Tag Archive for: Havana

havana-live-american-airlinesHAVANA, August 27th (Reuters) JetBlue is scheduled to inaugurate direct flights between the long-time nemeses on Aug. 31, when it flies from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Villa Clara in central Cuba.

American Airlines in September will start flying from Miami to the provinces, followed by other airlines.

There will be 20 daily flights to Havana by the end of the year.

“It is a positive step and contribution to the improving relations between Cuba and the United States,” Deputy Transportation Minister Eduardo Rodriguez told local media.

Josefina Vidal, who heads Cuba’s U.S. diplomacy department, said Cuba had confirmed the JetBlue flight, removing the last technical hurdle of official approval.

Rodriguez said U.S. airlines would be handled in a similar fashion as the 110 airlines currently flying to Cuba and with equal attention to security issues that were already a normal part of the country’s system.

“Cuba is strong in matters of operational and aviation security, which are recognized internationally,” the Communist Party daily, Granma, quoted him as stating.

Seventeen U.S. charter flights land every day in Cuba, but they are expected to gradually succumb to competition from the airlines.

Cuba has been experiencing a tourism boom since the announcement in December 2014 that the United States would normalize diplomatic ties and work to solve various outstanding issues.

Last year a record 3.5 million tourists visited, straining dilapidated infrastructure and pushing up prices, especially in the capital. Thousands of homes now rent out rooms, helping to ease the strain, and some 2,000 private restaurants have opened.

The Obama administration has focused on allowing normal travel, loosening restrictions despite a ban on tourism that only Congress can lift, and authorizing travel related businesses to set up shop in Cuba and communications companies and banks to provide support such as roaming and credit cards.

The direct flights follow the opening of the first U.S. administered hotel and arrival of the first U.S. cruise ship earlier this year.

Some 300,000 Cubans living in the United States now travel home annually. In 2015 the Cuban government reported 161,233 Americans visited, compared to 91,254 in 2014, and arrivals through June nearly doubled compared with the same period last year.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Phil Berlowitz)

havana-live-ballet-westHAVANA, August 27th Ballet West will be traveling to Cuba this fall to perform at Havana’s International Ballet Festival. The Salt Lake City company will be one of the first American ballet groups to perform in Cuba since the Read more

breathbrain-3D-600Havana, Aug 24th  (PL) More than 350 specialists from Europe, the United States and Canada will participate in the 18th International Congress of Psychophysiology, taking place for the first time in Latin America, the organizing committee said.

Sponsored by the International Read more

royalty-ballet-starsHAVANA,August 21th (Prensa Latina) International classical ballet stars will revere the greatness of ballet during a single function today at the Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso, organizers said.

The Ballet Royalty Gala will be Read more

14702514717579HAVANA,August 4th  (AP) — More than 2 million tourists have visited Cuba this year, state media said Wednesday, putting the country on track for a record number of visitors Read more

Avions-de-Transport-R-FedEx-EI-FXC-_1074HAVANA, July 20th  As the thaw continues between the United States and Cuba, the U.S. Department of Transportation has granted FedEx the rights to operate a five-times-weekly freighter service between Miami and the city of Matanzas. While eight other airlines were granted rights to fly passenger routes between the U.S. and Cuba Read more

havana-live-paralampicHAVANA, July 10th  Cuba increased the number of athletes who have qualified for the 2016 Paralympic Games to 19, the sports authorities said.

Rene Jimenez, head of the sports department at the National Institute of Sport for the Read more

HAVANA, July 4th The 45-year-old artist graduated in Architecture at the Central University of Las Villas in 1997. Read more

havana-live-tampa_aquariumHAVANA,June 28th  The Florida Aquarium made history in August when it partnered with the National Aquarium in Havana on coral reef research — the first-ever collaboration between marine centers from two countries that had Read more

havana-live-Southwest-AirlinesHAVANA, June 24th Southwest CEO Gary Kelly spoke Wednesday about his airline’s flights to Cuba. Though 90 slots have already been awarded, the Dallas-based low cost carrier is still waiting for news on the 20 slots for Havana, about which the DOT has still not yet made a decision.

The importance of Havana

“We’re ready to go. The other cities that we’ve bid for, the slots are all awarded at this point. But Havana is key, and hopefully we’ll hear something in July and we can get flights launched this year,” Kelly saidduring an appearance on CBS on Wednesday.

Southwest is still competing with all three legacy carriers and rival JetBlue, among others, for the Havana slots. Both United and Delta have not even bothered to apply for slots at the nine other airports on the island, focusing all their efforts on Havana.

Already awarded two Cuba destinations

Southwest has applied for a total of nine slot for Havana’s José Martí International Airport. It wants to fly to Cuba’s capital from Fort Lauderdale (six slots), Tampa (two slots) and Orlando (one slot).

Southwest has already been approved for daily flights to Santa Clara and twice-daily flights to Matanzas, the airport that serves the resort destination of Varadero. These flights will originate in Fort Lauderdale.

The best option for the DOT?

Southwest has always been confident about its ability to succeed in the U.S.-Cuba market. In its application for Cuba slots, it claimed that it was better positioned than its rivals. “Southwest will almost certainly have the lowest South Florida-Havana fares of any applicant in this case. More than any other airline in this case, Southwest will successfully develop the new Havana markets, operate at high load factors, and bring the greatest air travel value to the U.S. consumer.”

This argument speaks directly to the DOT’s statement that it will choose airlines based on which ones provide the most “public benefit.” Thus far, it seems like the DOT has been intent on spreading the slots evenly between airlines. Smaller airlines like Silver Air and Sun Country, for example, have been given slots to some of the nine other cities with international airports in Cuba.

Havana might prove different. Two major airlines, Delta and United, ignored the nine other airports and only applied for flights to Havana. The stakes will be much higher here than for any of the other slots. That is why the DOT is taking its time making its decision.

Who provides more “public benefit?”

In the bigger picture, the Havana decision will force the DOT to weigh in on low-cost carriers. Will they think that lower fares like those offered by Southwest and JetBlue provide more “public benefit” than full service carriers? Will full service airlines prevail because of their larger size and lobbying clout? Or will the Department avoid taking a stance on the issue by dividing the slots evenly between legacies and low cost carriers?

Kelly said that he hopes to get a decision on the Havana slots sometime in July, which would allow flights to take off in the late fall.


havana-live-art-deco-super-169HAVANA, June 20th (CNN) Cuba’s capital, Havana, boasts one of the world’s most significant but frequently overlooked treasure troves of Art Deco architecture.

Successfully integrating architecture, interior design, fashion and visual arts, this decorative trend had a wide-reaching influence on the Caribbean island.

