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havana-live-Prieto-stone-MNBAHAVANA,  July 23  Last summer, the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst—the municipal museum of contemporary art in Ghent, Belgium, better known as S.M.A.K.  presented the exhibition Wilfredo Prieto: Speaking Badly About Stones.

S.M.A.K. was one of three international art institutions that worked together to present three solo exhibitions by Prieto. The others were the Kunstverein in Braunschweig, Germany, and the Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana.

In each museum, the organizing curator took a slightly different approach to the exhibition, and not every work appeared in each location.

At the Museo Nacional, the exhibition—curated by Aylet Ojeda and titled Ping Pong Cuadrícula—includes pieces created specifically for the show, and others not previously seen in Cuba.

In the video, filmed at the Ghent exhibition, Prieto talks about Políticamente correcto, Sí/No, Dos zapatos y dos medias, and other works also on view in Havana.

Wilfredo Prieto: Ping Pong Cuadrícula is on view until August at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana.

The video was directed and filmed by Léa Rinaldi for Havana Cultura. For more videos on the visual arts, see the Havana Cultura website.


http://www.cubanartnews.org/news/video-wilfredo-prieto/4668

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Photo credit :Tole

HAVANA, July 22   A Florida bank established the first connection with a Cuban counterpart since President Obama’s December decision to open up relations between the two nations.

Stonegate Bank and Banco Internacional de Comercio S.A. (BICSA) signed a deal on Tuesday in Havana that would establish a correspondent account for the Florida-based bank on the island, making it easier for U.S. companies doing business in Cuba to process transactions directly,reported the Wall Street Journal.

Correspondent accounts allow banks to send money back and forth across international borders. Some U.S. business transactions in Cuba use U.S. treasury licenses, but all commercial deals end up going through banks in third countries, adding another step to the process.

These kinds of accounts have come under close scrutiny by federal regulators due to their historical ties to money laundering and other criminal activities, and banks have been hesitant to work with counterparts in other nations that don’t have strong oversight of their banking systems. Cuba has been labeled “high-risk” by the Financial Action Task Force, an organization that supports policies to prevent money laundering.

“We did an extensive risk-management approach to this,” Stonegate Bank CEO Dave Seleski, told the Wall Street Journal. “We feel very comfortable that we did something that is very low risk.”

The move could be the first step toward closer financial ties between the two nations, including the eventual approval of the use of credit cards in Cuba. U.S. credit cards don’t currently work on the island, though the companies have said they would start processing transactions this year.

http://fortune.com/2015/07/22/first-us-cuba-bank-agreement/

havana-live- jose manuel carenoHAVANA, July  22 Cuban dancers and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, founded by Alicia Alonso, are known all over the world. Now that diplomatic relations have been restored between the United States and Cuba, opening the island up for more cultural exchange, what will that mean for Cuba’s ballet scene?

Meghna Chakrabarti spoke with José Manuel Carreño, a Cuban-born former principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater, who is now artistic director of Silicon Valley Ballet, based in San Jose.

“I see it as a good thing. I see it as a great opportunity for Cuban dancers also to explore and dance with other companies,” Carreño said. “Many dancers, they have been defecting and dancing in the United States and in other companies, but I guess this will open up the relation with Cuba, and I think it’s a great thing.”

http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2015/07/22/cuba-ballet-carreno

gallery_8_gross_1253877126_Kuba_Röhrenwürmer1Jardines de la Reina, a vibrant marine preserve, is thriving even as other ocean habitats decline.

 The six-foot Caribbean reef shark came out of the water thrashing, and Fabián Pina Amargós and his crew quickly pulled it into the research boat.

A team set to work, immobilizing the shark’s mouth and tail, pouring water over it to keep it breathing and inserting a yellow plastic tag into a small hole punched in its dorsal fin.

“What is its condition?” Dr. Pina’s wife, Tamara Figueredo Martín, asked.

“Excellent, the condition is excellent,” Dr. Pina said, before the team pulled out the hook, carefully lifted the shark up and tossed it back into the ocean.

A marine biologist and director of Cuba’s Center for Coastal Ecosystem Research, Dr. Pina has spent much of his career studying the abundance of fish and other wildlife in this archipelago 50 miles off the country’s south coast, a region so fecund it has been called the Galápagos of the Caribbean.

