By: Ismael Francisco
October 27, 2017
Photojournalist at Cubadebate. He has worked at Granma, Prensa Latina and AIN. He has made graphic coverage of important political, sports and social events in Cuba and other parts of the world. He has won several awards and journalistic recognitions.
A CubaNews translation by Walter Lippmann.
The Fashion Week in Havana: Crafts and Identity, serves as a stimulus to creativity based on Cubans’ know-how, in accordance with the aesthetic and functional values of our idiosyncrasies.
Until Saturday the 28th, the event will offer parades in the old Warehouse of Wood and Tobacco, in the Alameda de Paula.
More than 70 creators, including designers and artisans who work in events such as textiles, jewelry, leather and costume jewelery, participate in this event sponsored by the Cuban Association of Craft Artists and the Cuban Fund of Cultural Assets.
By Editor, Havana Radio/ Photos: Alexis Rodríguez
October 20, 2017
By Iroel Sánchez
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
March 21, 2017
Some time ago I published some questions about Havana:
“Is it a coincidence that places like Parque Lenin or Coppelia [ice-cream parlor in Vedado], symbols of the democratization of recreation and the access of the majority to refinement –opened by the collective project of the Revolution– languish between bad service and structural deterioration, while the idea that the good and the beautiful are the exclusive patrimony of the pre-revolutionary past? Why is the Latin American Stadium increasingly called the “Estadium del Cerro” in our media?
“Is it a Havana for tourists the one that will reach its 500th anniversary, reproducing the celebrations with the colonial flavor that –unlike what happened with the half millennium of Santiago de Cuba– took place in many of the towns founded by the Spaniards? Or as in Santiago, the neighborhoods built by the Revolution –and now more or less vandalized– (Camilo Cienfuegos, San Agustín, Alamar, Mulgoba, Reparto Electrico …) can renew their (lack of) urbanism and raise the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of Havana workers who have never been able to sit in a “paladar” [private restaurant]?
“Will the newly refurbished Capitolio of Havana be an old building for a new democracy, or a shell that –between marbles and bronzes, so dear to the dictatorships and plutocracies– forgets to consecrate the name of Jesus Menendez, the black working-class parliamentarian who imposed on the Yankees and the Cuban bourgeoisie a fair deal for the sugar workers. As a result, he was murdered despite his parliamentary immunity in “the most democratic period in contemporary Cuban history,” a phrase taken from an article in the Spanish newspaper El País signed by a Cuban “historian”?
And I return to these questions because, fortunately, for a few months now in the capital of the country we can see the growth of a transformative effort in favor of the majorities: renewing public spaces –like those mentioned in my questions– accessible to those who lack the resources to visit the new recreation centers which have prospered under the new economic measures. Large agricultural markets have been opened on the outskirts of the city. State-run gastronomic facilities with popular prices have been rescued. Fountains that had been without water for decades are running again. And other achievements are beginning to take shape with the decentralized funds collected by the municipalities. It can be said that, through these actions, the city thrives, because most of its inhabitants prosper.
But if that effort is not accompanied by the participation of the people in creating a culture of civic order and urbanity, all this effort will be like pedaling on a stationary bicycle. This participation must stem from a popular debate –we have the organizations and media to do so– that would serve for the dissemination and production of consensus around the rules that regulate and punish –if they were enforced– the frequent aggressions against common property.
To give just one example: the debris generated by construction work –for repairing opulent mansions acquired by landlords and the new rich in the most central municipalities of Havana– will continue to be dumped with impunity on street corners, so that the state sector –that is: the lowest paid workers– pay for its free collection without taking into account that, as explained by the British academic Emily Morris:
“As the non-state sector has developed, it has become increasingly clear that the relatively inefficient private firms have been able to thrive within the national economy since their costs in Cuban pesos, including labor, are undervalued at the CADECA / CUC rate they use for their transactions. In fact, the Cuban state is subsidizing the new non-state sector through the underrated rate of CADECA. Meanwhile, state-owned enterprises have to use the overvalued official exchange rate, a serious disadvantage in terms of their competitiveness. A form of “monetary illusion” which means that efficient state-owned enterprises report losses and therefore cannot raise capital for investment; while private entrepreneurs operating at very low productivity levels enjoy strong hidden state subsidies but complain of excessively high taxes.”