Spanning the Roaring ’20s and extending into the Depression-ridden 1930s, Art Deco came to epitomize all the glamor, opulence, freedom and hedonism of the post-World War I Jazz Age. Art Deco’s aesthetic is defined by smooth lines, geometric shapes, new materials and bright, sometimes gaudy colours.

In Cuba, the rule of twice-elected president Gen. Gerardo Machado (1925-1933) witnessed the greatest flowering of the movement. Influenced by overseas trends, Cuban architects assimilated Art Deco’s features in a range of buildings across Havana, frequently using tropical elements such as palms and pineapples, as well as African iconography.

 Cuba’s Communist era has seen much of Havana’s iconic Art Deco architecture spared from the wrecking ball, although it has also meant that today many buildings are in a sorry state of neglect.

Times are slowly changing, however; the 2013 Art Deco Congress was held in Cuba for the first time, and organizations such as Habana Deco are now working hard to promote and protect the country’s Art Deco heritage.
Tours of Art Deco architecture in Havana can be organized through UK travel company Cuba Direct. havana-live-art-deco-super-169havana-live-art-deco-super-169havana-live-art-deco-super-169havana-live-art-deco-super-169havana-live-art-deco-super-169havana-live-art-deco-super-169havana-live-art-deco-super-169havana-live-art-deco-super-169havana-live-art-deco-super-169havana-live-art-deco-super-169


HAVANA, June 19th The heirs of Meyer Lansky, the impresario of the North American Mafia gambling colony in Cuba (1933-1958) are betting on a big payback from the negotiations between the United States and Cuba to normalize relations between the two countries. Compensation claims by U.S. citizens or businesses for properties nationalized by the Cuban revolution are among the issues under discussion.

Lansky’s daughter Sandi, her son Gary Rapoport, and her brother Paul have filed a compensation claim against Cuba for the Riviera Hotel and Casino with the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. The Cuban revolution confiscated the Riviera and other Mafia-owned properties after it toppled the gangster-linked regime of General Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

“It was through my grandfather’s hard work that the hotel was built,” Rapoport told the U. K. Daily Mail Online on December 23, 2015. “We are his natural relations . . . . By right, it should be our property.” He says the Riviera is valued at $70 million. The Tampa Bay Tribune, Reuters, and Haaretz have also covered the story.

The Riviera, which overlooks the Straights of Florida, was the crown jewel of Lansky’s casinos, hotels, and nightclubs in Havana. When the Riviera opened in December 1957, it was the largest Mafia-owned hotel-casino outside Las Vegas. The hotel’s 440 double rooms were booked solid for the winter season of 1957-1958.

However, the narrative that the success of the Riviera was the product of Meyer Lansky’s “hard work” is undercut by Lansky’s own assessment of his arrangement with Batista.

Lansky talked candidly about his years in Cuba with Israeli national security writers Dennis Eisenberg, Uri Dan, and Eli Landau for their admiring biography Meyer Lansky: Mogul of the Mob (Paddington Press, 1979). (Lansky lived in Israel in 1970-1971 to avoid tax evasion charges in the United States.)

Lansky pitched his plan to Batista to open Mafia owned casinos and nightclubs in Cuba in 1933. Lansky promised to make Batista, who had just come to power in a coup d’etat, a partner. Batista and his inner circle would get regular payments from the Mafia gamblers. In return, the gangsters would be allowed to operate without interference from Cuban authorities. With a handshake and an abrazo, Lansky and Batista laid the foundations of the Cuban gangster state.

“Working on the well-known principle that it’s better to use other people’s money than your own, Lansky persuaded Batista to have the Cuban government help finance the venture,” Eisenberg, Dan, and Landau wrote.

“The [Cuban] government agreed to back every dollar invested on the island by foreigners with a dollar of its own and to give every hotel that cost more than one million dollars the precious prize of a gambling license . . . and the casino hotels would not have to pay Cuban taxes.”

The Riviera was one of four new hotels with casinos, which opened in Havana between 1955 and 1958. Cuban development banks subsidized 50 percent of Lansky’s $14 million Riviera project; Lansky-linked investors provided the rest. Senator Eduardo Suarez Rivas, brother of Batista’s Minister of Labor Jose Suarez Rivas, was secretary of the Compania de Hotels La Riviera de Cuba, which operated the Riviera.

The Mafia gambling colony was the cornerstone of the Cuban gangster state. The gangsters’ graft bound Batista, his inner circle, senior security officers, and the Mafia together in the defense of one of the most repressive regimes in Latin America. As a CIA report put it, “In return for the loyalty they gave him, Batista always backed his security services. In times of crisis, he often suspended civil guarantees . . . and gave the services a free hand.”162856-akjxndgv

The days of the North American gangsters in Cuba were numbered when Batista fled into exile on January 1, 1959. In 1958, Fidel Castro’s July 26th Movement had denounced the Mafia radio broadcasts from its guerrilla redoubt in the Sierra Maestra for turning Havana into a center of commercialized vice – gambling, prostitution, and drugs.

When Castro arrived in Havana on January 8, he vowed to “clean out all the gamblers.” The Riviera and other gangster-owned properties were nationalized, and the Mafia gamblers returned to the United States.

To regain control of its casinos, hotels, and nightclubs in post-Castro Cuba, the Mafia waged a covert war on the Cuban revolution. The gangsters regrouped with their Cuban political allies, now in exile in the United States. The Mafia subsidized Cuban exile leaders and supplied arms to Cuban exile commando groups for attacks on Cuban targets from speedy boats and small aircraft. The gangsters also plotted with the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro.

In 1959, Lansky volunteered to arrange the assassination of Castro in a meeting with the CIA, according to Doc Stacher, a life-long Lansky associate. “He [Lansky] indicated to the CIA that some of his people who were still on the island, or those who were just going back, might assassinate Castro,” Stacher told his Israeli biographers.

“Meyer Lansky thought that if Castro would be eliminated there was a good chance for Batista to make a comeback . . . He told them [CIA officers] he was quite prepared to finance the operation himself.” From 1960 to 1963, the CIA and the Mafia plotted covertly to assassinate Castro.

To portray Lansky as an aggrieved victim of Cuba is to stand history on its head. There should be no compensation for the heirs of the former Mafia gamblers in Cuba.

– See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/162856#sthash.8gmS3hYA.dpuf

Arriba al puerto de La Habana la Fragata de Vigilancia F-735 Germinal, de la marina nacional de Francia, en visita amistosa, el 12 de junio de 2016. ACN FOTO/Marcelino VAZQUEZ HERNANDEZ/rrcc

Arriba al puerto de La Habana la Fragata de Vigilancia F-735 Germinal, de la marina nacional de Francia, en visita amistosa, el 12 de junio de 2016. ACN FOTO/Marcelino VAZQUEZ HERNANDEZ/

HAVANA, June 13  The “Germinal” frigate from the French National Navy arrived in Havana’s port on Sunday for a four-day friendly visit.