He has a deep love for its biological riches: the lush mangrove forests, the sharks and grouper, the schools of brightly colored snapper, grunts and angelfish and the vibrant coral reef, largely untouched by bleaching or other assaults, a bright spot in an often depressing litany of worldwide oceanic decline.

As a student at Havana University, Dr. Pina took part in the first oceans survey in Jardines de la Reina (Gardens of the Queen) after the Cuban government established a 367-square-mile marine preserve here in 1996, tightly restricting tourism in the preserve and banning all fishing except for lobster, an important part of Cuba’s economy.


He has completed many other studies since, demonstrating, for example, the beneficial effects of the preserve on fish populations inside and outside the marine sanctuary. And research by Dr. Pina’s center played a role in the government’s decision to designate a marine protected area of about 830 square miles in 2010.

But Dr. Pina still has a long list of questions he would like to pursue. For example, he is eager to learn more about the biology, travel patterns and habits of sharks and Atlantic goliath grouper here, large, highly mobile predators that are important to coral reefs and a major tourist draw. And he hopes someday to understand why the reef in Jardines de la Reina is so resilient, when other reefs around the world are dying, succumbing to overfishing, pollution, coastal development and the effects of climate change.

Scientists like Dr. Pina have only just begun to explore and document the wealth of aquatic life in the waters of the archipelago and the Gulf of Ana Maria to its north: how many species there are, the size of their populations, how they move from one area to another and where their spawning and nursery grounds are.

But such knowledge is essential, scientists say, not only to manage the marine preserve effectively but also to develop conservation strategies for fisheries in a country where overfishing has taken a significant toll. What scientists learn from studying Jardines de la Reina may also help rescue and protect reefs in other regions where they are faring far less well.

An otter trawl pulled up an assortment of sea creatures, including a West Indian sea egg, a blue-striped grunt, a cushion sea star and a spotted trunkfish. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

An otter trawl pulled up an assortment of sea creatures, including a West Indian sea egg, a blue-striped grunt, a cushion sea star and a spotted trunkfish. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Dr. Pina has been fortunate, receiving some financing and equipment from American foundations, like the Pew Charitable Trust, which gave him a marine fellowship in 2012, and environmental organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund, which organized a recent expedition here for a group of scientists from the United States. Three New York Times journalists accompanied the group.

But conducting marine research in Cuba is not easy. The country has only two principal research vessels: the 30-foot Itajara, the boat used by the recent expedition, and another, larger boat belonging to Havana University.

Travel and communication barriers often make collaborating with American scientists complicated. Microscopes, fishing gear like nets and hooks, refrigerators for storage, cameras and GPS are in short supply. And even mundane necessities like rope must be carefully rationed and frequently repaired.

“The blockade, what you call the embargo, has had a huge impact, especially in environmental science,” Dr. Pina said.

Like other researchers, he hopes that the recent warming of relationsbetween Cuba and the United States will spur more scientific collaboration and exchange, a critical step for two countries whose ecosystems are closely interconnected, the environmental successes or missteps of one affecting the health and productivity of the other.

“Our two countries are connected by the water, and fish and other organisms move freely there,” said Jorge Angulo-Valdés, a senior scientist at Havana University’s Center for Marine Research who is also doing work in Jardines de la Reina and has collaborated with Dr. Pina. “They don’t need a visa to come down or go up.”

Warblers migrating south from New York take a needed break in Cuba’s Zapata Swamp. Sharks and manatees travel back and forth. Grouper eggs spawned here are eaten weeks or months later as adult fish in Miami Beach.

“When you have two areas that are 90 miles away, it’s not only possible but it’s probable that a considerable number of eggs and larvae are moving between Cuban and American reefs,” said Jake Kritzer, an ocean and fisheries expert at the Environmental Defense Fund who participated in the expedition. “Not just groupers, not just snapper, but parrot fish, damsel fish, corals, shrimps, all the little invertebrates and all the fishes that live on a reef.”

“What it means is that what we do in terms of fisheries management of Cuban reefs can have effects on the abundance of different populations on U.S. reefs, and vice versa,” he said.

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With its abundance of fish and lush seagrass beds, Jardines de la Reina has been called the Galapagos of the Caribbean. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

On a recent morning in late May, the crew loaded up the Itajara with supplies for the day’s work: heavy fishing lines, hooks and bait, diving gear, coffee, water and beer.

