Tag Archive for: Havana

havana-live-intercaribbean airwaysHAVANA, Feb. 8th InterCaribbean Airways announced the launch of a new nonstop service to Havana’s Jose Martí International Airport (HAV), from Providenciales (PLS), Turks & Caicos Islands, commencing on May 3, 2016.

With this new nonstop service to Havana from Providenciales, as well as connections from numerous cities in the Caribbean, interCaribbean makes the journey to Cuba, the fastest of any airline within the region.

Seeing the demand for services to Cuba, interCaribbean Airways launched new nonstop services and provides timed 45 minute connections to Cuba, from centrally located Turks & Caicos.

“With People to People visits from the United States, and new categories of travel for USA citizens, interCaribbean is well placed to facilitate entry to Santiago, and now to Havana, as we serve two of the most important cities of the country”, said Lyndon R. Gardiner, Chairman of interCaribbean Airways.

Based in the Turks & Caicos Islands, interCaribbean has served travelers in the Caribbean since 1991, celebrating 25 years of history this month of February 2016. The company operates a fleet of EMB 120, Twin Otter and BE99 aircraft, connecting the Turks & Caicos Islands with Antigua, Bahamas, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and British Virgin Islands; totaling 18 Caribbean cities.

724348A8-F336-4273-B1DB-D47AEE76707E_mw640_mh360_sHAVANA, Feb 3 (PL) The Castillo del Morro (Morro Castle) Regatta started Wednesday at the shore of the Cuban coast of Havana, from the estuary of the Almendares River, up to the Bay of Havana, with the participation of several ships from the United States.

Jose Miguel Diaz, Commodore of the International Ernest Hemingway Club in Havana, stated, in a moment with the national press, that this is not the first time the regatta is being celebrated, but it is the first with the participation of the US.

The event is a sort of final complement -in Cuban waters- for the Republica de La Concha Regatta, which started on January 28 in the Florida Keys, from where several ships sailed down to the Marina Gaviota Varadero in the east of the Cuban capital.

Later, on February 1st, the crafts continued its way towards the Marina Hemingway, with the Varadero-Havana Regatta.

Nevertheless, the calendar of the Castillo del Morro Cup, foreseen initially until Friday, February 5th, was reduced out to only a day of competitions because of the bad weather predicted for the next hours in Havana – a cold front comes, according to meteorological reports-.

After finishing the above mentioned ditch in the bay of Havana, the crafts departed in the evening towards Key Bone, south of Florida.

This contest showed the development of the recreational seamanship in Cuba, and also it served to reaffirm the new way that there cover the United States and the island on the subject of bilateral relations.

For 2016, there is a plan for regattas, and other activities, only with the participation of the US ships, besides the traditional tournaments in Cuba with the participation of French and Spanish ships.

havana-live-TROMPOLOCO CIRCUS_0HAVANA, Feb 3 (PL) Havanas Trompoloco tent, one of the main circus headquarters in Cuba will become a cultural center from next Friday to converge the most diverse artistic expressions.

According to the announcement made today by the popular Cuban actress Blanca Rosa Blanco, appointed director general and host of the emerging artistic project, the musical group selected for the inaugural concert will be Alexander Abreu and Habana de Primera, considered one of the best dance music of the country today.

“We will work so that this initiative has a distinctive features on this common area, including musicians and actors, as it is also a permanent work offer for these artists and as of course the circus manifestations will also take place there, “said Blanco on the cultural project.

We are already working in a TV commercial, as well as the possibility to make reservations online through our website from anywhere on the planet, she said.

‘We have been dreaming about this proposal for years and we have a chronic enthusiasm about it, because the place is air-conditioned and has an impeccable sound system, the perfect conditions to carry out the project “, concluded Blanco.

With capacity for 1.500 people, Trompoloco Tent Cultural Center has the necessary conditions for a multidisciplinary show that will also include theater and shadow play.

havana-live-internetHAVANA, Feb. 1th (AAP) Cuba is set to launch a broadband pilot project in Havana aimed at eventually bringing home access to one of the world’s least connected nations.

State telecommunications company ETECSA said on Sunday it would allow Cubans in Old Havana, the colonial centre that is one of the island’s main tourist attractions, to order service through fibre optic connections operated with Chinese telecom operator Huawei.

Odalys Rodrguez del Toro, ETECSA director for Havana, told state media the government would also begin allowing cafes, bars and restaurants to begin ordering broadband service.

Del Toro offered no timeline for the pilot project or rollout of broader access and said prices would be announced in the future.

Still, any fibre-optic home connections would be an important milestone in Cuba, where home broadband is legal only for diplomats and employees of foreign companies who pay hundreds of dollars a month for links that are a fraction of the average speed in other countries.

Some Cuban citizens have dial-up home service or restricted mobile phone connections that allow access only to state-run email.

General public access to broadband internet began only last year, with the opening of dozens of public WiFi spots that cost $2 an hour. That is about a tenth of the average monthly salary in Cuba.

Del Toro said ETECSA would open 30 more WiFi spots in Havana alone in 2016, which by itself would double the number of access points in Cuba. She did not say how many more were planned for other cities.

havana-live-abbas-kiarostamiHAVANA, Jan. 27th Committed to helping develop aspiring filmmakers and attracted by the nostalgic feel of Cuba, Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami has inaugurated a workshop at Havana’s International School of Film and Television, where he stressed the benefits of being forced to create amid a lack of resources.

“For me personally, the limitations helped me,” said Kiarostami, who has forged a 37-year career in a country that, like the Communist-ruled island, has been the target of a U.S. sanctions regime.

The Iranian filmmaker, who has spent much of the past 20 years giving workshops all over the world, hailed the quality of the graduates of Havana’s International School of Film and Television, founded 30 years ago by the late Colombian Nobel literature laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, yet he also stressed that instructors’ role was not to impart knowledge to students.

“Cinema can’t be taught or learned. Like all art, it’s the result of curiosity or an inquiry. All I do in the workshops is guide the students to find answers to their questions,” said the director, whose “Taste of Cherry” was awarded the Palme d’Or prize at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

Asked about the warmer relations that the United States has pursued with both Iran and Cuba under the Obama administration, Kiarostami said these processes were still very recent and needed time to be analyzed before they could be brought to the big screen.

Though now in the latter stages of his illustrious career, the 75-year-old said he was now returning to experimental short films like those he made as a young director in the early 1970s, summoning up the energy that he had then and which he hopes will inspire his students.

During the workshop, which starts on Tuesday and will run until Feb. 5, the 45 participants from 25 countries will be able to make a short film under the guidance of Kiarostami, known as a “poet of the cinema” for images that show the influence of his studies of Persian verse.

“If I teach you to make films, you’ll limit yourself to repeating what I do, and then where’s your personality? I’m only going to guide you,” Kiarostami told his students.

The director will help the young people find locations for shooting and draw upon local acting talent to cast their films, the best of which will be presented at international film festivals, where the Iranian director’s works are always well-received.

“Kiarostami is a point of reference for many of us. He’s a poet of cinema. This is a workshop that’s going to transform the way in which we confront audiovisual narrative,” the Dominican Republic’s Pablo Lozano, one of the aspiring filmmakers selected to participate in the workshop, told EFE.