The French F-735 light monitoring vessel, with a crew of around 100 sailors, was welcomed by Sea Captain Jose Luis Souto Galindo, second in command of Cuba’s Department of the Navy, and French ambassador Jean Marie Bruno.

The commander of the “Germinal,” navy captain Michel Vaxelaire, said this has been their third visit to Cuba since 2012. They hope the visits will boost ties between the two countries and also help them learn about Cuba’s culture.

Based in the French port of Fort-de-France in Martinique, the “Germinal” is a Floreal class vessel measuring 93 meters in length and weighing 3,000 displacement tons.

It is armed with a multi-purpose 100-millimeter cannon, two Exocet missile launchers, a decoy Dagie launcher system, two 20-millimeter cannons and a full range of electronic detection and countermeasure systems.

museo-nacional-arte-cubano-g-685x342LA HAVANA, May 18th A Cuban man arrested near Athens last November is to be extradited to his homeland after a Greek appeals court rejected his claim that the charges of art theft against him were unfounded and that he was being sought by authorities in Havana because of his political connections.

Julio Cesar Serrano Barreiro, 37, was arrested in Koropi, eastern Attica, on suspicion of stealing 71 pieces from the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana.

At the time, Barreiro was working at the warehouse of a bakery chain and living with his sister.

The 71 items in question were stolen from the museum’s storage area between August and November 2013. The paintings have been valued at a total of 575 million dollars.

Barreiro denied stealing the artworks, which have not been found in Greece, and claimed that he had worked in Cuba as a double agent on behalf of the CIA.

He claimed that his life would be put in danger if he is sent back to Havana but the Greek judges rejected this claim.

090105-Finca-Vigia-hmed-5p.grid-6x2HAVANA, May 11th It’s been more than a decade in the making, but the first construction materials are finally on the way for a small but significant project with Michigan and Detroit connections outside Havana,on Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia.

 The Lansing-based The Christman Co.‘s involvement in coordinating the project to build a 2,500-square-foot building on Hemingway’s former Finca Vigía property to house the celebrated author’s artifacts in a climate-controlled environment, which would spare them from the harsh Caribbean elements.

The first materials to be sent are “the meat and bones of the building before we dress it up with the skin,” said Ron Staley, the senior vice president of Christman who has made several trips to the island nation in the last roughly four years as he was working on the project.

That includes things like lumber, nails, electrical and plumbing supplies, wire, nails, saws and saw blades, door and window studs, ladders, toolboxes, safety equipment and other hardware.AR-160519965

The project is important because Hemingway had some of his most prized possessions on Finca Vigía (“lookout farm” in Spanish): thousands of books, rough drafts of his own work, letters, photographs, the heads of exotic game and others.

The problem, however, is that in Cuba’s brutally hot and humid Caribbean climate, and without a climate-controlled place to store them, they were in jeopardy of being irrevocably damaged and lost forever.

Mary-Jo Adams, executive director of the Boston-based nonprofit Finca Vigía Foundation, described it last summer:

“These are irreplaceable documents, some of them coming from the 1910s and 1920s that Hemingway brought with him to Cuba because he thought they were important,” she said. “But the inks were faded. They were being stored in the basement of the guest house, which was filled with termites. I think it was in danger of imminent collapse and that would have crushed the collection.”

The project is also an important milestone because it is the first time American building materials have been sent to Cuba, with which the U.S. severed relations in 1961, two years after Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959. The Obama administration recently announced the decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and relax the trade embargo. In January 2015, it authorized that building materials for certain types of projects could be shipped to the island.

“In addition to coordinating the logistics of a construction project within both U.S. and Cuban customs and other regulations — which obviously hasn’t been done in a while — lots of other things are also relative ‘unknowns,’ and that extends to the local construction labor market, which we anticipate needing to guide to our specifications, including safety regulations.”


havana-live-fast&furiousHAVANA, May 9th The “Fast and Furious” cast and crew have been filming around Havana, Cuba for the past week and the behind-the-scenes footage from the shoot is bonkers.

In an official video from the studio, we’re treated to a bit of a drag race on the Malecón, the sea-adjacent highway that winds around the outskirts of Havana, some aerial footage from the helicopter as well as Vin Diesel and director F. Gary Gray explaining why Cuba has been so great. Also, towards the end, Michelle Rodriguez cuts loose in the living room of someone’s home while a band plays, and that’s pretty neat.

But the really impressive stuff is in a home video shot by an enterprising Cuban citizen who gets in the right place at the right time and catches multiple angles of the race. You can see the full scope of the production. On the closed Malecón a camera car waits ahead of a black 1956 Ford Fairlane pitted against a 1941 Chevrolet Fastback, missing a hood, door and smoking from the engine.

When the shot starts, the trio of cars screeches off; to the right, a camera bike speeds along the sideway, in between pedestrian extras. A helicopter with a gyro cam swoops in, though it’s not as dramatic as a few minutes later, when the amateur paparazzo moves locations.

From this new vantage point, we see the Ford and Chevy sliding out onto the highway from a side street. The first take gets a little hairy when the Chevy gooses it in the turn, slips a little sideways and (maybe?) bangs into the side of the Ford towards the end. The second take goes more smoothly, though the shocker is how the daring helicopter pilot gets so close—it seems he’s a mere 10 feet from the ground. By the third go, it all looks fluid, and the cars seem in perfect unison.


havana-live-intercaribbeanHAVANA, May 9th (anna.aero)InterCaribbean Airways now connects Providenciales (PLS) in the Turks & Caicos Islands with Havana (HAV) the capital of Cuba. The first flight was operated on 3 May and was the airline’s first route to the Cuban capital. Service on the 1,051-kilometre sector to Cuba operates every Tuesday and Thursday, while return flights take place on Wednesdays and Fridays. No other carrier serves the route which is flown by the carrier’s EMB 120 fleet. Scheduled flight time in the turboprop aircraft is just under three hours. interCaribbean already serves Santiago in Cuba with thrice-weekly flights from Providenciales.


havana-live-LagerfeldHAVANA,April 30th   More than 300 photographs taken by Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s creative director, are showcased in Havana to show one of the many artistic facets of the German designer and as a prelude to the unprecedented French fashion house on the island on May 3.

The artistic space Factoria Habana, located in the historic center of the Cuban capital, Thursday inaugurated the exhibition “Work in process-Work in progress”, an exhibition that discovers Lagerfeld as photographer and his particular interest around three major themes: fashion, architecture and landscape.

“It is a great present to the Cuban people and to an important critical mass of artists and designers to see how a top international artist works”, Factoria Habana director Concha Fontenla told Efe.