The boat was docked at the research station in the mangroves off Anclitas cay, a no-frills wooden structure built atop a platform anchored by pilings. With its narrow walkways, the station seemed as much in the water as over it. Tarpon darted under the back deck. A school of sergeant major fish cruised by. A female crocodile, a longtime resident, rested motionless under a mangrove tree.

The previous day’s task had been to survey fish in the Caballones Channel, west of the archipelago, using an otter trawl, a large net with two wooden “doors” to keep it open.

It was only the second time that Dr. Pina had tried the trawl here — the research tool was acquired only recently — and he hoped it would be useful in evaluating the channel’s role as a nursery for fish, comparing the catch with samples taken in other locations. Knowing which areas are important as spawning and nursery grounds, marine scientists say, can help in developing more effective ways to protect them.

As he called out instructions to the crew, they dropped the trawl from the stern, left it in the water for two minutes as the Itajara slowly pulled it along, then drew it back in.

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Hutias, nutria-like rodents, are hunted and eaten in some parts of Cuba. But in the safety of the marine preserve, they are happy to share a bottle of water. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

After seven trials, the catch was interesting but modest. It included two slender filefish (Monacanthus tuckeri), a bulging-eyed Webb Burr puffer (Chilomycterus antillarum), a sea star and a 5.6-ounce spotted trunkfish (Lactophrys bicaudalis).

“If you did this enough, you’d see some really big trawls and some with nothing,” Dr. Kritzer said, “which means you have to do a fairly big number of samples to get a pattern out of that noise.”

Yet the yield was small enough that Dr. Pina wrote in a later report that other areas seemed to provide better nurseries for juvenile fish.

Today, the targets were bigger fish, like the goliath grouper, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds — “like a small car,” Dr. Pina said — and of course, the sharks: Caribbean reef sharks, silky sharks, lemon sharks and other species that frequent the waters surrounding the coral reef here.

Visitors to Jardines de la Reina are impressed by the sharks, how many there are and how close they come to divers, circling them, coasting by them, gliding up for a look-see.

Already, during a snorkeling session at Pippin, two miles southwest of the research station, the members of the expedition had found themselves surrounded by silkies, their bodies pale white against the dark blue of the water. But the snorkelers, hands tucked into their bodies and feet covered by flippers, looked nothing like prey, and the silkies moved on.

The sharks are a tourist attraction — at two of the many diving spots in the Gardens, they are fed to ensure larger numbers — but to scientists like Dr. Pina and Dr. Kritzer, their very presence here is an indicator of the coral reef’s robustness.

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A Caribbean reef shark cruises through the water in Jardines de la Reina. There are 10 times as many sharks inside the marine preserve here as in the waters outside. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

Research has linked the health of reefs to habitation by large fish, and the absence of sharks and other top predators is often a sign of a reef in decline.

“If you like coral reefs, you have to like sharks,” said David E. Guggenheim, a marine scientist who has worked extensively in Cuba and runs trips to Jardines de la Reina through his organization, Ocean Doctor. “They are critically important to maintaining population balance. If they’re gone, the algae can overgrow the reef and smother it.”

The resilience of this coral reef seems beyond question. The waters inside the preserve hold 10 times as many sharks as outside, Dr. Pina said, and goliath grouper, rare in many places, are often seen here.

Remoteness, several scientists said, probably accounts for some of the reef’s strength. Genetics may also play a role. But the reef here was not always as healthy; it has substantially recovered and thrived since the marine preserve, one of the largest in the Caribbean, was established nearly 20 years ago.

A study by Dr. Pina and his colleagues found that fish populations increased an average of 30 percent since the sanctuary was created.

Yet the preserve alone cannot ensure the protection of sharks and other large predators, species that travel long distances and are unlikely to respect the boundaries of sanctuaries. Although fishing is banned in the smaller marine preserve, it is still allowed in the larger protected marine area that Cuba has designated a national park.

Rachel Graham, a whale shark expert and executive director ofMaralliance, a conservation organization, said that sharks were still actively fished in the national park, just outside the borders of the sanctuary. “There’s a lot of dipping into the edges,” said Dr. Graham, who has worked in Jardines de la Reina.

And further out, in the Gulf of Ana Maria, “All bets are off,” she said.