Lozano, who graduated from the International School of Film and Television with a specialization in documentary cinema, said Kiarostami’s workshop would help channel his efforts to complete his first feature-length picture, in terms of “narrating the story from the viewpoint of the character as opposed to my own.”

Although cinema heavyweights including Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Costa-Gavras and Spike Lee have visited that Havana film school, Kiarostami’s workshop is the first of its kind to be held at the prestigious academy.

Kiarostami on Monday in Havana received the Tomas Gutierrez Alea International Film Prize, which is awarded by the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. EFE

Havana-live--chinatownHAVANA, Jan.25th  By Robin Fall (South China Morning Post) Cuba’s Barrio Chino in Havana is one of the oldest Chinatowns in Latin America. Yet this once vibrant neighborhood has been in decline for decades. Many Cubans of Chinese descent fled the island soon after Fidel Castro¹s 1959 revolution.

Louis Chan, 61, is a painter and designer in Havana. His parents emigrated from Guangdong, China, to escape hardship and seek their fortune.

“What would one like?” asks Chan. “The return of those old prosperous times with the aromas of foods, with the natural fragrances of an Asian place, and with the customs, but to get all that back we need a new wave of Chinese coming to Havana.”

Havana-Grand-Prix-2016-CubaHAVANA, Jan. 24th (Pedro Lasuén, euronews) “Day 2 of the Havana Grand Prix here in Cuba and with two athletes on top of the podium, Israel looks in control and has clearly signalled its intention to take part in the Olympic Games.”

Israel sends clear message to rivals
Israel’s Yarden Gerbi produced a stunning performance to clinch the women’s under 63 kilo category. The 2013 World Champion, who was up against local hope Maricet Espinosa in the showpiece match, triumphed thanks to this impressive waza-ari.

Gerbi’s compatriot Linda Bolder handed Israel its second gold medal of the day after downing Hungarian sensation Szabina Gercsak in the under 70 kilo final. The 27-year-old was made to battle hard throughout the contest and triumphed by yuko while Azerbaijan’s Rustam Orujov also had to dig deep in the men’s under 73 kilo category.

The World number One, a big favourite going into the Havana Grand Prix, faced the 2013 World bronze medallist Victor Scvortov, who showed the Cuban crowd his fighting spirit.

Orujov got off to a slow start and conceded an early yuko before stepping it up a gear with a devastating counter-attack for a waza-ari, enough to seal the win.

In the under 81 kilo class, World number eight, Khasan Khalmurzaev kept his composure to defeat America’s Travis Stevens in the final. The Russian looked in great shape and clinched the title with an early waza-ari.

The bronze medals were won by Hungary’s Laszlo Csoknyai and Roman Moustopoulos of Greece.

Future Champion?
The second day of competition was marked by Szabina Gerscsak’s courage in the under 70 kilo class. The current Junior World Champion reached the final bout and although she lost against Bolder, judo fans are now aware of the fact that she has the potential to clinch a world title.


In this Jan. 15, 2016 photo, “House of Lies” actors Don Cheadle and Josh Lawson, right, sit at the bar counter in Bodeguita Del Medio during the filming of an episode, in Havana, Cuba. The producers of Showtime’s dark comedy “House of Lies” had $3 million and a mission: shoot the first episode of scripted American television in Cuba in more than half a century. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)

HAVANA, Jan. 22th. (AP) The producers of Showtime’s dark comedy “House of Lies” had $3 million and a mission: shoot the first episode of scripted American television in Cuba in more than half a century.

With less than a week to shoot the entire fifth-season finale on the chaotic streets of central Havana, director Matthew Carnahan told his just-hired Cuban crew that they’d be skipping their full lunch break to make up time the first two days.

“You know what? That’s not going to work,'” the assistant director responded. “You don’t do a walking lunch here.”

The full lunch breaks got taken. And the shoot starring Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell wrapped up last week as part of a once-unimaginable surge of interest that could transform communist Cuba into a regular Hollywood location or fade rapidly due to the difficulty of working on the island.

A year after Presidents Raul Castro and Barack Obama declared detente, the mega-franchise “Fast and Furious” is awaiting U.S. and Cuban permission to shoot its eighth installment in Havana. There’s talk of a major U.S. car commercial shooting here. Actor Ethan Hawke said he wants to make a film in Cuba. “Papa,” an Ernest Hemingway biopic approved before detente was announced, premiered in Havana in December.

Until recently, Hollywood shooting in Cuba would have likely set off outrage among anti-Castro Cuban-Americans who say trade with Cuba feeds repression on the island.

The productions coming to Havana this year say White House staff have explicitly encouraged them as part of Obama’s new warming with Cuba. Preparing for anger in Miami was never part of the planning.

“It just didn’t factor into it,” Showtime president David Nevins said as he watched the shooting in Old Havana last week. “We’re slowly renewing relations and I think this show and the attitude that you’ll see within the show towards what’s going on with Cuba I think reflects where mainstream America is right now.”

Producers of “House of Lies” and other productions shot in Cuba said the 55-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba posed the primary obstacle to U.S. entertainment companies’ hopes to turn the island into a tropical backdrop. But particularly Cuban difficulties could also prevent U.S. productions from regularly working on the island.

“There’s a lot of stuff coming here,” Carnahan said. “Whether Cuba becomes a viable location on a regular ongoing basis rather than a novelty is up to both countries.”

The Cuban government demands script approval, only accepting productions that put the country in a good light. Charter flights from the U.S. remain unreliable, although regularly scheduled flights are slated to start soon.

There are so few international-quality hotel rooms that Cuba-based producers regularly cancel shoots due to lack of beds for cast and crew. “House of Lies” stars good-naturedly described missing sheets and paper-thin pillows at the hotel where they stayed, and shooting in the streets of Old Havana without the usual amenities.

“We don’t have trailers, which I really enjoy, because it strips down the production to just its bare necessities,” said Bell, the star of the teen detective series “Veronica Mars” and the voice of princess Anna in the mega-hit “Frozen.” “Our green room, per se, is usually someone’s house, someone’s home … We just walk. We go into shops and sit with people. You just sit down with people and talk to them.”

Weighed against that are actors and production staff that “House of Lies” producers described as impressively trained and well-prepared. The Americans are also thrilled at the backdrop of thousands of colonial and Art Deco buildings, most dilapidated from years of neglect, although Old Havana’s core is being painstakingly restored.

“Everywhere you point the camera is the most photogenic place you’ve ever seen,” Carnahan said.

“House of Lies” is about a team of ruthless management consultants who zip around the world making fortunes at the expense of their greedy, hapless clients who run major corporations.

Last summer, as its writers plotted out its fifth season, they realized that the wave of post-detente U.S. business interest in Cuba make it a natural subject for the show.160121121824-cuba-us-tv-location-2-exlarge-169

“They come down thinking that if they can be the pioneers to land the business deal that they see Cuba as, that it will be this unparalleled victory,” executive producer Jessika Borsiczky said. “They come down to really take over how Cuba’s going to run its business.”

In the script, which was reviewed and approved by the Cuban government, head consultant Marty Kaan and his team end up realizing the error of their hyper-capitalist ways.