With Eric Pfrunder and Gerhard Steidl as curators, the exhibition presents “the most intimate side of Lagerfeld” from how he works and talks with his work, said Fontenla.

Karl Lagerfeld’s passion for photography began in 1987 and “he has since created and photographed his own advertising campaigns for all brands that he is a designer,” according to organizers of the exhibition.

Included as one of the highlights of the month of French Culture in Cuba, the exhibition will be open to the public at the Factoria Habana until May 12.

The exhibition serves as a prelude to the historic fashion show that Chanel will hold on the island on May 3 to present their Cruise collection in the emblematic Paseo del Prado in Havana where it will also be the first fashion house in Latin America.


boléro-de-RavelHAVANA,April 26   The emblematic work of French composer Maurice Ravel “Bolero” had the first of its three scheduled presentations in Havana, under the artistic direction of Spain’s Miguel Rubio, as part of the cultural project “Fabrica de Arte Cubano.

The choreographed performance included dancers from the Cuban Arts University and the companies Acosta Danza, Retazos and Danzabierta.

After four months of pre-production and rehearsals, “Bolero” will be staged a total of eight times until May 1st.

The piece, originally composed as a ballet commissioned by Russian actress and dancer Ida Rubinstein, premiered at the Opera Garnier of Paris in 1928.

The “Bolero” has become Ravel’s most famous musical composition and one of the most played musical works in the world.


havana-live-finca1HAVANA, April 22th In 1960, the U.S. ambassador to Cuba drove 9 miles outside Havana to Finca Vigía, where he had been a guest several times, to inform Ernest Hemingway that Washington was planning to sever ties with Fidel Castro’s fledgling Communist government.

He said that “American officials thought it would be best if Hemingway demonstrated his patriotism by giving up his beloved tropical home,” Valerie Hemingway, his secretary at the time and future daughter-in-law, recalled in a 2007 article for Smithsonian magazine. “He resisted the suggestion, fiercely.”

Hemingway, who committed suicide a year later, loved Cuba, and Cuba loved him.

Castro, a great admirer of the macho writer, took control of Finca Vigía, or Lookout Farm, and it became a museum — the Museo Hemingway — in 1963. havana-live-tower

Hemingway lived at Finca Vigía from 1939 to 1960 and wrote seven books there, including “The Old Man and the Sea,” “A Moveable Feast” and “Islands in the Stream.” Kept just as it was, it remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.

“It’s a virtual time capsule,” said William Dupont, professor of architecture at the University of Texas at San Antonio, who for the past 11 years has been a hands-on consultant on the restoration of Hemingway’s Cuba home. “All the trophies, all the liquor bottles are still there, all the books are on the shelves. His Royal typewriter is there in the bedroom, sitting on top of a massive dictionary, as is the animal-skin rug that he stood on while he worked, typing standing up because of his back. He got a gift from the Russian ambassador that is still there. It’s a little model of Sputnik, a desktop paperweight.”

The Cuban government, in conjunction with the Massachusetts-based Finca Vigía Foundation, completed a $1 million restoration of the 1886 stucco home and grounds in 2008 and has been searching for a way to conserve the thousands of documents, photographs and books at the site for years.

In a concrete example of the thawing of U.S./Cuban relations initiated by President Obama, a team of preservationists including Dupont, who is director of the UTSA Center for Cultural Sustainability, will return to Cuba May 8-13 to help Cuban architects, engineers and workers build a new conservation workshop and storage center on the Finca Vigía site.havana-live-see-truh-dining

Mary-Jo Adams, executive director of the Finca Vigía Foundation, said Dupont “has helped our project make great strides. His finesse and understanding of the Cuban people has been incredibly important.”

What is groundbreaking about this exchange is that a shipment of construction materials valued at more than $900,000 is going to the island along with the American expertise.

Funded primarily by the Caterpillar Foundation and Caterpillar Inc., the AT&T Foundation, the Ford Foundation and American Express, it’s the first major export of construction materials to Cuba since the U.S. loosened the trade embargo on the island.

“It’s a big deal for the Cubans,” Dupont said. “It’s a big deal for us, too.”

Caterpillar, which donated $500,000 to the Finca Vigía Foundation, “is proud to be a part of this significant project, and we’re committed to being a business and cultural partner with Cuba,” Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “We recognize the importance of preserving the rich Hemingway heritage that unites the American and Cuban people.”

Since materials can be impossible to obtain in Cuba, the shipment will contain virtually everything needed to build the 2,200-square-foot facility, which will house conservation laboratories and a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled storage facility.

“They have plenty of concrete and cement blocks,” Dupont said. “They’ve got rebar, enough for this little building, so what we’re sending them is pretty much everything else, which would include windows and doors, roofing material, gutters, tile, ceilings, pipes, plumbing fixtures, wiring — even hardhats and safety glasses. Some of the HVAC is pretty high-tech, so we’re building it here and then disassembling it to make sure we have all the parts.”havana-live-pilar

Although the building is not an architectural “postcard,” Dupont said, it represents the literal preservation of Hemingway’s legacy, including correspondence and books in which he wrote marginalia comments, as well as travel documents, records and notes of where he was at certain times, passports and maps.

“It’s possible to reconstruct a lot of details of his life and place him in particular areas connected to what he’s writing, so it’s very valuable to scholars of Hemingway,” Dupont said. “To understand where he’s coming from, what his influences are, what he’s seeing while he’s writing, it makes it possible to map out his life.

“That’s what the house contains. So for me as a restoration architect, what we’re keeping our focus on is the legacy of Hemingway because his spirit still occupies the landscape and the buildings and the grounds. This was his place of artistic inspiration, of artistic creation, and you gain a better understanding by visiting it. And that’s what I’m trying to help my colleagues in Cuba to preserve. That’s what it’s all about.”
More about Hemingway: https://havana-live.com/hemingway-cubas-adopted-son/

president-obama-attends-tampa-bay-devil-rays-v-cuban-national-team-baseball-game-in-havanaHAVANA, April 19th On Monday, Cuban’s top leaders and officials have criticized the squeaking inefficiency of the state-controlled economy. They also took note of the vibrant private sector as potential source of US subversion.

According to News Journal Online, the Cuban government comments illustrated the commotion it is facing as it tries to modernize and maintain control of things now thatit’s in a new era with Washington. The Cuban Communist Party has ended the third day of its twice-a-decade congress with vote for a 114- member Central Committee. The vote turned to select the 15- member Political Bureau. The vote, just like Congress, was open only to 1,000 delegates, 280 selected guests and state journalists.

ABC News reported that Cuban President and First Party Secretary, Raul Castro, opened the meeting with evaluation of the state reforms he introduced after taking over in 2008. Castro blamed the ‘obsolete mentality’ and ‘attitude of inertia’ for the state’s failure to impose reforms meant to increase productivity.