The non-state economy has much to contribute in Cuba; but illegality, tax evasion, hoarding, appropriation of the common good, and speculation with deficit products are not the best allies to convince of its virtues.
The first thing that should be clarified is what we mean when we use the verb “to prosper”.
In those economically “most prosperous” territories (such as: Trinidad –where business has developed along with the growth of garbage in the streets, and the notorious tax evasion reached such extremes that the ONAT [National Office for Tax Collection] of Sancti Spiritus had to be moved over there; Viñales –where teachers have to be taken from other municipalities and private pools try to steal the scarce water supply in times of drought; or Havana, where part of the efforts to supply popular restaurants and cafeterias, education and health centers, drains to private restaurants or bars that remain open until five in the morning –not until 3:00 am as it is regulated) businesses are favored by the indirect subsidies of the CADECA 25 to 1 exchange rate, the low rates of water, gas and electricity conceived for domestic use, but used for profit; the free disposal of increased amounts of solid waste –as if this waste came from the kitchen of a home.
In this way development and prosperity will be patrimony of a few to the detriment of the majority.(CubAhora)
The investigations of Leonardo Padura’s detective are in audiovisual form now. Jorge Perugorria plays the detective who investigates a series of crimes in a colorful and decadent Cuba
The script of the series is based on four novels by the Cuban author.
FOUR SEASONS IN HAVANA, by NETFLIX
By Federico Lisical
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
“I decided to make a character who was in conflict with the reality he was living,” Leonardo Padura once told this newspaper. The Cuban writer was referring to Mario Conde, the officer who was the main character ofj his police novels and who now centers the NETFLIX miniseries Four Seasons in Havana (that since last Friday can be seen online). The series is based on stories in Padura´s four novels: Past Perfect, Winds of Lent, Masks, and Autumn Landscape.
This disenchanted but noble man, who does not seem to be a police lieutenant and has a great love for books, is interpreted by Jorge Perugorría. Almost to his regret, the best thing he knows how to do is solve mysteries and write up his wanderings with a typewriter. “There is no one better than Mario Conde to get into Havana, rummage through its darkness, and draw some light. That special insight the detective has, is particularly revealing. What I wanted to do was to make a kind of chronicle, a testimony of what recent Cuban life has been like. In each of his investigations, he reveals a sector of Cuban society, but also the humanity of a number of characters who live that reality day-to-day,” said the writer in another interview.
In total there are four episodes, ninety minutes each. They were directed by the Spaniard Felix Bizcarte, and the role of Padura himself in the adaptation was key, as well as that of his wife Lucia López Coll. Their intention was to preserve the tone of the novels and let the Cuban reality filter in naturally. What is the resulting Havana? One that shows its darkest and most sinful side. There is corruption, traffickers of all kinds –of drugs and influence– has been but there is also the dream of what the revolution could have been. Conde is a romantic who goes around throwing phrases for whoever wants to listen: “Havana has fallen so much that is has gone to shit”; “Cops investigating cops… What the hell is going on?”
The context is crucial as the books were published between 1991 and 1998 and reflected what was happening on the island after the end of the Cold War, the tightening of the embargo, and the regime’s opposite sides. As the author said, “… I learned from Hammett, Chandler, Vázquez Montalbán and Sciascia that a police novel can have a real relationship with the country’s environment; that it can denounce or touch concrete facts and not just imaginary realities.” “El Conde” moves about the capital of Cuba as a Philip Marlowe who suffers the heat, and fights his destiny, “doing what I have to do, but never what I really want to do.” The big difference with the iconic detective of suburban Los Angeles is that Conde is a cop. “It was totally unrealistic to have someone who was not a police officer investigate a crime in Cuba, especially if it was a murder,” Padura explained. But Conde also dreams of being a writer and that is what saves him.