“As they’re here their assumptions get stripped away and they realize there’s a lot more to the change in Cuba than just taking advantage of it,” Borsiczky said.

A “Fast and Furious” shoot would dwarf the “House of Lies” single episode, and could prove more ideologically tricky for Cuba. One of the most successful movie franchises in history, it has grossed billions worldwide with films that pay tribute to souped-up street-racing cars and carefully planned multi-million dollar heists.

Cuban officials did not respond to requests for comment. But ordinary Cubans watching the “House of Lies” shoot said they were happy to see American entertainers at work in Havana.

“It’s strange but good,” said Hilga Jimenez, a 58-year-old health worker who works for a state campaign against disease-carrying mosquitos. “They want to get closer to us, we want to get closer to them, and this way we get to know each other’s culture.”

havana-live-grand-prix-judo2016HAVANA, Jan. 22th  (Xinhua)  The Judo Grand Prix tournament with 428 athletes from 69 countries attending got underway in Havana on Thursday.

The competition is important as it will count towards the qualifying list for the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio De Janeiro.

The draw for the 14 divisions (men and women) took place on Thursday at the Melia Habana hotel and the president of the International Judo Federation (IJF), Romania’s Marius Vizer, gave a news conference.

Vizer arrived in the Cuban capital on Wednesday and this visit marks his third stay on the Caribbean island after he visited in June 2014 to participate in a similar competition and in September 2015 where he evaluated the preparations for the current tournament.

The competition schedule will begin on Friday in the Sport City Coliseum with fights in the 48, 52 and 57 kilogram categories for women and 60 and 66 kilograms categories for men.

The fights will continue on Saturday with the 63 and 70 kilograms categories for women and 73, 81 and 90 kilograms categories for men.

The tournament will conclude on Sunday with the 78 and over 78 kilograms categories for women and 100 and over 100 kilograms categories for men.

As hosts, Cuba will compete with four teams for each gender. The Caribbean country is led by Idalis Ortiz, Olympic monarch and two-time world champion in the over 78 kilograms category, and Asley Gonzalez, silver medallist in the 90 kilograms category and former world champion.

Among the foreign teams Brazil, the United States, Azerbaijan, France, the Netherlands, Russia, Mongolia and China stand out as wall as individuals from other nations.

In the men’s competition, great things are expected from Azerbaijanis Rustam Orujov (73kg) and Elmar Gasimov (100kg), who come in top of the world ranking, as well as various other world and Olympic medallists.

The women’s competition will also feature some stars from the sport such as Argentinian world champion Paula Pareto (48kg), Brazilian Sarah Menezes (48kg) and American Kayla Harrison (78kg). Menezes and Harrison both won gold medals at the London Olympics 2012.

The main goal of all the Cuban competitors is to get the largest amount of points for the Olympic 2016 classification which will grant 22 direct places for men and 14 for women, according to Ortiz.

The tournament in Havana will give 300 points for gold medal winners, 180 for silver medallists and 120 for bronze medallists.

For Cuban judo, the aim is to end up with 10 representatives – five men and five women – in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August.

The IJF’s Sports Director, Czech Vladimir Barta, said he was confident that Havana would be a “very good tournament” due to the level of the competitors and the rivalry. This generates ambition to win points for the world ranking ahead of the summer games.

Barta also praised the increased number of athletes and countries compared to the first edition in 2014, when 297 judokas participated from 40 nations.

In the 2014 edition, Cuba came in second place with two gold, two silver and four bronze medals. The women’s team had the best results (2 gold, one silver and 3 bronze medals). Georgia won the competition overall with 3 golds and two bronze medals.

This event has the largest country representation out of all single sport tournaments to ever have been organized by Cuba, according to local officials.

This edition will have a superior level especially as it is an Olympic qualification event, said Vizer.

“We are very focused so that our sport can become one of the main attractions at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” concluded Vizer.

havana-live-Black-Swan-Natalie-Portman-lHAVANA, Jan, 15th (EFE) Actress Natalie Portman, winner of an Oscar for playing the part of a ballerina in the 2010 film “Black Swan,” visited Havana and met with ex-ballerina and choreographer Alicia Alonso, sources at the National Ballet of Cuba, or BNC, the company the legendary artist founded and still directs, told EFE on Friday.

Also attending the private meeting at BNC dance studios was Portman’s husband, French choreographer and ballet dancer Benjamin Millepied, the current dance director at the Paris Opera Ballet, independent media on the island reported.

The couple also visited the mansion in Havana’s Vedado district to see rehearsals of the second act of “Giselle,” currently being staged by the BNC at Havana’s recently restored Gran Teatro.

According to the online site Oncuba, the Israeli-born actress of U.S. nationality went to the island in support of her friend, Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta, who is readying the debut of his own ballet company.

Acosta invited Portman to the temporary studios of the Cuban Ballet School, where the actress “observed the rehearsals and encouraged the dancers,” the note said.

Also to be seen online is a picture of the actress smiling as she poses with workers at the popular private restaurant La Guarida, while Vistamagazine features a photo of Alicia Alonso meeting with Portman, who holds her little son Aleph in her arms.

havana'live'don-cheadle-house-of-liesHAVANA, Jan. 6th Don Cheadle’s Showtime comedy “House of Lies” will film one episode of its fifth season in Havana, making it the first U.S. scripted series to film in Cuba since the countries’ diplomatic relations were restored last summer.

The dramedy stars Cheadle as a fast-talking and cunning management consultant who heads the firm Kaan & Associates. This season, he has his heart set on global domination as he tires with landing the fat-cat clients who have made him a mogul. This results in a trip to the City of Columns for him and his coworkers (aka his “Pod”) made up of Jeannie (Kristen Bell), Clyde (Ben Schwartz) and Doug (Josh Lawson).

The shoot is done in compliance with the U.S. Department of Treasury pursuant to an Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) license and follows all appropriate U.S. laws.

“Marty and the Pod have traveled the world to land clients,” said Cheadle. “But this historic trip to Cuba is definitely Kaan & Associates’ biggest and wildest adventure yet. It’s sure to be one for the record books, for both our characters and for our cast and crew. We’re grateful to Showtime, our production team and everyone who worked so diligently to make this trip happen.”

The fifth season of “House of Lies” premieres later this year. The series is produced by Showtime and was created by Matthew Carnahan, who exec produces along with Jessika Borsiczky, Cheadle and David Walpert.

This isn’t the only Showtime show to build bridges with foreign locations. Last year, spy drama “Homeland” filmed in Berlin after receiving a $1.1 million grant from German film and TV fund Medienboard.

Discovery Channel’s automotive-themed docu-series “Cuban Chrome,” which premiered in July, was the first U.S. series to film in Cuba since restored relations.


havana-live-meridianaHAVANA, Dec 21 (PL) The Italian airline Meridiana today launched its flights to Cuba to connect the cities of Havana and Verona, in code-sharing with Blue Panorama reported here the Ministry of Tourism (Mintur).

According to what the source confirmed, this operation Verona-Havana-Cancun has a weekly frequency and responds to the growing interest in the attractions of the Cuban archipelago in the environmental, cultural and historical sectors.

In its links with the island, Meridiana includes three other charter flights; for example, the Milan-Varadero-Santa Clara, with a weekly frequency, which started yesterday, in code-sharing with Blue Panorama.