Remoteness, several scientists said, probably accounts for some of the reef’s strength. Genetics may also play a role. But the reef here was not always as healthy; it has substantially recovered and thrived since the marine preserve, one of the largest in the Caribbean, was established nearly 20 years ago.

A study by Dr. Pina and his colleagues found that fish populations increased an average of 30 percent since the sanctuary was created.

Yet the preserve alone cannot ensure the protection of sharks and other large predators, species that travel long distances and are unlikely to respect the boundaries of sanctuaries. Although fishing is banned in the smaller marine preserve, it is still allowed in the larger protected marine area that Cuba has designated a national park.

Rachel Graham, a whale shark expert and executive director ofMaralliance, a conservation organization, said that sharks were still actively fished in the national park, just outside the borders of the sanctuary. “There’s a lot of dipping into the edges,” said Dr. Graham, who has worked in Jardines de la Reina.

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A Caribbean reef shark pulled up on a long line, tagged and released will help Fabián Pina Amargós and his colleagues learn more about their biology and travel patterns. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

And further out, in the Gulf of Ana Maria, “All bets are off,” she said.

Regular surveys of the size, number and location of sharks in a given area provide information that can eventually help forge new strategies to reduce such fishing – Cuba is in the process of developing a national shark plan.

So in the late morning, the Itajara headed south to Las Auras channel, where the coral reef drops off into 80-foot-deep water, on a search for the large aquatic predators.

Once in the channel, 50 circle hooks were attached to a long fishing line, each separated by about 30 inches. The hooks, Dr. Pina said, are designed to protect the fish, staying in the mouth rather than moving into the stomach, where they can cause significant injury.

The big reef shark came up with the first hook, followed by two others under three feet long and less than six months old.

The variance in age and size was a good sign, Dr. Pina said, indicating that the channel was providing a home not only for adult sharks but for immature fish as well.

As long as the sharks and other large fish remain in Jardines de la Reina, the tourists will come, too, many of them staying at theTortuga, a small floating hotel near the research station operated by Avalon, an Italian company, under a contract with the government.

Tourism is important to the marine preserve, for Cuba’s economy — it is ranked among the 50 top diving spots in the world and 60 percent of divers cite sharks as the main attraction, Dr. Pina said — and as an incentive to keep the fishing ban in place.

The goliath groupers are also a big draw.

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The research station in the mangroves off Anclitas cay feels as if it is almost a part of the water. Tarpon and barracudas swim beneath the porch. A crocodile is a longtime resident. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times

“Everybody likes big animals,” Dr. Pina said, “and the goliath grouper is like an elephant in the water.”

Ms. Figueredo, an environmental economist, has devoted much of her work to calculating the monetary value of tourists’ diving with sharks, watching jacks and angelfish dart in and out of stands of living Elkhorn coral and fly-fishing in waters filled with tarpon and bone fish. Her studies, she hopes, will help Cuban officials develop guidelines for tourism in the smaller preserve and in the larger national park.

Tourism in large doses poses its own threat, however. Last year, under the government’s limits, fewer than 3,000 divers and fly-fishermen visited Jardines de la Reina. But the opening of relations between Cuba and the United States means that many more tourists may soon come.

Andrés Jiménez Castillo, a marine biologist who works as a manager at the Tortuga, said that many people were concerned about what will happen.

“We will have a lot of sailing boats and other kinds of boats that will be able to come here,” he said. “And we need to be ready.”

He is hoping, he said, that the diving and fly-fishing quotas will remain intact and the government will increase prices instead, keeping the area exclusive.

But Cuba’s capacity for enforcement is limited, and a coral reef is a sensitive ecosystem, easily damaged by hastily dropped boat anchors or careless divers.

And if 100,000 or even a million visitors were to descend on the marine preserve, Dr. Pina said, “The footprint on nature would be large.”

havana-live-atocha-coinsCredit: Mel Fisher
HAVANA,  July 9  On September 4, 1622, the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha set off from Havana, with a flotilla of nine ships bound for Spain. Loaded with a cargo of silver, gold and other New World riches, the ships ran into a wicked hurricane as they entered the Florida straits the following day.

Hundreds of people perished when the ships sank, including sailors, soldiers, clergy, slaves and members of the nobility. After searching for some 16 years, treasure hunter Mel Fisher unearthed the treasures of Atocha—a haul worth some $400 million—near the Florida Keys in 1985. On August 5, 40 items from the impressive cache will go up for auction in New York City.