This jaded subject is summoned to investigate the murder of a high school teacher while he is also looking into another case that has to do with his own past. In all of these there are several criminal associations. As in every noir police story, in addition to the investigations there are institutions tainted with indolence, elites complicit with business interests, femmes fatale, jazz music and seedy bars. Its main character is a researcher of the shadows but with a complex humanity and far from clichés. “Conde represents a generation of Cubans who believed in a country project that will never be, and feeds heavily on nostalgia. He’s a fucking nostalgic, as he defines himself, “said the actor who has the role.
The photography (by Spaniard Pedro J. Márquez) is one of the highest points of the production. The tone is twilight and oblivious to any “for export” intention. The rundown houses of the old quarters convey the stupor of the characters; and the danger in a harbor city when the sun goes down. The scenes of violence are given in unusual settings that can capture the audiences. In short, there are four genre stories within a very unique context that reflects the day-to-day life of the Caribbean city and its surroundings. One can easily perceive how the characters are linked: their body language, how they breathe and perspire, their unrefined speech that mispronounces sounds, how their food smells, and how they have sex. Four Seasons in Havana is, above all, a sensory experience. “Noir was never so colorful,” said one of the promotions for the miniseries; but it may be exactly the other way around.
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Mick Jagger won’t talk with anyone. He’s attending a concert that a DJ organized specially for him while his crew keeps a tight rein on a crowd of onlookers striving to immortalize a picture of the Stones frontman in their cell phones. I stay nearby, watching the famous vocalist dancing on stage to the beat of electronic music, like he did earlier in another nightclub in town. A close member of his team remarks what I already knew by then: the Rolling Stones want to play here in Cuba. Serious talks are underway with the Cuban side to organize the performance.
The social networks “collapse” under the most famous still active rock band singer on Earth. He uploads the pictures he took in Old Havana as he sparks off fierce controversy about the true purpose of his visit to the Island. Never before had one of the Stones traveled to Havana. And now none other than the mythical singer of Satisfaction who decides to start the band’s history of relations with Cuba.
Jagger scours the city, pays surprise visits to some Cuban musicians, and hits the nightclub circuit together with some members of his crew. He’s known to be not just another tourist, but the musician that has just rescued from lethargy the wish of thousands of Cubans who no sooner had photographs of Jagger in their city than they started to dream of a Rolling Stones concert in Havana, a dream which is top of the sort of bucket list that we almost always write to make a note of the “first ten things I want to do before I die”.
Fortunately, the circle is beginning to close. At last, the Music Institute has confirmed that they discussing the possibility that the band could give a concert in Havana. Should their performance finally take place at Ciudad Deportiva in late March, the Cubans will be able to recreate an unforgettable stage of their lives. The negotiations with the Cuban authorities have been going on for months now, and part of the infrastructure for the concert has already arrived in our country.
Fellow Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards had revealed their plans in Europe, which Mick Jagger confirmed with his presence in Cuba last October. The band wants to play in Havana, and he’s putting his heart and soul into it. So everything seems to indicate that the thousands of Rolling Stones fans in Cuba will have a chance to see a dream come true when these four legends go on stage and, wrapped in the tongue designed by Andy Warhol, play a concert sure to become a landmark in both the band’s career and the Cuban scene. It will be the moment when those thousands, full of teen-like pep, will settle one of their greatest scores with their past, as well as an opportunity for the Stones to stand in front of what is likely to be the most feverish audience they have played for in their 50-year-long history.
Despite the inexorable passage of time, there’s no denying that the Rolling Stones are still in their prime, packing stadiums everywhere and speeding up the heart rate of their youngest followers in mammoth shows marked by savoir-faire, all-out dedication and as tremendous a display of energy as if they are celebrating themselves or trying to keep on beating the odds and making it clear that they come from a world where rock and roll was an act of faith, the gigantic business that revolves around the band notwithstanding.