The company plans to start the flights Milan-Rome-Havana-Rome-Milan and the Milan-Rome-Havana-Rome-Milan from this December 22, on a weekly basis, the Tourism Ministry informed.

To ensure the transportation, B767-300 aircrafts with capacity for 272 passengers will be used, and the last two flights mentioned will be for the MSC Opera cruise, the report indicated.

From these operations, the Italian visitors can connect with Cuba not only from Rome and Milan, but also from Verona, which will contribute to the promotion of tourist arrivals from that European country.

Mintur data show that from January to September 2015 Italians arrival to the island grew by 17.5 percent, compared to the same period last year.

The more recent International Tourism Fair in Cuba, held in May 2015, was dedicated to Italy; which helped to stimulate interest in the offers in this Caribbean nation, the body evaluated.

Without relinquishing the sun and the beach, ‘our destiny will show Italians visitors the security, culture, history and the rich nature that we possess’, said the report.

havana-live-Jazz-PlazaHAVANA, Dec 19th (ACN)  The expected 31st Jazz Plaza International Festival 2015 began on Thursday at Mella Theater with the presentation of maestro Ernán Lopez Nussa and his trio, along with The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, US group from New Orleans.

Until December 20, the event will welcome performers and ensembles from a dozen countries, including American guitarist Billy Gibbons, member of ZZ Top band, who will present in this capital his new solo production Perfectamundo, album that became tribute to Afro-Cuban jazz.

This phonogram by Gibbons, gestated with the rhythm of jazz made between Havana, New Orleans and New York, will be available to the public at venues such as the Cuban Art Factory and Mella Theater, where he will share with the musicians Roberto Fonseca and Temperamento.

Trombonist Steve Turre, percussionist Robbie Amin and Mongorama band will also come from United States, in addition to the groups Triple, from Austria; Organ Trio, from Argentina; Alafia, from Brazil and The Shuffle Demons, from Canada.

The local musicians involved in the event will be Roberto Carcasses, Harold Lopez-Nusa, Alain Perez and his Orchestra, Alejandro Falcon, William Roblejo, Yasek Manzano, Yissy Garcia and BandAncha, among others.

Alongside the presentations, the Cuba Pavilion will host the 11th International Colloquium on Jazz, which will be opened on the first day of the Festival with the conference: Apuntes sobre el jazz y el son: un vínculo histórico en la música cubana,, given by Master Pancho Amat.

tumblr_inline_nzd6ejrhvE1tgl2nu_540HAVANA, Dec.16th  Forget the Copacabana, forget the Tropicana — the hottest spot in Havana now is a former peanut oil factory turned art house. Fábrica de Arte Cubano is more than just a place to drink and dance the night away. It’s a premier cultural institution, hosting art installations, film festivals, and theater performances.

Fábrica isn’t exactly a hidden underground spot — if you don’t get there before 10 p.m., you’ll end up waiting in a line that wraps around the block. (The space holds 600 people.) But for a notorious hotspot, it’s incredibly diverse, inexpensive, fun, and cool. This edgy party space is, at any given moment, putting on the country’s most eclectic combination of entertainment options under one roof.tumblr_inline_nzd6ekQX9z1tgl2nu_540There are three multipurpose rooms for concerts, dance performances, lectures, and films. As you head through the hallways, music videos play on the walls and the odd patron dances along or lazily plays board games with friends. There may be a fashion show starting around 9:30, or a play. (Last month it was The Vagina Monologues.) A band usually kicks off around 11 p.m.  Maybe it’s rock, maybe it’s Afro-Cuban, sometimes it’s jazz.

Other partiers browse thought-provoking photography, paintings, and sculptures in the half-dozen exhibition spaces dedicated to art and design installations.

Food kiosks and bars are dotted throughout, where bottles of rum hang from the ceiling, dragged lazily along by a conveyor belt system. Underneath, bartenders mix strong cocktails for 2 Cuban convertible pesos ($2). (Stop for a piña colada on the ground floor. It’s a house specialty, sometimes mixed by the self-proclaimed “King of Piña Coladas.”) Or if you need a cup of strong Cuban coffee, you can get that too.

When you buy food or drinks, the server writes down your charge in a little square on a small, gridded card. It’s a nod to the Cuban libreta, or supplies booklet, that Cubans use to get their monthly rations of groceries and home goods. If you lose your card, you have to pay about 30 CUC ($30) to leave. (While that may seem like a good deal to the average tourist, keep in mind that the average Cuban makes about $20 per month.)

The crowd is diverse: young people hanging out, celebrities (think Katy Perry and Mick Jagger), and an ageless crowd of artists, musicians, intellectuals, and straight-up fun-seekers all under the same roof.tumblr_inline_nzd6ekjoVK1tgl2nu_540It’s all the brainchild of Cuban hip-hop and Afro-rock musician X Alfonso, who developed it with the support of Cuba’s Ministry of Culture. Alfonso based the concept on the home where he grew up. His parents, Carlos Alfonso and Ele Valdes, were the founding members of a famous Cuban band called Síntesis, which he later joined.

Speaking at a TEDx event, he described being a young child and “already being surrounded by artists in my father’s small house, which was the art factory. All of the artists would meet there, they’d watch movies together, listen to records together.”

Fábrica de Arte Cubano is his re-creation of that environment, where “people can be exposed to art, cinema, music, and workshops.”

The mix of DJs, dancing, and people-watching is more than enough to keep anyone entertained until closing. (Officially, opening hours are Thursday through Sunday from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., but people have been known to keep going much later.)

Before you head out, you can grab a strong cup of Cuban coffee — after all, 3 is early when you’re on Cuban time. Or, if you didn’t lose your drink card, you may still have enough local currency left over for a taxi ride home in a classic car.tumblr_inline_nzd6elFPtd1tgl2nu_540


Two (1)

Duncan Muggoch, Game of Thrones producer who supervised the location scenes in Croatia of the fourth season and in Spain of the fifth season.

HAVANA, Dec 15th It happened late at night, in one of Havana’s most popular private cultural centers. When an image of Our Lady of Charity next to the Cuban Art Factory (FAC) is illuminated, one can assume that the evening has just started.

Few realized when the group of U.S. film producers, screen writers and directors slipped in. They didn’t make a triumphant entrance. They simply entered a private hall and gradually mixed with the crowd waiting to meet one of the producers of the world’s most-watched TV series — Game of Thrones.

Dozens of fans knew that they would see Duncan Muggoch, the producer who supervised the location scenes in Croatia of the fourth season and in Spain of the fifth season. But there was more.

The news is that, at this time of the Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana, HBO [made] a presence in Cuba for the first time.

In general, 2015 has been a year of “firsts” between Cuba and the United States, but always “in more than 50 years”: the first Secretary of State to visit the island; the first direct flights to Havana from New York, New Orleans, etc.; the first telephone companies to sign up with Cuba; the first ferryboat loaded with passengers; the first university to send its students, etc.

Kim Hammond, director of the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project and coordinator of this group of filmmakers, puts it this way: “This is a new math: the second power plus the third power equals one, a single greater force. Don’t forget that. And it doesn’t matter who is second or third.”

