Monthly Archives: November 2013

Heavy rain in Cuba lashes Havana, killing two

havana-live-rain1Two people are dead from torrential rains that lashed Cuba for more than 24 hours, island authorities said Saturday.
The deluge caused multiple collapses in dwellings in Havana, Granma reported. A man and a woman were killed in one structure that caved in.
Yunior Amesa, nephew of the deceased man, told The Associated Press he had left for work just before their building came down.
“It was raining very hard and there was a lot of weight (from the water) up there. They went to bed. Minutes before, I was sitting in there,” Amesa said. “When I went to work I heard the building had collapsed and caught them both sleeping.”
The rain arrived early Friday and fell near constantly throughout the day. Traffic snarled and some cars were stranded, as intersections flooded and streets turned into rushing rivers.
Cuba’s Meteorological Institute recorded 2.8 inches (72 millimeters) of precipitation during a single three-hour period in the afternoon in Havana, and accumulations of up to 7.8 inches (200 millimeters) overnight.
Rain continued to fall in the capital early Saturday, and the famed seaside Malecon boulevard remained closed because of high surf that was breaking over the seawall and onto the street.

Havana Gets Ready to Host Intl. Festival of the New Latin American Cinema

havana-live-35-festival-cineWhen there are only 6 days left for its inauguration, the 35th edition of Havana’s International Festival of the New Latin American Cinema, to be held on December 5-15 is already getting its last preparations ready for its celebration.
In its first edition without its founder and main promoter, Cuban filmmaker and intellectual Alfredo Guevara, the prestigious Festival will include the screening of some 400 films, most of them from the region.
Ivan Giroud, appointed in May general director of the Festival, said that the opening will e in charge of Cuba’s Contemporary Dance Ensemble, and that the first screening will be that of the Chilean movie Gloria, by Sebastian Lelio, which hopes to win a Coral Prize in Best Feature Film.
Giroud specified that competing works are 22 shorts, 21 first works, 30 documentaries, 31 animated films, 25 unpublished scripts, 33 posters and 21 feature films, a category that includes two films by Cuban directors: Boccacerias habaneras, by Arturo Soto, and Jirafas, by Enrique Alvarez.
As special moments of the Festival he mentioned tributes to Cuban filmmakers whodied recently, like Daniel Diaz, Camilo Vives and Alfredo Guevara, along with the world premiere of the documentary Mercedes Sosa, la voz de Latinoamerica, by Argentinean Rodrigo Hernan.


Gourmet Festival in Havana Kicks off with Audiovisuals

havana-live--gourmetWorkshops, lectures, and panels are scheduled for the 2nd Annual Gourmet Festival, “Flavors of Cuba and the World,” that, dedicated to drinks complementing fine cuisine, begins here today with an examination of audiovisual works centered around food.
Based at Casa de Mexico in the historic old quarter of Habana Vieja, the event will begins its sessions with the panel “Strawberries and Chocolate: the Cuban gourmet film,” including participation by some of the team involved in the making of the film, led by actress Mirtha Ibarra. Also on the list is a presentation by Peru’s ambassador to Cuba, Mr. Victor Mayorga, “The National and International Boom in Peruvian Gastronomy.”
havana-live--cocktailFour visual arts exhibitions, including three with photos and one with sketches, will open in the afternoon.
Running until Saturday, the theoretical portion of the program will include discussions about the combination of Cuban cigars and drinks, the revival of the traditional Mexican pulque (a fermented drink made from cactus sap), and the feeding of Cuban and Spanish soldiers during the wars for Cuba’s independence.
From today through Saturday, Nov. 30, the Lumiere Movie Theater in Old Havana will present a film series: “Cinema and Gastronomy.”
Prior to the festival’s closing ceremony, winners of the photo contest “Eat, drink, feel,” will be announced, along with a book launch for “Historia empresarial del ron cubano” (Managerial History of Cuban Rum), by Miguel Serrano.

Opening tomorrow- Ever Fonseca in Havana

havana-live-everfonsecaLast year, Ever Fonseca was awarded Cuba’s National Prize for Plastic Arts (Premio Nacional de Artes Plásticas). To mark the honor, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is presenting Ever Fonseca Evocación Lírica (Lyrical Evocation), a selection of works gathered from the MNBA, the artist’s own collection, and the collections of institutions such as the Biblioteca Nacional José Martí.
havana-live-EVER-FONSECACurated by Hortensia Montero, the show spans Fonseca’s career from 1960 to the present, and includes works that have never been shown publicly. In announcing the show, Elsa Vega of the MNBA praised Fonseca’s “intrinsic relationship with the island’s indigenous flora and fauna, and with the myths and legends of the Cuban countryside, which have imparted a mythological and genuine character to his lyrical expression.”