To follow, Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel also repeated the criticism of the bureaucracy in his speech. He added that ‘lack of confidence in the future’ is the consequence of what Castro said. Diaz-Canel added that “Along with other deficiencies, there’s a lack of readiness, high standards and control, and little foresight or initiative from sectors and bureaucrats in charge of making these goals a reality.”

However, Yahoo published that state media focuses more on the need to protect Cuba’s socialist system from global capitalism and US influence in particular. It is notable that US President Barack Obama visited Havana, the first in over 90 years, and the move was interpreted as an attempt to seduce ordinary Cubans into abandoning the country’s socialist views.

Even Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez went to say that the visit of Obama is ‘an attack on the foundation of the history, culture and symbols of Cuba.’ Meanwhile, Rene Gonzales, former intelligence agent held in US and resolved by détente with Washington, said there should be consideration on the political reform in Cuba.
Read more at http://www.lawyerherald.com/articles/43087/20160419/cuban-leaders-criticize-ways-bureaucracy-private-sector.htm#UfyGtQSy5QRL3YX7.99


The artist’s National Prize exhibition at the Wifredo Lam Center

havana-live-wilfried lam

The courtyard of the Wifredo Lam Center during the run of Lázaro Saavedra: Base / Superestructura. Visible at lower left, the installation El progreso de una nacíon; the clothesline is also an installation. Courtesy Lázaro Saavedra

HAVANA, april 5th (cubanartnews) Lázaro Saavedra: Base / Superstructure was presented at the Wifredo Lam Center of Contemporary Art in Havana, February 16-March 16, 2016. The exhibition was presented in recognition of Saavedra as the winner of the 2014 National Prize of Plastic Arts, awarded annually by the Cuban government.
Although National Art Award exhibitions are usually presented at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the two floors of the Wifredo Lam Center provided a literal structure for Saavedra’s exhibition, an inquiry into the nature of art, inspired by Marxist philosophy.

Here is a photo walk-through of the show, with Saavedra’s statement about the exhibition and comments about specific works, excerpted from the exhibition catalogue.

Unlike most exhibition texts by artists and curators, Saavedra’s comments may be understood as extensions of the artworks, counterpoints to them, and/or textual artworks in their own right.

Lázaro Saavedra: Base / Superestructura was curated by Corina Matamoros and Lázaro Saavedra


Lázaro Saavedra, El progreso de una nación, 2016. Courtesy Lázaro Saavedra

Exhibition Statement
This exhibition aims to pay homage to visual thought as it manifests metaphorically, more or less, in the arts or sciences. In his Preface to the Introduction to the Critique of Political Economy, Karl Marx applies two architectural (Basis / Überbau = Base / Superstructure) to the social sciences, employing them in the critical analysis of society. The exhibition Base / Superestructura is inspired, among other things, by these concepts of Marxist philosophy.


Lázaro Saavedra, ¿Por qué pienso cosas figurativas mientras dibujo abstracto?, 2015 Courtesy Lázaro Saavedra

A free interpretation of these ideas is further proposed—a symbolic representation, “materializing” them in an artistic form. This interpretation returns them to their original architectural assertion (without removing the philosophical references), by comparing two shows at different levels (lower/upper) in the Lam Center building. That willingness to find a meaning in the connection between the symbolic representations of base and superstructure is inspired—not without questioning—by one of the premises of Hermetic thought: “As above, so below; as below, so above.”
Arte contestatario, 2015
This work represents what it is: a canvas put through a wall. Have you ever wondered who will respond (contesta) to oppositional art (el arte contestatario)? Have you ever wondered who and what oppositional art asks to be responded to? Oppositional art arises precisely where the social action of anti-questioning art leaves off. Again, the author tells us of—catapults us, gives us a kick in the direction of—confrontation, and the direct and scathing criticism of the circles, squares, triangles (and polyhedrons, why not?) of power.
_MG_8491Arte insoportable, 2015
In several interviews with the artist, he was brilliantly unable to enlighten us about the title of this work and his relationship to it. But what is clear is the link between this installation and the phenomenon of aesthetic discordance in the process of artistic creation. The unbearable lightness of art that falls under its own weight, which is incapable of sustaining its own levitatation (see levitation art), redeems from the floor its own shadow as an extension of itself, a black ghost that ascends the institutional wall of culo blanco (white rear end)—no, cubo blanco (white cube)—in abstract geometric form, to the kingdom of heaven.
_MG_8488Arte insoportable, 2015
In several interviews with the artist, he was brilliantly unable to enlighten us about the title of this work and his relationship to it. But what is clear is the link between this installation and the phenomenon of aesthetic discordance in the process of artistic creation. The unbearable lightness of art that falls under its own weight, which is incapable of sustaining its own levitatation (see levitation art), redeems from the floor its own shadow as an extension of itself, a black ghost that ascends the institutional wall of culo blanco (white rear end)—no, cubo blanco (white cube)—in abstract geometric form, to the kingdom of heaven.
_MG_8511Arte oficial, 2015, with Arte Underground, 2015, in background at right
On Arte official: An exquisite work of stunning superficiality—as all good art is characterized and defined when it is worthy of representing surface art (superficial art), which is a counterpoint and eternal opponent of arte profundo (underground art). In this work the artist proposes, in a crazy way, to overlap the termspatriotic art and official art: The canvas, ergo art, as the flag of what? Does the official culture have a flag, the same as the nation?

Arte underground is a work that is inserted into the underground art movement, which evolved from the stagnant overground art. We must be redundant and emphasize that the difference between these two arts is that one moves, the other does not. This work overflows the literal, provoking a flood of self-referentiality that could drown the concept if it doesn’t know how to swim—or doesn’t know anything, not to speak or to write. This concept survived during the Special Period [after the collapse of the Soviet Union] as a lifeguard in an underground pool frequented by foreign concepts.
_MG_8499Arte politicarte, 2015
The Master said: “Driven by political maneuvering and content with punishments, the people become astute and lose shame. Led by virtue and moderated by rites, they develop a sense of shame and participation.” Entrepreneurship (el cuentapropismo) will evolve a way to sell, on the black market, boxes with “virtue” and “moderating rites” so that once they are sampled, it will be necessary to develop the sense of shame and participation. If the words I’m going to write are not more beautiful than a sheet of paper, then I will not write. A white sheet (blanco) is ugly (fea).