Kia Jam, founder and president of K. Jam Media.

Kia Jam, founder and president of K. Jam Media.

According to his calculations, the sequence of the digits does not change the result. And this is worth repeating, says this businessman.

“Let’s get started. We’ve come from far away,” said Kia Jam, founder and president of K. Jam Media, an independent company that has produced more than 30 films in the past 15 years. He was starting a cheerful exchange with the audience, after showing some audiovisuals. He was right; they had come from more than 50 years away.

“Why are you here?” was our first question to Kia Jam. We know that we know the answer but everyone has his own variant to the same question.

–“Cuba fascinates me. It is a place of marvelous people. Everyone I’ve met is very pleasant and I’ve felt very welcome. I like it because it has a graphic proximity to the United States. Obviously, from an architectural point of view, it’s a unique place. If I sought this anywhere else, I would have to build it, but I don’t have to, here. There would be many advantages to making a movie or a series here.”

We’re in the trailer reserved for them by the CAF.

“Do you think that there are concrete opportunities to work here?”
“In fact, I do, but we need to be very careful to take small and proper steps, because if a first major picture had a bad experience here, it would create a precedent, it would be bad for everyone else. So, we need to be careful when we embark on a joint project with the community of Cuban and non-Cuban directors, so we can be sure that we can build a good business here. It’s a fascinating place; I like it a lot. And the food is so good!”

“Do you think you can invest in Cuban cinema?
U.S. law may permit it but only with independent filmmakers who are making the Cuban films with the most international awards in recent years.”

“Absolutely. First, it is very difficult for us to come and invest a lot of money at this point, very difficult. But that’s changing. We had a very enjoyable conversation with the U.S. ambassador a few nights ago, when we told me about all those marvelous things that are changing.

“I think it’s going to take a little more time, but we’re always looking for new and good ideas, no matter where they come from: Beverly Hills, New York, Los Angeles, Cuba. That doesn’t matter. What matters is the good ideas, because that’s what sustains the business: fresh minds, people who bring new ideas. I believe that this is something that will definitely happen. It will just be a matter of time.”

“In other words, you’re scouting.”
“Yes, we’re scouting today, because if we see something we like, it could be the investment tomorrow. We’re not just having a good time. I believe that major opportunities exist.”

Kia Jam was in Cuba two years ago. On that occasion, he visited the International School of Cinema in San Antonio de los Baños and gave a lecture.

“I see those kids in the school and tell myself that they are tomorrow’s directors, the next Steven Spielberg or Francis Ford Coppola. So we want to reach them, to be part of their inspiration. And if we find something today that looks interesting, perhaps we can work on it in the future.”

“Do you know what ‘the package’ is?”
“Honestly, I don’t.”

“It’s a system of offline distribution that commercializes every kind of content (except for pornography and politics) without paying royalties. Even the series and movies shown on Cuban television are pirated. We have access to the latest U.S. productions two or three days after their commercial release.”

“We hope that that will change, because that’s the easy way.”

Of course, that is a problem for Kia and all those who, like him, engage in the business of cinema. We haven’t talked about quality or art; tonight, we’re only talking business.

“I kill myself working to do something that the rest of the world should buy. Why others don’t? I understand that right now things are complicated here. With time, as we learn more about you and your culture and your community of directors, Cuba (as a nation) will learn more about distribution, royalties and cinema as a business. I think we should learn from each other.”

Duncan explained that the mega-production of Game of Thrones is getting ahead of the books, so the team has had to “assume that Game of Thrones is an independent television story” with its own life. Someone in the audience asks the inevitable question.

“Is John Snow really dead?”

Snow is one of the characters in Game of Thrones who recently was apparently murdered. The massive reaction of fans worldwide has (according to speculations) led the producers to consider bringing him back. The modern version of The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

That concern, so often repeated in recent months, would have made Duncan a millionaire, he says, if he had earned one dollar for every time someone asked him about Snow.

His answer is a winner: “If you want to know if he really died, wait for the next season.”

Shortly after their brief appearance, the American visitors slipped away into the Havana night. After all, they were just scouting.Four

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HAVANA, Dec. 15th A couple months ago on the heels of Photo Plus in New York, a good friend of mine Clay Cook went to Cuba on a mission to capture images for a 20 page fashion editorial.

When I spoke to Clay about the impending project back in October, he explained that Havana is basically becoming a fashion center, at least in that part of the world. Though much of the country is still many decades behind the modern world, they are changing… and quickly.

Clay told me that the project consisted of capturing a twenty page fashion editorial as well as a large feature on the rich culture, communist government and society. “The production called for two five-day trips. The first mission would be to scout locations, meet and cast talent and lock down hanging details. The second trip would be the actual production; game time.”

Below you can see the behind the scenes images from the shoot, of which there are many, many more on Clay’s blog. CCP_7094

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Clay Cook began his creative career in the music industry and has built a reputable name as an award-winning, internationally published photographer and filmmaker, specializing in editorial and advertising photography. Cook’s work is featured frequently on world-wide photography blogs including Fstoppers, PetaPixel, ISO 1200 and SLRLounge and has been seen in publications such as USA Today, ESPN, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Modern Salon, American Salon, First For Women Magazine, Digital SLR Photography Magazine and Digital Photo Magazine among many others.

havana-live-ashton-martinOne of our first thoughts, as car lovers, when Cuba resumed diplomatic relationships with the US was: “what will happen to the cars?” It’s a well-known fact that Cuba is like a time-capsule for classic American cars, built prior to 1959.

HAVANA, Dec. 12th Sure, most of them don’t have the original engines and have been heavily modified – not in a good way – but they’re still wonderful pieces of history. Fellow car nut and Road & Track contributor Jonathan Ward feels the same, so he embarked on an amazing journey through the Cuban automotive landscape. He came away with some great stories… and a great barn find.

While in Havana, Ward met a woman who told him about an old Aston Martin left behind by a British official, who couldn’t export the car back to England. No cars manufactured in or before 1959 can be legally taken out of Cuba. The woman claimed to have it in a shed on her farm outside the city, and wanted to get some idea about the potential worth of the car, now that Cuba was starting to open up towards the outside world again.

So Ward went there a few days later and opened the doors to find a rare Aston Martin DB 2/4, of which less than 800 were produced, between 1953 and 1957. The car turned out to be even rarer than he first thought, as it was a left-hand drive 1958 model that came with a racing-spec engine.

Sadly, although Aston Martin confirmed the details about the original engine, this had, of course, been replaced. In the cruelest of fashions, a Lada engine was put in instead, along with Lada dash and steering column. The blasphemy!

Aston Martin even suspected that the car was in Cuba, but it couldn’t do anything about it. According to Ward, the company was glad to hear about the DB 2/4 being found but didn’t seem interested in its restoration. Although it would be an expensive and very difficult project, maybe Ward, a car restorer himself, can do something about the dusty jewel.

havana-live-american-airlinesHAVANA, Dec. 9th The first weekly charter flight connecting Los Angeles to Havana departs Saturday, reflecting the continued easing of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba.

American Airlines will launch the weekly nonstop flight with a Boeing 737. The Fort Worth-based airline already operates several charter flights to Cuba from Tampa, Fla., and Miami but the flight from Los Angeles International Airport will be the first from the West Coast.