Cuba Cruise prepares for season

avana-live-cuba-cruiseLouis Cristal will have new satellite systems when she sails in Cuba. Cuba Cruise is to complete safety inspections and upgrade several areas onboard Louis Cristal before she crosses the Atlantic to start her inaugural season circumnavigating Cuba.
The operator, which works in partnership with Louis Cruises, is currently carrying out necessary crew training exercises and installing new entertainment features including satellite systems offering North American sports channels and ceiling hooks for the aerial circus act.
The line’s 25,611gt ship Louis Cristal will depart drydock in Greece on 24 November after the hull artwork is completed.
“We’re right on schedule with the launch,” said Dugald Wells, the line’s president. “We have an excellent crew equipping the Louis Cristal in dry dock and our Cuban and Canadian teams are preparing for its arrival to the island.”
Louis Cristal will embark on her first Caribbean season on 16 December 2013 and will sail seven-night cruises from Havana, Cuba and Montego Bay, Jamaica, until 31 March 2014. She will call at six ports, enabling passengers to visit the island’s six Unesco world heritage sites, four national parks and preserves, as well as its famous beaches and colonial cities.
The vessel offers 480 staterooms and suites, lounges and restaurants.

Rebecca Gibson

Havana Triathlon Cup to Kick Off November 24

avana-live-triathlon1With the participation of dozens of competitors from across the country, the first phase of the Cuba Triathlon Cup will start next November 24, near Havana’s La Guayaba dam. The contest, which will start the 2013-2014 season, will include mainly youth level triathletes of both sexes, who seek to make up the national team towards the 2nd Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing 2014, Aurelio Romero,national commissioner, told the digital publication Jit. The main favorites to win the circuit are Victor Torres, Sunelis Sunset, Jorge Ezequiel, and Pedro Luis Gomez.
The major absences in this early season will be the stellars Michel Gonzalez, Lisandra Hernandez, Ana Leydis Arias, Leslie Amat, Conrado Martinez and Anyelo Sainz, who by that time will be in the Peruvian city of Trujillo to intervene in the 17th Bolivarian Games.
The national circuit will consist of nine scoring phases, and its completion is scheduled for mid next year.


Cuba real estate up 2%te mark

The buying and selling of houses in Cuba increased by 2 percent in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2012, an official with the Justice Ministry cited in local media said Tuesday.
avana-live-homeThe expert with the Property, Business and Estate Register, Aniuska Puente, said that the trend has been “rising” for housing sales among individuals, which were authorized in 2011 as one feature of the economic reform plan implemented by President Raul Castro. Puente said that a total of 873,314 properties have been entered into the Property Register so far this year, of which 659,968 are individual homes and the rest are state properties, the local Prensa Latina news agency reported.
According to official figures, the island has some 3.7 million homes and of those 85 percent are classed as individual properties.
The Castro government in November 2011 authorized the buying and selling of houses among individuals, one of the most popular measures decreed so far as part of the reforms to update the island’s socialist economic model.
The rule put an end to decades of prohibitions or limitations in Cuba on that type of sale, but certain restrictions on such transactions are still in place given that – for instance – Cubans may not own more than one residence in urban areas.

Key West-Cuba charter flights postponed

avana-live-Key-west-havana2Ambitious plans announced last month by a Miami travel agency to offer small charter flights between Key West and Cuba beginning Nov. 15 have been pushed back to a Dec. 15 kick-off by Mambi International’s partners at Air Marbrisa Airlines.
In a Wednesday e-mail to Peter Horton, the Monroe County airports director, Bob Curtis from Air Marbrisa said the delay is due to Mambi not yet having what’s called a 380 certificate.
That document, provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation, establishes an operator, in this case Air Marbrisa, as a public charter based on specific regulations. Mambi spokesman Isaac Valdes said he couldn’t comment on the certificate but said flights will start Dec. 15.
But “if we performed the service [of using Key West International Airport to fly to and from Jose Marti International Airport now], we would be in violation” of federal rules, Curtis wrote to Horton. “I won’t do that, therefore I have terminated any service for 30 days. It is our intent to begin the service on or around Dec. 15.” “Everything else remains the same,” Curtis continued. “All our licenses and approvals are in place. 
havana-live--MetroIIWe are delaying the service for 30 days so that when we do perform, we are performing in accordance with all regulations.”
Last month, Horton cautioned that Mambi’s plans may be overly ambitious and Curtis said the company announced the pending flights to the media prematurely. The process of designating Key West International as an international point of entry began in 2009 with a request to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Following that was a three-phase, two-year, $2.25 million project to have the airport reclassified as a federal inspection station, instead of the current label of a general aviation facility.
Horton said the feds signed off on the upgrades in October 2011.
Flights are scheduled to leave Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays at 3:30 p.m., returning the following morning aboard a Metro II turboprop plane. The round trip is slated to cost $449 and each flight, lasting about 30 minutes. The plane can accommodate up to 10 people, including the pilot.
The last time planes regularly flew between Key West International and Jose Marti in Havana, just 90 miles from the Southernmost City, was in 1962.