Named for a holy shrine in Madrid, the heavily armed galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha served as the almirante (or rear guard) of the Spanish fleet that left Havana in early September 1622. In addition to 265 people, the ship carried as much as 40 tons of silver, gold and assorted riches from Colombia, Peru and other regions of South America.

After a hurricane struck on September 5, 1622, the eight other ships in the fleet sank, littering the ocean floor from the Marquesas Keys to the Dry Tortugas, between 30 and 70 miles to the west of Key West, Florida. Two sailors and three slaves aboard Atocha survived by clinging to the ship’s mizzen, the only part that remained above water, but rescuers were unable to open the ship’s hatches. A second hurricane on October 5 further destroyed the wreck, and despite six decades of searching by Spanish salvagers, no trace of Atocha or its treasures would be found.

Flash-forward to the late 20th century, when a former chicken farmer turned shipwreck- and treasure-hunter named Mel Fisher. Beginning in 1969, Fisher searched relentlessly for Atocha, making small discoveries along the way (three silver bars in 1973; five bronze cannon in 1975) that convinced him he was getting closer to the ship itself.

(Tragically, Fisher’s son Dirk, his wife and another diver died when a salvage boat capsized soon after the cannon discovery.) By 1980, Fisher’s team had also discovered a significant part of the wreck of Atocha’s sister ship, Santa Margarita. Finally, in July 1985, Fisher’s son Kane sent a message to his father’s headquarters: “Put away the charts; we’ve found the main pile!”

In addition to a fortune’s worth of gold and silver bars, coins and jewelry, the bounty recovered from Atocha included emeralds traced to a mine in Colombia, along with items ranging from navigational instruments to ceramic vessels, all offering a glimpse into 17th-century life in Spain and the New World.

With an estimated worth of some $400 million, the Atocha treasure made Fisher, his family members and other investors millionaires. Thanks to efforts by historians and archaeologists as well as environmentalists, Fisher’s success led to reforms in the laws governing shipwrecks and salvage. In 1987, Congress passed the Abandoned Shipwreck Act, which gave states the rights to shipwrecks located within three miles of the coastline.Santissima-Concepcion

After the discovery, items from the cache of treasure went on permanent display at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, Florida. Now, some 40 items from the Atocha and Santa Margarita yield will go on the block at the auction house Guernsey’s in New York City early next month—August 5, to be exact. According to Fisher’s daughter, Taffy Fisher Abt, the lots offered for sale will include some of her parents’ favorite pieces. (Fisher died in 1998, while his wife, Dorothy, passed away in 2009.)

Mel Fisher wore one of the pieces to be auctioned off—a heavy gold chain that hangs past waist-length—when he appeared on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” soon after discovering the Atocha’s treasures. Dubbed “the money chain,” it consists of individual links, each around the size of a thumbnail, which in the 17th century could have be removed and used as formal currency.

(At the time, the Spanish king had placed a 20 percent tariff on gold bullion, known as the Royal Fifth, but the tax didn’t apply if the gold was turned into jewelry.) According to pre-sale estimates, the chain could fetch some $90,000 to $120,000 at auction.

According to her daughter, Dorothy Fisher favored a knee-length gold chain with ornately carved links; that item could fetch around $40,000 to $50,000. Another item, a gold-and-enamel spoon of Peruvian and Spanish origin, is believed to have been used during Communion by Catholic priests sent to the New World to convert the native population. Among the intricate designs carved along the spoon’s neck is a masculine face between a pair of condors, an Inca symbol of royalty. The spoon is expected to go for some $160,000 to $180,000.

Among the more intriguing items recovered from Atocha were a number of bezoar stones, egg-sized objects made of organic material found in the digestive tracts of llamas, alpacas, deer, sheep or other two-stomached animals (known as ruminants). When dipped into a cup of liquid, bezoar stones were thought to remove any toxins or poisons from that liquid—a necessity for rich and powerful 17th-century individuals worried about servants or rivals adding arsenic to their wine goblets.

One of the stones, mounted in a gold setting and designed to dangle from a chain, will be part of the auction; pre-sale estimates indicate it could fetch as much as $28,000 to $35,000.

http://www.history.com/news/treasures-from-spanish-galleon-sunk-in-1652-set-for-auction