The flights to Cuba will be sold by Cuba Travel Services.

The new flight is the latest signal that the nation’s airline industry is gearing up for an easing of travel restrictions to Cuba, announced by President Obama last year.

U.S. law still bars normal tourism to Cuba but new rules now allow ordinary Americans for the first time to visit under 12 broad categories without any advance U.S. government approval.
The twelve categories include visits to close relatives, attending academic programs, conducting professional research, journalistic or religious activities and participating in public performances or sports competitions.

A civil aviation agreement with Cuba would be needed before regular commercial flights could operate between the two countries.

American Airlines executives say they are looking forward to such an agreement.

“We stand ready to offer scheduled service as soon as the United States and Cuba allow commercial flights,” said Art Torno, a senior vice president at American Airlines.

The first flight will depart at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, following a ceremony attended by several airport officials and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

HAVANA, Sept. 20  ( Havana Times – dpa)  Pope Francis will celebrate mass on Sunday in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, one of the most anticipated events of his four-day visit to Cuba.

Tens of thousands of the faithful and supporters of the government of Raul Castro began arriving in the early morning hours to the Plaza in the central district of Vedado, converted for decades into a symbol of the Cuban revolution.

Following the open-air mass the Argentine pope is scheduled to hold an official meeting on Sunday afternoon with Cuban president Raul Castro.

Francisco’s predecessors, John Paul II (1998) and Benedict XVI (2012), also officiated mass in the Plaza of the Revolution, known for its huge relief image of the Argentine-Cuban guerrilla Ernesto “Che” Guevara placed on a nearby building.

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will also be in the square for the mass as a special guest of her Cuban counterpart Raul Castro.

Political opposition groups announced in advance that they also want to go to attend the mass. However, many fear that the authorities would not allow them to reach the square.

The situation of the Church has improved considerably since the 90s in Cuba, which clamped down on the church hierarchy after the triumph of the 1959 revolution.

Numerous Catholic priests had to leave the country in the years following the arrival of Fidel Castro to power.

Especially the visit of John Paul II in 1998 prompted the revival of the Catholic faith in the Caribbean island. The Catholic Church claims that 60 percent of Cubans are baptized, although only two percent regularly go to church, according to figures of the Cuban Episcopal Conference.

Francisco’s visit to Cuba has a high political profile do to his role of mediator in the rapprochement between the governments of Havana and Washington.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio will travel Tuesday September 22 directly from Santiago de Cuba to the United States as part of a nine-day itinerary symbolic linking both countries.

havana-live-pope francisHAVANA, 19 Sept.  (AP)   The latest developments in Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba and the United States. All times local:

5:21 p.m.

Francis is traveling through the streets of Havana, waving to excited crowds from the latest version of the iconic popemobile.

Thousands of Cubans are along the route from the Jose Marti International Airport to the home of the Vatican’s ambassador to Cuba, where the pontiff is to spend the night.Download

Many are waving Cuban and Vatican flags. Near the residence, a group of nuns is singing the Lord’s Prayer to the rhythm of traditional Cuban “son” music. One woman holds a sign that reads: “Francis, you bring us hope.”

There’s also a near-continuous line of security agents forming a human barricade.

4:50 p.m.

Pope Francis has been given a red-carpet welcome in Havana complete with a military honor guard and a handshake from a dark-suited Raul Castro.

Smiling children handed him flowers, and a band played the Cuban national anthem before Castro and then the pope took turns speaking.

Island church leaders were also on hand to greet the pontiff.

4:40 p.m.

Pope Francis is hailing detente between the United States and Cuba as a model of reconciliation. He urges Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro to continue working to build normal ties as the pontiff begins a 10-day tour of the former Cold War foes.

Francis served as mediator for the resumption of diplomatic relations this year. He says, “I urge political leaders to persevere on this path and to develop all its potentialities.”

Francis calls the negotiations that led to the reopening of embassies in Havana and Washington “an example of reconciliation for the entire world.”

At an airport arrival ceremony headed by President Raul Castro, Francis says he wants his greeting “to embrace especially all those who, for various reasons, I will not be able to meet” — a possible nod to political dissidents as well as average Cubans.

4:30 p.m.

Cuban President Raul Castro is praising Pope Francis’ critiques of the global economic system, saying it has “globalized capital and turned money into its idol.”

In a lengthy speech welcoming the pope at Havana’s international airport, Castro says Cuba’s communist government has “founded an equitable society with social justice.” He thanks the pope for mediating negotiations on detente between the United States and Cuba.

Castro is also calling for the end of the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba and the return of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

3:51 p.m.

Pope Francis has landed in Havana, launching a historic 10-day trip to Cuba and the United States after serving as secret mediator of the historic rapprochement between the former Cold War foes.

Cuban President Raul Castro is at the airport to welcome the pontiff, who will be offering a show of solidarity with Cubans and delivering a message in the United States that Hispanics are the bedrock of the American church.

2:45 p.m.

Hundreds of people are beginning to gather along the route where Pope Francis will travel when he arrives in Cuba.

They include five Salvadoran citizens waiting on a street closed to traffic in a leafy neighborhood of western Havana, where Francis is to overnight at the papal ambassador’s residence.

Sandra del Moreno traveled from San Salvador with four friends and was clutching the Central American nation’s flag.

The 51-year-old woman said “We love this pope, although we would have liked it if he had visited El Salvador.”

A block away three kids were playing with a ball made from rags.

Ten-year-old Kevin Duvergel and 9-year-old Marlos Duenas exclaimed in unison: “Pope Francis is going to pass by!”

1:55 p.m.

Not everyone in Havana is thrilled at being asked to turn out for the pope.

State-employed medical office worker Rafael Rivero says he’s not sure if he will come watch Francis’ motorcade, and many co-workers feel the same way.

org-mundial-turismoHAVANA,  Sep 16 (acn) When Cuba’s popularity grows in the global tourism market; this Caribbean island was elected venue of the 60th meeting of UNWTO Regional Commission for the Americas, convened for May 2016.

The Caribbean nation was chosen to host the important event, unanimously, in the framework of the UNWTO General Assembly, which runs by these days in Medellin, Colombia, and is attended by a Cuban delegation headed by Manuel Marrero, Cuban Tourism Minister.

According to a press release, the fact is irrefutable proof of the prestige and backing won by Cuba among UNWTO member countries. The note refers that Cuba has a large potential to develop in the current scenario of this sector, which grew by 17 percent so far this year regarding the arrival of foreign visitors, while it also increased the interest of investors from abroad.

” Cuba will continue offering tourism of peace, health and safety to our visitors and attaches great importance to the advancement of tourism and the bonds of friendship and cooperation that tourism allows to establish between the peoples and governments,” added the document.
After reaching the desired goal in 2014 of three million -record in the arrival of travelers-, reports of the current year are equally flattering to Cuba. According to official data, more than two million vacationers arrived in the Caribbean country from January to August, and it is expected by the end of 2015 to double that figure.

With a housing capacity that today is of 63,000 rooms -of which almost 70 percent are Four and Five stars-the island will continue investing to add new and better hotels in the coming years. Estimates indicate that by 2020, this infrastructure will reach 85,000 rooms.