Articidio, 2015
This work, full of the optimistic conceit of bipolar disorders, moves through the swampy terrain between suicide and homicide, and brings us back to post-Satorian or Nirvanic experiences, as applicable. The author, during ritual practices related to the fine art of seppuku (harikiri, not to be confused with hareKrisna, the god of the Yoruba pantheon) has deconstructed the aesthetic category of suicide, to masterfully innovate the neologism “Articidio” (of the masculine gender, said of the union in concubinage between “art” and “suicide”). The delicate detail of the cut, in the manner of the stylist Lucio Fontana, cannot pass unnoticed, as in the best tradition of slashing wrists, heiress to a “friki” subculture,” and to the rhythm of chords by the solo diva of Evanescence or Emonescene.
_MG_8509Installation view of the exhibition, with, at left: When you’re down almost all step on you; rear wall,You’re a prisoner and you do not know; and what do I know?; and at right, Arte y sanía, 2015.

Lázaro Saavedra: Base / Superestructura was presented at the Wifredo Lam Center of Contemporary Art February 16-March 16, 2016. 


havana-live-AniplantHAVANA, march 31th Cuba has been all over the news these past couple of months with a return visit from Pope Francis in February and visits from President Obama and the Rolling Stones in March. We hope these recent visits by celebrities mean that there are improvements in living conditions for the people, and for the animals.

The most immediate impact of these high-profile visits is that areas around the venues are scrubbed clean. While we can all appreciate fresh paint and clean streets, our hearts break for the animals on the streets who are collected like trash.

Some are strays who never had a home, and some are pets who happened to be out for a walk alone at the wrong time. Regardless, they end up in the same place, with no hope. The vast majority are killed. It hurts. It angers us. And it motivates us.

Aniplant and The Aniplant Project are united in the mission of helping the animals of Cuba by:

Preventing unwanted animals with spay/neuter programs
Educating about the need for spay/neuters
Promoting general health care and welfare for animals
Assisting refuges
Intervening in cases of animal suffering

It is a long road. There are many, many needs.

The Aniplant Project and Aniplant  teams see and hear a lot of hard things. Things that, as animal lovers, hurt our souls and shatter our hearts. Your many kind words of encouragement and support mean the world to us. Muchas gracias.

And thanks to supporters like you, we’ve started off 2016 with great momentum! Thanks to you:

Hundreds of animals have been sterilized. Hundreds of pounds of donated supplies have arrived at Aniplant.
Hundreds of people have become aware of Aniplant and the plight of the animals of Cuba, due to more travelers and supporters sharing stories.

Like Spring gives us fresh hope, we hope all these visitors to Cuba bring reconciliation for the people, and kindness for the animals. We continue to work hard for improvements in the lives of the animals in Cuba.

Thank you for your support.

The Aniplant Project Team

havana-live-wifiHAVANA,march 31th   An average of 200,000 people a day access the Internet from Cuba’s 85 public Wi-Fi hotspots, executives of state telecom monopoly Etecsa said.

The figure is up from 150,000 users a day in December.

Jorge Luis Legra, Etecsa’s director for strategic programs, said on state television that the company has already created a score of new hotspots since Jan. 1 and plans to establish at least 60 more over the course of this year. Etecsa will also open 100 new Internet cafes in 2016, he said.

The Wi-Fi hotspots are one of Etecsa’s most popular programs to increasing connectivity in Cuba, which has one of the world’s lowest levels of Internet penetration.

Legra said the results of a pilot program to provide residential Internet service in Havana remain inconclusive, adding that offering home access to the Web would require a major investment.

Currently, the Cuban government limits home access to the Internet to members of a handful of professions, including medicine, journalism and academia. Etecsa was operating 345 Internet cafes nationwide – equipped with 11,187 computers – as of the end of last year, Legra said.

Google recently opened its first technology center in Cuba in the Havana studio of artist Alexis Leyva, better known as Kcho, offering no-cost access to the Internet at much faster speeds than those normally available on the island.

 The Google + Kcho.Mor center will give Cubans a chance to familiarize themselves with the latest generation of gadgets from the U.S. technology giant, such as the cardboard virtual reality goggles for use with mobile devices Etecsa is providing the Internet connection, though at much faster speeds than those available at its public Wi-Fi hotspots.


havana-live-Obama US Cuba(3)

Miami billionaire Jorge Perez talks with President Barack Obama at an entrepreneurship event at La Cervecería in Havana on Monday. PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS AP

Mojitos, strawberry daiquiris and hand towels awaited the well-heeled guests that strolled into the Saratoga Hotel. The lobby felt like the airy foyer of a Havana country clubhouse of old — right down to its members:
Almost all hailed from Miami.
Hugs and backslaps, handshakes and introductions. Half the men sported blue blazers and khakis; the other unwrapped matching guayaberas in picture-perfect baby blues and pale pinks.

If you panned across the room at any given moment this week, you had to blink twice to make sure you weren’t in a hotel in Brickell. There was developer and tech entrepreneur Manny Medina. And healthcare magnate Mike Fernandez. And condo king Jorge Pérez. Attorneys Pedro Freyre and Ralph Patino. Big Sugar’s Andres Fanjul.
Businessman Carlos Saladrigas. Former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Paul Cejas helping himself to brunch. Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez hopping on an elevator with businessmen Enrique Sosa and Ariel Pereda.

“This is literally a 45-minute flight away,” said Joe Arriola, the Miami-Dade County Public Health Trust chairman, who was also at the Saratoga. He pointed to communist regimes in faraway China and Vietnam. In Cuba, he maintained, “Things are going to change so much faster.”

Miami’s Cuban-American business elite spent spring break in Havana, chasing President Barack Obama. Some took part in official White House events. Others lingered in the periphery, witnessing history — and trying to figure out how to prod it along with the power of their wallets.

Don’t call it a vacation.
“I’m going to work. I’m not going there to play,” Fernandez, who gave some of the others a lift to Havana aboard his private plane, said the day he departed Miami. “I don’t drink, and I’m a lousy dancer, so I’m not going there to play.”

A few years ago, many of the businessmen — several of them lifelong Republicans — would have refused to set foot in Havana, much less consider investing there. Now they’re amongthe most prominent proponents of the Democratic president’s push for renewed U.S. cooperation with Raúl Castro’s regime. Several met with Obama at the White House the week before the president’s trip and offered ideas for what he might say in Havana. He took up many of them, the Cuban Americans said with satisfaction Tuesday after watching Obama deliver his speech in person.

They’ve got big-name company. Also traveling to Cuba for an entrepreneurship event Obama held at an Old Havana brewery Monday were a slew of CEOs from national companies such as the Marriott and Starwood hotel chains, PayPal, Xerox and Air BnB.

The bigwigs were hardly alone. Regular Miamians made their way to Havana over the past few days too — because of Obama, but also to watch the Tampa Bay Rays play the Cuban national team, or catch the Rolling Stones, or spend Easter with Havana friends and family.

