started taking significant measures in several sectors of the economy and society to face the growing expansion of COVID-19 on the island. The health crisis has affected all sectors, also the private sector, which does not have the same benefits as the Cuban state sector. The actions taken at that time, related to private enterprises (self-employed sector), included: the suspension of licenses for those who could not maintain their activities, with the consequent reduction of taxes; the postponement of the payment of social security without the special interests; meanwhile, the gastronomic services that saw their activities reduced by 50%, would pay only half of the contribution in the tax accounts and the corresponding tax payment. Likewise, artists, creators and enterprises that were affected, could request deferments in the payment of taxes, among other agreements to decrease the tax burden that the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT) demands. These measures help to lighten the economic weight, but they are not sufficient to face the crisis. The private sector is one of the most affected by the current situation in the country. The losses are already calculated in hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of...

A nurse performs a rapid test to detect COVID-19 this Tuesday, at the Luis Morillo King Regional Hospital, in La Vega, about 98 km from Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic). EFE/Orlando Barría

On nursing day, more than applause

This year the World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as year of the Midwifery and Nursing staff, in recognition of the altruistic work carried out by these health professionals. World Nursing Day is celebrated on May 12, the date established for the birth of Florence Nightingale, pioneer of modern professional nursing, and whose 200th anniversary of her birth is commemorated this year. Florence Nightingale was a British nurse, writer, and statistician, considered the forerunner of modern professional nursing and the creator of the first conceptual nursing model. Photo: Biography.com Sacrifice and dedication are words of order for those who decided to dedicate their lives to caring for the sick day and night, with a devotion that few would understand. In the current circumstances, the work of nurses is vital in caring for patients related to the COVID-19 pandemic, is thanked daily by people around the world with applause for such a noble profession. A few years ago, Natacha Mesa Sánchez was not clear about what she wanted to do with her life, she had just finished junior high, and “at just 15 one is not ready for such an important decision that will mark your life,” she tells us. “I...

Photo: Mandao’s Facebook profile.

Marta Deus: “These are times to work hard and reinvent oneself”

The home delivery service is a more than necessary alternative in the current situation in the country during this period of social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Enhancing this activity helps social distancing, so necessary to stop the spread of the disease on the island where there already are more than a thousand infected. Although several state and some private restaurants have started providing food delivery―especially in Havana―during this specific situation, for several months a private entrepreneurship project has managed to join several establishments with different offers in the capital. https://twitter.com/MincinCuba/status/1252294207261286406 Mandao Express is the name of this initiative, led by Marta Deus, who in turn is in charge of Deus. Accounting Experts, an enterprise providing financial advice to private businesses. “Mandao Express arose about four years ago due to the need to have a courier service for Deus, focused on sending documents to enterprises, an option that did not exist in the city,” says the Bachelor of Business Administration and Management. “We stopped for a while and since September 2019 this new Mandao is here with other objectives and image, much more focused on food delivery,” she adds. Deus explained to OnCuba that when the first isolation measures...

Health personnel from the Juan de Austria Health Center in Alcalá de Henares return the applause during the neighbors’ daily tribute for their work in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. EFE / Fernando Villar

“Let’s hope Cuban doctors will always be applauded”

The current COVID-19 pandemic does not discriminate, it attacks any sector of the population equally and although some evolve better than others in the face of the disease, no one is exempt from the high contagion and threat to life posed by this new virus. The dynamics of societies depend on each region of the planet, although in the case of the medical sector the situation varies little, with less or more resources, the effort is directly proportional to the risk lived daily by these professionals, who face an invisible enemy. Alina is a Cuban doctor residing in Spain who this year started working in Madrid. She prefers to only give her name, so as not to be out of place in a professional environment where health personnel are asked to not spread sensitive information. Although her work began in a “normal way, in an outpatient clinic serving patients of different ages, with all the necessary conditions,” just over a month ago, the first cases started coming in with respiratory symptoms. She has been working directly with infected patients and possible cases for four weeks. “Neither I nor anyone imagined that it would reach this magnitude. When the first infected...

Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Coronavirus: Social distancing? Havana’s streets are still full of people

It’s announced in the press, repeated by opinion leaders, multiplied on social networks, demanded by health personnel and in some places, it is law: staying at home and avoiding crowds has become for the moment the most effective remedy to prevent the spread of Covid-19, a pandemic that already affects 177 countries and accumulates more than 435,000 confirmed cases on the planet. At this moment, approximately a third of the world population, more than 2 billion persons, is in confinement to try to stop this enemy. In Cuba there are already 57 confirmed cases. They still seem few, but they keep increasing. Map prepared by Johns Hopkins University. Date: March 25, 2020. Isolation measures have also been decreed in Cuba. The authorities call on the population to stay at home, to decrease their movements. For this, classes at all levels of education have been interrupted, air and interprovincial transportation have been reduced, teleworking and income-cushioning solutions have been sought for people who must stop going to their workplaces. Cultural and sporting events have been suspended, and the population is called to decrease all kinds of crowds. But, when going out in the main cities, and especially Havana, there’s still the...

Still of El proyecto, a documentary by Cuban filmmaker Alejandro Alonso. Photo: still from the documentary.

Cuban cinema in quarantine: a movie library from home

Several initiatives by different artists are arising these days on the social networks to encourage people to stay home and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is affecting nearly 150 countries across the globe. Under the hashtags #quedateencasa and #quedateentucasa, Cuban artists have joined this campaign on the networks, creating content and making audio or audiovisual archive materials available to Internet users. Cine Cubano en Cuarentena (Cuban Cinema in Quarantine) is a Facebook page created with the aim of encouraging people to stay home and prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the country, where measures have been taken to avoid crowds of people in cultural spaces. The Cuban Institute of Cinema Arts and Industry (ICAIC) has also suspended activities, such as the presentation of the National Film Award to Senel Paz and Francisco (Paco) Prats, the film exhibition for the Francophonie Week (March 18 to 29), as well as the national premiere of the Cuban film El Mayor. To counter these actions, Cine Cubano en Cuarentena makes Cuban film archives of any time available to the public, an initiative created by young Cuban filmmakers. Created this Sunday, March 15, “it was an idea that came up, some...

Richard Dickinson in the rehearsal of “Romeo and Juliet,” a Verb Ballets and Prodanza production. Photo: EFE

Romeo and Juliet: ballet again joins Cuba and the U.S.

There were rehearsals the whole week to be ready for 28th, 29th and 30th. The performances at the National Theater of the ballet classic Romeo and Juliet would feature two companies: Prodanza, directed by Laura Alonso, and Verb Ballets, headed by Margaret Carlson, from Cleveland, Ohio. First came the rehearsals separately: in Havana and the state of Ohio, the dancers were preparing to later polish details of the performance, a cultural exchange that has several years of history and that unites both countries thanks to the cultural bond. The U.S. company had already performed in Cuba in 2018 together with Prodanza, directed by the daughter of Prima Ballerina Assoluta Alicia Alonso, who died last October. On that occasion Yarini was the piece chosen for the artistic alliance, choreographed by dancer Iván M. Alonso, about whom Laura says “I know a little...from afar,” she jokes in an interview with OnCuba. “On that occasion the work was chosen by a former Prodanza member, who works with Verb Ballets, for the variety of styles in Ivan's choreography: neoclassical, folkloric and also classical, with music by Edesio Alejandro, and it was the piece most liked by the American group,” adds Laura, who confesses that...

Colloquium at the Casa del Alba on Cuba-U.S. relations, at the Havana International Book Fair. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez

Cuba-U.S.: “We have to cultivate that thought of normalization”

A brief review of the conflict between Cuba and the United States in the last decade was the main theme of the panel Nuevas miradas a la historia del conflicto entre Cuba y Estados Unidos: ¿geopolítico, económico, ideológico, nacional o las cuatro cosas a la vez? (New outlook on the history of the conflict between Cuba and the United States: geopolitical, economic, ideological, national or all four things at once?), held at the Casa del Alba as part of the program of activities of the 29th Havana International Book Fair. Specialists on the subject, such as Carlos Alzugaray Treto, Milagros Martínez, together with historian Ernesto Limia and political scientist and essayist Rafael Hernández, moderator of the colloquium, discussed the most important moments regarding the change relations underwent as of the presidential term of Barack Obama (2008-2016), a stage in which there was a substantial unprecedented turn in Cuba-U.S. diplomatic relations. Martínez, a Master in Caribbean Studies and a specialist in Cuban studies in the United States, takes as a starting point for these changes the U.S. policy’s failure throughout more than 50 years, and noted the change in Washington's foreign policy towards Latin America in general. Another point would be...