The Caribbean archipelago also treasures 253 protected areas, 257 national monuments, 7 sites declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, 6 Biosphere Natural Reserves and 13 Wildlife Refuges, among many other areas of preferential tourism.

It is also connected by air with more than 50 cities worldwide through 36 international airlines operating to the main poles, including Havana, Varadero, Santa María Cay, Jardines del Rey, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba.

Also it has three cruise terminals, 39 international marinas, 7 international diving centers, facilities mostly immersed today in a strong investing process to revive the nautical mode in the country.


John Kavulich, president of the U.S. Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s travel to the island nation is likely to take place in early November in conjunction with the Havana International Trade Fair. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

HAVANA, Sept. 16  A small trade group focused on promoting American business ties with Cuba says Commerce Department Secretary Penny Pritzker, and possibly Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, are planning to visit Cuba this fall.

John Kavulich of the U.S. Cuba Trade and Economic Council said Pritzker’s travel to the island nation “perhaps” will take place in early November in conjunction with the Havana International Trade Fair.

The Commerce Department declined to comment about Pritzker’s possible travel plans. But during keynote remarks at an event sponsored by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and the Tampa International airport, Pritzker said she anticipated regulations allowing U.S. companies to participate in upgrading Cuba’s telecom infrastructure and Internet and consumer communications devices.

In April, Pritzker said she would lead a delegation to Cuba as soon as the two countries have normalized relations and opened embassies in each other’s countries.

While Pritzker’s schedule is likely up to her and her alone, Kavulich used his release to argue that she should travel either in December in January, and that she should attend with representatives of the International Trade Commission and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. By that time, he said, the Cuban government may have issued regulations approving purchases relating to product exports and imports first proposed by the U.S. in December when Obama announced the historic change to U.S.-Cuba relations.

“A visit by Secretary Pritzker should only arise subsequent to the government of the Republic of Cuba having purchased products and permitted the provision of services as outlined in December 2014, not as a means of seeking the purchase of products and provision of services,” Kavulich said. “The visit needs to be a reward, not an inducement.”


havana-live-havana-nightCuba is opening up and Lebanon has planned its future

HAVANA, Sept. 15 Cuba, famous for cigars, salsa dancing and Che Guevara, is now open for business! In the past year, Cuba has slowly been opening up to external markets and Lebanon is one of the first countries to have set foot on this territory.

Cuba has undergone a number of changes in order to attract investments and business. First, they implemented the Law on Foreign Investment (LFI), also known as Law 118, which provides great incentives to attract new technology and foreign capital as well as increase domestic production. It also provides the main vehicles for foreign investment, be it a joint venture company, an international economic association contract or full foreign ownership.

Its main objective is to establish the legal framework for foreign investments and the guarantees and legal security to attract and utilize foreign capital. It also provides greater tax incentives because of a special taxation regime: there are no more taxes on dividends. Companies in joint ventures are exempt from all taxes on profits for the first eight years, and thereafter only pay a 15 percent tax rate (previously 30 percent).

Opening the investment door

They are exempt from paying the wholesale and service taxes during the first year, from paying labor taxes, and from paying customs taxes for the importation of equipment, machinery and other assets during the investment process. However, foreign capital companies are obliged to pay taxes for the duration of their contract.

There were also some key changes that helped to promote foreign investment, such as allowing 100 percent foreign ownership, recognizing the intellectual property rights and technological innovation of the foreign investor, and the guarantee to freely transfer profits abroad without paying taxes or other charges.

Additionally, mixed companies, foreign owned companies and contractual international economic association are to receive preferential treatment concerning pricing, quality and terms when purchasing domestic goods and services.
This law is oriented towards diversifying and expanding the Cuban market, as well as accessing state of the art technology, generating new jobs, harnessing new managerial methods and developing renewable sources of energy.

It prioritizes 11 sectors: agriculture and forestry, construction, energy and mining, the food industry, healthcare, the light chemical and electrical industries, pharmaceuticals, the sugar industry, tourism, transport and wholesale trade.

Secondly, the Zona Especial de Desarollo (ZED) Mariel, the first special development zone created by the Decree Law no 313, is another method used to attract investments.
It is not a free trade zone, but rather an area where production of goods and services are incorporated to promote innovation of new technology, industrial concentration, import substitutions, export generators, and sources of high quality jobs.

It already ensures investors have basic infrastructure, access roads, a stable supply of drinking water and electricity, and a communication system interconnected with fibre optics. In this zone, there are some sectors that take priority, such as biotech and pharmaceutical, containers and packaging, renewable energy, agriculture, agro food industry, telecommunications and informatics, tourism and real estate, and investment and infrastructure.

The objective of the ZED Mariel is to contribute to national development and generate exports, while promoting the replacement of imports, the transfer of cutting-edge technology and know-how, and skills referring to business management. It also aims to attract foreign investment, generate new sources of employment, favour environmental sustainability, develop infrastructure necessary for economic progress, stimulate the establishment of national or foreign enterprises and ensure its coordination with the rest of the economy.

The Portfolio of Opportunities for Foreign Investment states that there are 246 business opportunities presently in Cuba. They range across various sectors and domains, available in both the ZED Mariel and the rest of the country.

According to Rafif Berro, a representative from the Ministry of Economy and Trade, they have launched, along with the Lebanese Cuba Business Council (LCBC), a process to amend the trade agreements between Cuba and Lebanon.

They are first reviewing existing agreements to see what can be improved, and will later change them so they become more specialized. This is not limited to the exchange of goods and services, but also encompasses joint ventures. They are grooming Cuba to become an entry point for this type of development.

When asked about the future, Berro says he sees a partnership between Cuba and Lebanon. Some Lebanese products may be produced for Cuba specifically, such as programming and software development. Berro doesn’t believe it’s going to be a one sided direction, but rather a complementary one.

The Lebanese Ministry of Economy and Trade has also been seeking non-classical markets such as Cuba as a way to begin exchange with countries outside of the Arab world and Europe. They have launched negotiations for free trade agreements with Venezuela, Uruguay, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Cuba’s favourable geographical location might be the entry point for these Latin American countries. In some ways, the opening of Cuba has happened at the optimal time for Lebanon since it will hopefully be the start of a long list of non classical markets.

Mohammad Choucair, the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, said that the Chamber has given its full support to the LCBC in order to open the capacity for investing in Cuba. Lebanon is one of the first countries preparing itself for Cuba and the advantage it holds are threefold: (1) there is an existing diplomatic relationship, (2) the Lebanese know how to work in difficult countries (with years of instability and lack of resources) and (3) there are over 50,000 people of Lebanese origin already living in Cuba. A history exists between these two countries which will aid negotiations.

Early bird catches the Cuban worm

The president of the LCBC, Ali Kazma, is the person selling and promoting Cuba to potential investors. He has announced that the objective of LCBC at the moment is to prove its commitment to doing business in Cuba, which is why they have launched an impressive advertising campaign to promote the country through videos and other media.

They want to show the Cuban government that the council is serious, and as part of this campaign, the first Cuban Lebanese Economic Forum will be held on September 29. Cuba is ready to open its doors but this has to be done slowly. The country is not equipped to handle all the demand, so it made a ten year plan. “We are just placing our foot in the door” he said.