Unusual Cuban Festival to Combine Film, Drinks, and Meals

havana-live--drinkAs an added value to the already increasing spiral of Cuban tourism, the holding in Havana of an unusual festival that aims to combine movies, drinks and meals late this month, was announced today.
The 2nd Gourmet Festival, Flavours of Cuba and the world will be held in the historic district of Old Havana on November 25 to 30, with venue shared between the House of the Benemerit of the Americas Benito Juarez (House of Mexico) and the Lumiere Cinematograph. The director of this event, Alicia Garcia, told Prensa Latina that this (France/Italy), “Fresa y Chocolate” havana-live--cocktail_1(Strawberry and Chocolate) (Cuba), Estomago: una historia gastronómica (Stomach: a gastronomy history) (Brazil/Italy), and “Cocina del Alma” (Soul Kitchen) (Germany). Theoretical sessions will include celebrities and experts, to clear many issues related to film and food.

Havana”s Jojazz Festival Features Young Musicians

MakeThumbnail.aspxYoung musicians from Cuba and El Salvador will perform at the 16th edition of the Jojazz Festival, dedicated this year to flutist Armando Romeo, a pillar of art education in Cuba.
Gisela Vistel, director of the National Center for Popular Music, announced that Jojazz was opening up to new modes of participation, including instruments such as the flute and the oboe. Jazz musicians from different generations, led by havana-live-alexixboschBobby Carcassés and Alexis Bosch, will make up the panel of judges who will evaluate the categories of performance and composition. The Salvadoran ensemble Brujo will compete in this year’s event, which takes place Nov. 14-17 and will feature solo artists and jazz bands. havana-live-Teatro-MellaThe program includes a workshop at the University of the Arts and the launch of the book Jam Sessions by musicologist Carmen Souto. havana-live-zorra_cuervoOther featured bands include Cubadentro, 5 PÁ SÁX, Miguel Ángel de Armas, Alejandro Falcón and Joaquín Betancourt’s Jazz Band.
Venues include Havana’s Mella and Sala Avenida theaters and the La Zorra y el Cuervo jazz club.

Farmers’ market in Havana

armers-market-Havana-300x225Responding to the needs of mushrooming private gastronomy businesses, the government allowed the creation of wholesale food markets in Havana and surrounding provinces, “in an experimental manner.” The pilot project will allow to “study other ways on a regional level,” and then expand them to the rest of the country, Communist Party daily Granma said.Decree 318, published in the Gaceta Oficial Nov. 6, allows farmers to sell their production in excess of state quotas directly to final consumers in the provinces of La Habana, Artemisa and Mayabeque. It also directs the provinces to authorize the creation of farmers’ markets, other food retail outlets, and street vendor routes for agricultural products to be sold in non-convertible Cuban Pesos (CUP). Most significant for the emerging group of private business , owners, though, is the creation of wholesale markets, and that the new regulation authorizes private food wholesalers (“vendedor mayorista de productos agropecuarios“), in addition to state farms, farm co-ops and private farmers, to sell agricultural products. havana-live-fresch-fruite1This de facto recognition of private intermediaries further chips away at the state food distribution monopoly known as Acopio, and the new markets could become the prototype of a wholesale infrastructure to supply the thousands of new restaurants and other private food service providers that have sprung up on the island over the past few years.The first wholesale market will be “El Trigal” in the Havana suburb of Boyeros, Granma said. The market will begin to operate before the end of the year, with nightly opening hours from 6 p.m. through sunrise.
It will be up to provincial governments — after consultation with city governments — to decide where to allow the new food markets. The new outlets are authorized to sell fresh and processed food and other farm products, except for beef, milk and other dairy products, honey, coffee, cacao and tobacco products. All products will be sold in non-convertible Cuban pesos (CUP) at unregulated prices, except for rice, beans, potatoes, garlic, onion and tomatoes, which will be sold at fixed prices.
There are no limitations as to amounts sold and kind of buyers.
The wholesale markets will be operated by non-agricultural service cooperatives.
Self-employed Cubans will also be allowed to act as retailers on farmers’ markets and as street vendors. They may rent market stalls in CUP for a price per square meter from the market operators. Permanent retail food stores may only be operated by agricultural producers.