Firdaus, a project that goes beyond a Muslim clothing store. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Cuba: Firdaus, an Islamic store that does not seek to “Arabize,” opens

When Firdaus is officially inaugurated, the doors of paradise will be open for the Muslim female community in Cuba. This old wish will allow women who profess Islam on the island to acquire, among other products, clothing and accessories in line with their beliefs and that meet their aesthetic needs. Prior to the inauguration of the store that will function as a bazaar, OnCuba spoke with two young Cuban women converted to Islam who are about to start this venture completely related to the religion they have professed for years. Kira Romero, owner of Firdaus, and Maryam Camejo, its director of communication and at the same time director of Con/texto Magazine, a publication that “tries to make political analysis in the era of influencers.” “In Cuba there are basically Sunnis, Shiites and Sufis, mostly Sunnis,” says Maryam. “What happens is that we defend that assuming Islam is not a process of Arabization or transculturation or importation of cultures, Islam does not call for rejecting what you are, you can comply with Islam from your own culture and it has been this way throughout centuries,” argues the journalist. “In particular,” says Kira, “I don't like being called Sunni or Shiite, I'm...

“Bembé” is described by its filmmakers as a different audiovisual experience. Photo: NewMen Studio.

Cuban cinema in Sundance: “Bembé” in virtual reality

NewMen Studio is the name of the Cuban audiovisual studio that will represent the island in the next edition of the Sundance Festival, which will be held in the United States from January 23 until February 2. Led by young filmmakers Patricia Díaz and Marcos Louit, this project will present on the 24th Bembé, its most recent cinematographic work, a short filmed with the virtual reality (VR) technique that is included in the New Frontiers section of the prestigious event, founded by filmmaker Robert Redford. This material seeks to approach the viewer to a unique experience that is part of Cuban culture: the possibility of closely appreciating one of the ancestral festivals within the Yoruba religion. An experience between two worlds: the real and the spiritual one, which the cinematographic material tries to capture. Patricia Díaz and Marcos Louit, founders of NewMen Studio. Photo: Fernando Medina. Journey to the root “Everything came up in a pre-production trip that we made to the eastern region of the country. We went to get to know the stories and meet people from the municipality of Felicidad de Yateras, in Guantánamo, where we planned to search for experiences, as we did in the town...

Daysi Granados, in “Habana Selfies,” by Arturo Santana. Photo: habanaselfiesfilm.com

Cuban cinema in 2019: year of Cuban independent cinema

Despite the low production, 2019 was a fruitful year for independent Cuban cinema, due to a great extent to the nomination for the Oscar Awards of the film El traductor, by the Barriuso brothers, as well as the approval of Decree Law 373, which legally recognizes the independent audiovisual and cinematographic creator, in addition to the creation of the Creator's Registry and the Promotion Fund for Cuban cinema, measures that took their first steps in the final stretch of the year. This 2019 there were not many productions of Cuban cinema in fiction feature: only the titles Buscando a Casal by Jorge Luis Sánchez, Agosto by Armando Capó and Habana Selfie by Arturo Santana, premiered in 2019 in Cuba. Agosto The New Latin American International Film Festival was once again the epicenter of Cuban cinema and the region, to host the presentations of the aforementioned films, among others, an event where Armando Capó’s first opera prima deserved the prize for the best film in that category, after an international tour that included important festivals such as those of Toronto and San Sebastián. The film presents autobiographical nuances of the director himself, who frames the story in his native Gibara, where...

Ricardo Darín and his son Chino Darín will arrive in Havana to present La odisea de los giles. Photo: tn.com.ar

Havana Film Festival: eyes that see from Latin America

A total of 300 films to enjoy in 10 days (from December 5 to 15), that is the proposal presented this year by the organizing committee of the International New Latin American Film Festival (FINCL), which this time will be dedicated to the 60 years of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) and filmmaker Santiago Álvarez on the centenary of his birth. The Festival will be officially inaugurated at the Karl Marx Theater on the 5th at 6:00 p.m., with a special gala where the National Ballet of Cuba will perform for the first time, in homage to its founder Alicia Alonso, who died last October 17 in Havana. The Argentine film La odisea de los giles (Heroic Losers) will be the proposal for the night, with the presence of actor Ricardo Darín and his son Chino Darín, protagonists of the film directed by Sebastián Borensztein, who repeats at the inauguration of the FINCL as he did in 2011 with Un cuento chino, also starring Darín. In addition to the Argentine film, shortlisted in the 2020 Oscar Awards, other titles that seek to be among the 10 nominees for Hollywood awards such as La vida invisible de...

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