Each Stone is a living legend. At 72, Mick Jagger stands out as a challenge to human nature, moving on stage like one possessed and singing with great dash, the obvious result of natural ways that only time provides. Jagger has always been in the eye of the hurricane and one of the few human beings on the planet capable of telling stories out loud about the wild and bright days of yore when rock ‘n’ roll went beyond the neighborhoods to become an indissoluble component of pop culture. Time hass yet to take a toll on Jagger as he continues giving himself over to each concert as if it were his last.
Keith Richards is a maven of the electric guitar. A hundred legends, be they true or false, hover over him that make him an object of worship among Rolling Stones fans. In fact, no few would like to take him to a lab to find out how, at 72, he can still play the guitar as if he were a freshman at the music academy. To top it all off, he does it with great mastery, thanks to his stick-to-itiveness and his skill at getting rid of the nonessential and playing categorically enough for his every riff to come exactly at the right time within the musical discourse. Keith is not an extreme guitar virtuoso; still, make no mistake: he’s far and away a guitar sensation beyond good or evil.
Drummer Charlie Watts is a very peculiar member of the Stones. At 74, he’s one of the band’s most versatile musicians and one of the most experienced ones to be found behind the drums. All the others, particularly, Keith Richards, have been greatly influenced by his way of playing, and he’s been the main stalwart that supports the relationship, at times stormy, among them. A jazz enthusiast, Watts also spends a great deal of his free time working on solo projects defined by the richness of his genre.
Ron Wood describes himself as a “guitar-playing poet”. The musician has found the time in between his commitments to the Stones to exhibit his works with images of old friends like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, among others. The youngest member of the band (he’s 68), Wood’s performance as a guitarist is quite discernible for his dexterity and flamboyant bearing on the stage.
As announced, this concert by The Rolling Stones will be a historic event bound to pave the way for other great bands to play in Havana. For instance, this author heard that Paul McCartney and U2 have stated their interest in giving concerts in Cuba. For the time being, Las Piedras Rodantes are knocking on the door, and the Cubans are eager to fulfill a wish they have repressed for too long.
 Literal Spanish translation of The Rolling Stones (T.N.)
Mick Jagger no quiere hablar con nadie. Asiste a un concierto de un dj organizado especialmente para él mientras su equipo mantiene a raya a los curiosos que quieren inmortalizar en sus celulares una foto del líder Stone. Me mantengo cerca y el célebre vocalista baila sobre la pista al ritmo de la electrónica, como antes lo hizo en otro club habanero. Un miembro cercano a su equipo comenta lo que para mí, ya en este momento, resulta obvio: Los Rolling Stones quieren tocar aquí y ya se está hablando seriamente con la parte cubana para organizar el show.
El cantante de la banda de rock en activo más célebre sobre la Tierra “colapsa” las redes sociales. Publica sus fotos tomadas en el Centro Histórico y despierta una ola de polémica sobre el verdadero significado de su paso por la Isla. Nunca antes un Stone había viajado a La Habana. Y ahora es nada menos que el mítico cantante de Satisfaction quien decidió inaugurar la historia de la banda con Cuba.
Jagger viaja por la ciudad, visita por sorpresa a algunos músicos cubanos y recorre con miembros de su equipo el circuito de clubes nocturnos. Jagger, se sabe, no es un turista más. Es el músico que acaba de despertar del letargo el deseo de miles de cubanos que cuando vieron las imágenes de su estancia en la capital, comenzaron a soñar con un concierto de los Rolling en La Habana, un sueño que encabeza esa lista que casi siempre hacemos y que podría llamarse algo así como las “diez primeras cosas que tendríamos que hacer antes de morir”.
El círculo, por suerte, empieza a cerrarse. El Instituto de la Música confirmó finalmente que mantiene conversaciones con la banda para organizar un concierto en La Habana. Los cubanos por tanto podrán revivir una inolvidable etapa de sus vidas de concretarse el show que tendría lugar a finales de marzo en las áreas de la Ciudad Deportiva. Las negociaciones con las autoridades cubanas comenzaron a realizarse desde hace meses y parte de la infraestructura para el concierto ya llegó al país.