He decided to go the same week I was going to go,” said 51-year-old Carlos Delgado, a tutor who left Cuba in 1985. He planned his trip months ago and was delighted he’d coincided with the president — and the Stones: “Such an important week!”

The biggest days on Cuba’s political calendar in recent memory would have felt somehow incomplete without the robust presence of exiles who wrestled for decades with the pain of seeing their old home slip into totalitarianism. Yet seeing part of the Cuban-American old guard there — the one still oft-derided on Cuban state-run television — seemed striking.

“Taking these positions 10-15 years ago in Miami was not a popular thing,” said Patrick Hidalgo, 37, who worked in the Obama administration. “I’ve had people scream at me for discussions that now would seem extremely benign.”

Hidalgo confessed to initial “mixed feelings” about Obama’s Cuba trip. But he came around and accepted an invitation to his Havana speech. He stayed with a cousin in Havana — “That’s kind of how me and my family keep our pulse on what’s going on with people in Cuba” — and noted many South Florida acquaintances hoped to make it to the island themselves.

“It’s been shocking,” he said. “Me and my sister joke around that we could open up a Cuba travel agency just from the sheer number of friends that hit us up for advice. They don’t just want to stay in Varadero,” the famous beach, he said. “They want something even more meaningful.”

Average Cubans, particularly more recent arrivals in the U.S., have been traveling back and forth between both countries for years, in some cases spending U.S. government benefitsback on the island. The elite that clung to its refusal to engage for so long is merely playing catch-up.

The difference is their clout.
Most of the Miami businessmen are on a first-name basis with Cuban foreign ministry officials and leaders of the U.S. embassy. They get invited to private meetings. They see historic Old Havana as an untapped opportunity — for Cubans or foreigners — to build fancy shops and seaside condos. They insist political change — democracy — will follow, roiling hard-liners back in Miami who first want the release of political prisoners and the guarantee of crucial freedoms.

Meantime, the members of the new Cuban-American establishment squeeze in art-gallery tours and jogs along the Malecón seawall. They congregate under one roof at the Saratoga, with its massage treatments, rooftop pool and Freixenet bottles — and its reliable stream of suspected state-security lookouts. They enjoy a breakfast-buffet feast of delicacies most Cubans can only dream of: smoked salmon, prosciutto, dates, figs, four types of soft cheeses.

“To think we can have unlimited food and they’re rationed? Yeah, it bothers me,” Miami Beach Commissioner Ricky Arriola, who made the trip separate from his father, said one morning. “But in the end, by pushing for change, we’re doing the right thing.”

HAVANA, march 8th (HT) Havana’s Parque del Cristo (“Christ Park”) – whose name, apparently, is owed to the church that bounds with it, located between Bernaza and Villegas streets, Old Havana – was finally liberated.

I say “liberated” because, after 2 or 3 years of being fenced in due to construction work, the metal sheets that prevented pedestrians from crossing the area have been removed.

Cutting across the park always shortens your journey by a few meters, affording you a bit of respite. The park also affords children a place to play, the elderly a place to meet and a space that is more or less pleasant when compared to the habitual hectic pace of the four streets that meet in this section of town.

The park had been kept behind fences till recently, and this situation had become more natural than familiar for us. In addition to missing the park, many of us hated the constant clouds of dust lifted there and the heavy traffic of cars, bicycle taxis, pedestrians, carts and street vendors, which cut across a narrow strip of dirt road and a pot-hole-ridden street corner, where one was liable to stumble and hurt oneself.

When it was closed up, the park was no longer the enjoyable place it was in less precarious and hasty times, as its green areas were marked by the footprints of those who went back and forth in their work, who had created new dirt paths to shorten distances. This was coupled with evident neglect (which affects the neighborhood in general), made worse by the bad habits of the locals.

Now, the park has been redesigned and pedestrian crossings have been widened, to the detriment of green areas, partially covered up by tiles used to cover much of the area. There are more benches available and some of the older trees have been maintained, while others have been taken down (or so they tell me) and yet others newly planted. Apparently, the latter haven’t yet grown accustomed to their new environment.

In addition to the new wooden benches, they have set up concrete seats and tables with chessboards, a contribution from the Barrio Habana project. They also built a chessboard on the ground using tiles.

When I walked past the place, the young members of the La Casa del Arbol project were there, interacting with park-goers, playing a guitar and drums, which they let children beat as well.

The members of the Barrio Habana community project were also there to promote the game of chess with the giant board. In this connection, one of the members, Pavel Garcia, told me they played an important part in restoring the park, next to local authorities, and that they have the intention of restoring other parts of the neighborhood to make them more accessible to the community, change their reality and bring people together, aims they also pursue by organizing community projects for children and the elderly.

The locals say that, since the closing of the park, several construction work teams or brigades had gone to the area to try and complete the work, and that the last to arrive was the one that, in six months’ time, had finished the work (which was complete three months ago and is about to be inaugurated).

They say they still need to install more street lamps and that, despite the fact they brought a water tanker truck to clean up the park, the dust and dirt in their homes has not yet been removed, as there is still cement and debris out on the street. They also tell me many of them have to keep their windows and doors closed, as they also do not have enough water to clean their homes as often as this requires.

They add that, in the past three days, the park has been full during the day, night and early morning. Apparently, people are celebrating its reopening.

The park is also a means of access to the Santo Cristo del Buen Viaje Church, home to the Jorge Arturo Vilaboy Viñas Secondary School, so there’s always many people gathered there, particularly teenagers, during different times of day.

Now, we will have to wait and see whether the quality of the work completed, through the care of the park and the reeducation of locals, can be maintained, and that this does not become the step forward prior to the two steps back, not after the neighborhood has waited so long to see the park reopened.

The article was original published in Havana Times

havana-live-zika-virus-webHAVANA ,march 16th (AP) Cuban officials announced Tuesday night that they have detected the first case of the Zika virus transmitted inside the country, ending Cuba’s status as one of the last nations in the hemisphere without domestic cases of the disease that has been linked to birth defects.

State media said a 21-year-old Havana woman who had not traveled outside Cuba was diagnosed with the virus after suffering headaches, fatigue and other symptoms. On Monday, her blood tested positive for Zika. She remains hospitalized.

Cuba had previously reported a handful of cases of the disease in people who had traveled to countries with outbreaks of the mosquito-borne virus, particularly Venezuela, and appeared to have contracted it there.

Cuba has close ties to Venezuela, a fellow socialist country that sends hundreds of millions of dollars a year in subsidized oil in exchange for Cuban medical assistance that sees many thousands of people travel between the two countries annually.

Zika is being investigated as a possible agent in cases of microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with unusually small heads and brain damage, and also in cases of Guillain-Barre, a rare condition that sometimes results in temporary paralysis.