Ferry service between Florida and Havana

havana-live-portmanateePORT MANATEE – An officer of a company that wants to operate ferry service between Florida and Cuba Thursday outlined his plans for the Manatee County Port Authority. Leonard D. Moecklin, vice president of Havana Ferry Partners LLC, said that once legal obstacle posed by a U.S. embargo against Cuba are resolved, his company could operate fast ferries to the island nation.Each one could carry 150 passengers, plus tons of cargo, he said. “It’s time to go to Cuba,” he told the board.
The U.S. Treasury Department last year rejected Moeklin’s attempt to offer ferry service during the visit to the island of Pope Benedict XVI.
Business opportunities would cross many economic sectors, including transportation, construction, tourism, real estate, automotive, food and clothing, and medical supplies, he said. Port Manatee could be a hub for construction materials to be shipped to Cuba, where the whole infrastructure of the communist country needs rebuilding, Moecklin said.
havana-live-ferryAs for the political change needed to accomplish such an enterprise, Moecklin said it’s difficult when the two countries’ governments are not speaking to each other.The U.S. has maintained an embargo against Cuba for decades. But he said change is coming, and Port Manatee could be in the forefront if it prepares now.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter

Aerocaribbean launches Havana-Tabasco flights

havana-live-aerocaribbeanCuban state tour operator Havanatur is launching flights from Havana to Villahermosa, Mexico, on Nov. 20, Cuban and Mexican media reported. The flights will be operated by regional state carrier Aerocaribbean.
The twice-weekly flights on 72-seat ATR aircraft, tourism developers in the capital of Tabasco hope, will attract .
European tourists vacationing in Cuba. Tickets will cost $450.
In a campaign in eight Cuban cities and resorts in October with European tour operators in Cuba, tourism promoters from Tabasco highlighted archaeological tours, the Chocolate Route, and events such as the chocolate festival in Villahermosa.

Cigar-smuggling pigeons touch down at New York gallery

havana-live-cohibaThanks to New York City artist Duke Riley, the American surveillance apparatus faces a new airborne foe: the homing pigeon. Riley trained pigeons to smuggle Cuban cigars from Havana, Cuba, to Key West, Florida, while other birds filmed the 160-km journey with custom-made cameras. The pigeons and their videos will be on display in Riley’s solo show, which opens November 1 at the Magnan Metz gallery in New York.
havana-live-brieftaubenRiley, 41, said he came up with the project at least in part to challenge the idea that the spying capabilities of the U.S. government have become all-encompassing.
He started with 50 birds – tagging half of them as smugglers and the other half as documentarians.
“A lot of the work I do seeks to create some sense of possibility or empowerment, in a humorous and romanticized way, using the simplest means possible,” Riley said.
It was also Riley’s way of protesting the 51-year-old U.S. embargo against Cuba. Under the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act, the United States has enforced economic sanctions against Cuba since 1962.
Riley’s cigar project aims for more than just subversion.
“I don’t want to – can I say it? – be pigeonholed,” said Riley, who has been around pigeons since he was a child. He spent years researching their role in carrying information for the military – more recently for the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War.
Still, Riley has long courted trouble with his artistic interventions. In 2007, he was arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard for approaching the Red Hook-berthed Queen Mary II cruise liner in a makeshift wooden Revolutionary War-era submarine. Riley called that project commentary on the Bush administration’s “war on terror” and the gentrification of the Brooklyn waterfront, where he works as a tattoo artist.
Less than half of the original number of his trainees took part in the mission. Of the 23 birds that embarked on it, only 11 made it back – toting six Cohibas. Those cigars are now cast in resin and also on display.
A 12th bird, D. Ruggero Deodato, nose-dived into Havana harbor under uncertain circumstances. The bird survived and made its way back to the United States without any cargo.
“I imagine Cuban authorities would be sensitive to American pigeons flying over with cameras – that that would cause some alarm,” Riley said, grinning. “But I’m just speculating.”
Some of the pigeons are now awaiting exhibition in a bird loft at the Magnan Metz Gallery, surrounded by portraits of each of the 50 participants painted on tin shingles. The loft, installed on Monday, is decorated with parts of two shipwrecks Riley scavenged along with Key West objects like street signs and lobster traps.
The pigeons are already breeding. What are the artist’s plans for the offspring? “Train them to smuggle more cigars,” Riley said with a laugh. “Or cocaine from Colombia.”
Joking aside, the United States will be watching.

Luke Swiderski, Reuters