El guitarrista de la banda, Keith Richards, lo había revelado desde Europa y Mick Jagger lo confirmó con su presencia en Cuba durante el pasado mes de octubre. La banda quiere tocar en La Habana e iba con todo a cumplir ese objetivo. Así que todo indica que los miles de seguidores locales de los Rolling Stones podrían cumplir el sueño cuando estas cuatro leyendas, envueltas en la lengua diseñada por Andy Warhol, salgan al escenario para ofrecer un concierto que definirá un hito tanto para la banda como para Cuba. Será el momento en que miles de cubanos llenos de excitación adolescente salden una de las deudas más grandes con su pasado y será, además el momento que los Stones se enfrenten, posiblemente, al público más enfebrecido que han conocido a través de sus 50 años de historia.
Los Rolling Stones, hay que decirlo, se encuentran a pesar de los embates del tiempo en una era de plenitud, una era en la que aún llenan estadios, le revientan el corazón a sus seguidores más jóvenes, y siguen ofreciendo mastodónticos conciertos a base de oficio, consagración y un derroche de energía tal como si se estuvieran celebrando a ellos mismos. Como si buscaran aplicarse a fondo para continuar burlando los pronósticos y confirmando que vienen de un mundo en que el rock and roll era una acto de fe, con todo y el gigantesco negocio que se mueve alrededor de la banda.
Cada Stone es una leyenda en sí mismo. Mick Jagger, a sus 72 años, es un desafío a la naturaleza humana, se mueve sobre los escenarios como un poseso, canta con una vitalidad tremenda, acompañada, obviamente, de la naturalidad que solo proporciona el tiempo. Jagger ha estado siempre en el centro del huracán y es uno de los pocos seres humanos sobre la Tierra que puede contar en voz alta historias sobre ese pasado salvaje y luminoso en el que el rock and roll salió de los barrios hasta convertirse en parte indisoluble de la cultura popular. A Jagger el paso de los años no le pesa sobre la nuca y sigue entregándose en cada concierto como si fuera el último.
Keith Richards es un prócer de la guitarra eléctrica. Sobre él se ciernen cientos de leyendas, ya sean falsas o no, que lo convierten en objeto de adoración para los fans de los Stones. De hecho no son pocos los que quisieran llevarlo a un laboratorio para encontrar la causa de que a sus 72 años siga tocando la guitarra como si acabara de entrar al instituto. Para colmo, lo hace con una maestría que descansa en su constancia y en su habilidad para despojarse de todo lo accesorio y tocar de manera rotunda, para que cada riff ocupe el lugar exacto dentro del discurso musical. Keith no es lo que se dice un guitarrista virtuoso en extremo, pero eso sí: es un monstruo de la guitarra que está más allá del bien o el mal.
Un personaje muy singular dentro de la banda es el baterista Charlie Watts. Con 74 años, es uno de los músicos más completos de los Stones y uno de los más experimentados que se puede encontrar detrás de la batería. Su forma de tocar influyó a todos en la banda, particularmente a Keith Richards, y ha sido un baluarte para mantener la relación —a veces tormentosa— entre sus integrantes. Aficionado al jazz, también dedica buena parte de su tiempo libre a sus proyectos en solitario en los que prima la riqueza de ese género.
Ronnie Wood se define como un “pintor que toca la guitarra”. El músico ha encontrado espacio dentro de sus compromisos con los Stones para exponer sus obras con imágenes de viejos amigos como Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, entre otros. Wood es el miembro más joven de la banda (tiene 68 años) y su desempeño como guitarrista es muy reconocible por su destreza y su exuberante desenvolvimiento escénico.
El concierto de los Rolling Stones, como se dijo, será un momento histórico y abrirá las puertas para que lleguen a La Habana otras grandes bandas. Por ejemplo, este redactor conoció que Paul McCartney y la banda U2 ya han mostrado interés en ofrecer conciertos en Cuba. Por el momento, Las Piedras Rodantes tocan a la puerta y los cubanos están dispuestos a cumplir ese sueño que, como se sabe, los ha perseguido durante demasiado tiempo.