Cuba has thrown more than 9,000 soldiers, police and university students into an effort to fumigate for mosquitoes, wipe out the standing water where they breed and prevent a Zika epidemic.

President Raul Castro has called on the nation to battle lax fumigation and trash collection, turning the Zika fight into a test of the communist government’s once-legendary ability to marshal the entire country behind efforts ranging from civil defense to bigger sugar harvests to disease prevention.

In recent days the streets of Havana have been crisscrossed by teams of green-clad soldiers fumigating houses with mosquito-killing fog. Residents of the capital say fumigators no longer accept excuses of allergies or requests to spray some other day, as frequently happened in the past.

Still, neighborhoods like Central Havana, where the patient in Tuesday’s case lives, are filled with decaying buildings, piles of uncollected trash and pools of standing water.

havana-live-eight_col_Hokule'a_canoe_cropHAVANA, march 12th (viconsortium.com) Legendary traditional Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokulea is back on the ocean to set sail for Havana. The vessel departed Saba Rock on Friday at 9:00 a.m. after having spent seven days here.

The crew most recently engaged with Ocean Elder and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, and discussed ocean conservation efforts. The British Virgin Islands is 6 hours ahead of Hawaii time.

Pwo navigator Kalepa Baybayan is gearing up the crew to prepare for strong winds and brisk weather, the greatest challenges of this leg of the voyage. The trip is approximately 1,080 nautical miles from BVI to Havana, which could take the canoe about a week to reach Cuba.

“We are happy to be part of the pioneers as we begin to form this new partnership and relationship with Cuba,” said Baybayan. “We are very excited to have that opportunity to participate; part of that journey is learning about the indigenous people and culture of Cuba, both modern and old.”

From Cuba, Hokulea plans on routing her trip back to the US mainland, with an estimated arrival in Florida at the end of March. She is scheduled to arrive in New York City by June 8, 2016 to be part of the United Nations’ World Oceans Day.

2016-02-23-1456245189-7268265-IMG_5553A-thumbHAVANA, Feb. 26th The Entrepreneurship column of the New York Times Business Section featured a story on Liz Powers, a Harvard sociology graduate who, along with her brother Spencer, founded ArtLifting, a for-profit, Boston-based start-up. Its mission: to enable “disenfranchised artists to sell their work, enhance self-esteem, and change their lives.”

The story reminded me of my January 2016 interview with Cuban artist Samuel Riera whose Havana based home-studio focuses on art outside the mainstream, Art Brut and Outsider Art. Strongly influenced by Jean Dubuffet’s concept of Art Brut–art made by outsiders with no formal training–Riera began to research the artwork of people with mental disabilities. “In Cuba, that meant people living in institutions but also people living with their families, at home in society.”

“Most psychiatrists in Cuba see the artwork of people with mental disabilities as a kind of art therapy,” Riera said. “But we don’t! We don’t modify their art. We don’t change their way of thinking. These people have the capacity to grow,” he said. “They have an ability, not a disability.”

Riera works with the families, creating bank accounts for the artists, and providing them with workshops and with materials. Often, he brings them to the studio where they receive lunch and free transport back and forth. Over the past three years, they have worked with 40 to 50 artists. The studio takes 20 percent of all sales but uses the money to buy materials for the artists.

Riera, who once taught at the San Alejandro School of Art, also sells his own paintings in the gallery. Included in works on display were several paintings from a series called Obedientes, where there are no faces on the children. “Children here–in the educational system,” he said critically, “have to swear in some ceremony, when they are about eight years old, that they will be like Che.” Groupings of Riera’s painted, faceless wooden children, about three inches high, are displayed on a nearby ledge.

Riera speaks passionately about the work of his several of his artists: Damian Valdes Dilla, a schizophrenic who lives at home. There’s a video of Valdes at work with an English translation. In a side gallery, there are several of Valdes’ extraordinary fold-out books which sell for $500 and his city-like constructions made out of found objects.

Nearby, is the work of another artist, Boris Santamaria, who once was homeless and who lived on the street for years. Santamaria paints people with blood streaming down their faces. Crowded on a shelf in the gallery, are his dolls, blood running down their heads. There are landscapes where the twisted tree trunks and roots are menacing. The work is powerful and, definitely, unsettling.

Riera is trying to sustain the project and to make it grow. So far, there has been no money from the government and sales are irregular. There’s hope, though. With President Barak Obama’s impending visit, with Americans flooding Havana, and with growing global interest in Cuban art, perhaps this is the moment when those on the margin can be included; when their art can be understood for what it is, talent, not just therapeutic release.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/roslyn-bernstein/outsider-art-cuban-style-_b_9298478.html 2016-02-23-1456243571-6656549-IMG_5546A-thumb2016-02-23-1456243604-4484232-IMG_5543A-thumb2016-02-23-1456243464-4589417-IMG_5568A-thumb2016-02-23-1456243539-6341058-IMG_5562A-thumbAll photos: Shael Shapiro

havana-live-south-westHAVANA, Feb. 21th  Houston’s two dominant airlines are seeking approval to offer scheduled flights to Cuba.
On Tuesday, U.S. and Cuban officials signed an agreement previously announced in December that will restore scheduled air service between the countries.
United Airlines said in a statement that it will apply for flights between some of its global gateways and Havana.

Henry Harteveldt, founder of San Francisco-based Atmosphere Research Group, a travel industry research company, said it is possible that United will offer flights from Houston to Cuba, but the airline will ultimately choose airports based on the largest market opportunity.

Southwest Airlines will also contend for the coveted flights.

“Today’s signed agreement allows us to engage in a process to consider that service,” Southwest said in a statement. “We don’t have specific plans to share but are actively evaluating scenarios that work within our current growth plans.”

With the new agreement, each country can operate up to 20 daily round-trip flights between the U.S. and Havana. It also allows up to 10 daily round-trip flights to Cuba’s nine other international airports. In total, U.S. carriers can operate up to 110 daily round-trip flights to Cuba. Airlines must submit their applications by March 2.

The arrangement does not limit charter services, and these flights can continue as before.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said in an email that there are 10 to 15 charter flights a day between the countries.

“We are excited to announce the availability of new scheduled air service opportunities to Cuba for U.S. carriers, shippers and the traveling public, and we will conduct this proceeding in a manner designed to maximize public benefits,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in a news release.

Traveling to Cuba as a tourist is still prohibited.

The Houston Airport System said airlines will have to determine if service can be initiated between Houston and Cuba, but it is “excited about the opportunity to be a part of this historic expansion.”

“We have said from the beginning that we would support any of our carrier partners in this venture, and we are ready to do that now that the door to make it possible is open,” Saba Abashawl, chief external affairs officer for the Houston Airport System, said in an email.