Cuba has a lot to offer, its projects are worth $8 million and ZED Mariel has built the biggest port in Cuba. The LCBC doesn’t expect or want all the projects, but they do want a piece. Cuba Invest, a business created by Kazma but unrelated to the LCBC, has two projects lined up, including a boutique hotel which will hopefully be finalized by February 2016.

“We believe it’s going to take 2 years to start generating a revenue on these projects. It’s a long process but it’s an investment.” said Kazma. Cuba Invest is not only working with Lebanese companies; it is recruiting international companies to work in Cuba through Cuba Invest. The first website, LCBCouncil.com, is already up and running.

Cuba still has a long way to go. There is uncertainty about the Cuban government’s commitment to foreign investment and state control of the economic activities which might hinder its prosperity. It’s a land that is in need of a lot of reforms. Lebanon can help it take the first step.

HAVANA, Sept 12 Ten American kayakers paddled out of Havana on Friday, in an attempt to cross the Florida Straits to Key West.

havana-live-jorge-drexler2HAVANA, Sept. 7  From September 28 to October 4 will take place in Havana the event “Meeting of Popular Voices”.

The musical event, which will be chaired by the famous singer Argelia Fragoso will be held under the slogan “The voices that unite us” and will be organized by VP Productions and sponsored by the Cuban Institute of Music and the National Center of Popular Music.

The meeting was attended by around forty foreign guests within which are the Uruguayan Jorge Drexler, Peruvian Tania Libertad and Puerto Rican Andy Montanez, all renowned international exponents of music, which have many fans in the Greater Antilles.

Uruguay, known for subjects like Mi guitara y vos, Eco, Deseo, among others, is also a composer, musician and performer; a doctor by profession. He has more than a dozen albums and performances on stages around the world, several nominations for the Latin Grammy, for Gardel Argentina Music Awards and many others.

Many of his songs have been number one in several charts. In 2005 he won an Oscar for Best Original Song with Across the river from Motorcycle Diaries film.(Cibercuba)

havana-live-aniplantHAVANA, August 29  Nora Garcia Predsident of Aniplant Havana was happy to promote the International Homeless Animal Day on her TV show and 2 radio shows.

There were a several campaigns held in distant neighbourhoods which no camera’s were available but Nora was told the numbers were generally good. In this video we are happy to show that in 2 of the campaigns a few photos were taken to share.

One of the campaigns were held in a home and not a clinic which is common in Cuba. We would like to thank those wonderful people who helped that day.
The Vet and his assistant who use to be a teacher has been working the sterialization campaigns since 1992.

havana-live-enrique-olveraHAVANA, August  28  “Pasta, pinchos and tacos” could be the name of a new restaurant launched in Havana by three of the best chefs in the world.

Italian Massimo Bottura, the Spanish Andoni Luis Aduriz and the Mexican Enrique Olvera will travel to Cuba in December to explore the market to open a restaurant, said Olvera in Mexico City during a meeting with foreign correspondents at his restaurant “Pujol”, considered the best in the country and one of the best in the world.

The Mexican chef imagines a casual, fun place, with live music, and not too expensive.”We want a restaurant located on the beach. The address must be ‘street who knows what and Caribbean sea’.” But they are well aware of the lack of supplies and the difficulties they may face to get most of the ingredients. This is precisely why they are planning to go to Havana, “see some places and understand a little better how the market works.”

 We believe that in the months or years to come there will be a strong opening in Cuba and we want to get into that opening.
Enrique Olvera

The idea of opening a resturant arose in November 2014 during a conversation between Olvera and Aduriz. “Gastronomy is not a privilege of people with money, but rather of intelligent people. Why not dream of a restaurant in which we manage to mix all social classes of people and no one asks who anyone else is?”, said Aduriz to Reuters back in 2014.

Olvera anticipated that he has held talks with the Cuban embassy in Mexico, where they received the project “as positive” and are willing to “support” the business.

According to A la mesa, a Cuban directory of restaurants, there are over 470 restaurants in Havana. 212 of them cost up to 7 USD and 190 cost up to 14 USD. It is very rare to find restaurants above these prices given the economic situation of the majority of Cuban people.

11951805_404804046379083_4881765763186793630_nHAVANA, AUGUST 22  Japanese travel agencies are increasing their tourism to Cuba in response to growing demand generated by the rapprochement between the Caribbean country and the United States to normalize diplomatic relations.

That is the case of the travel company JTB, which rise from October five to eight the number of packages in Cuba after reservations bound for the Caribbean country have increased fivefold, the economic journal Nikkei announced yesterday.
Travelers have shown special interest in Old Havana, recognized by UNESCO as “World Heritage” in 1982.

“Many fear that the influx of US investors will be the end of the old city,” said the Japanese newspaper, that´s why they “want” to experience the essence of the place before it is no longer possible.
Other companies are pursuing similar initiatives as increasing interest in the island. Such is the case of Hankyu Travel, which has received 40 percent more applications than usual, KNT Company, headquartered in Tokyo, and the travel company HIS.

havana-live-La Cocina de Lilliam

Paladar La Cocina de Lilliam in La Havana, Cuba.

A cubano sandwich in Cuba? That might be hard to find. Food writer Steve Dolinsky says the sandwich was actually created in Florida.

HAVANA, August 20    But don’t fret. There are many delicious culinary options available on the menus in La Havana. Black beans, rice, plantains, picadillo (a dish made of ground beef, olives and raisins) — you can have them all in Cuba. But Dolinsky has made some of his more surprising food discoveries in paladares — restaurants in people’s homes.

The paladares started in the 1990s, when the Cuban government allowed private businesses to open.

The problem paladares owners encounter is finding good ingredients. Lilliam Dominguez opened her paladar, La Cocina de Lilliam, in 1994 and she found ways to get the ingredients she wants. She serves avocado, beets, asparagus, eggplants, parmesan cheese — things that aren’t traditionally easy to get.

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Local organic salad at La Cocina de Lilliam

“She said it all comes down to relationships. Basically in Havana, it’s ‘I know a guy, I know a guy who knows a guy.’ And she knows people who show up at her doorstep every morning and they’ve got fish, and they’ve got shrimp, and they know that she pays and she’s reliable and she pays up-front,” Dolinsky says. “This is the kind of thing you need to establish in La Havana.”

Creating your own business in Cuba is not an easy task. But the people who managed to transform their kitchen and living rooms into restaurants put a lot of effort to make their businesses attractive.

“Some of [the paladares] are just beautiful. The artwork, and there’s live music, and the chairs and the tiles are just so cozy and quaint,” Dolinsky says.frozen mojito at Doña Eutimia

Now that relations between the US and Cuba have started to improve, tourism is increasing on the island. But according to Dolinsky, paladares owners, like Michel Miglis, haven’t really seen the change yet. Miglis says in Cuba, things tend to change pretty slowly.

If you’re considering a trip to Cuba, Dolinsky says to bring cash. There are few ATMs and it is difficult to pay with a credit card.

For good food, he recommends La Cocina de Lilliam, of course. But for more typical food, he says Doña Eutimia is a good option. According to Dolinsky, Doña Eutimia is casual and serves dishes like Cuban picadillo and ropa vieja (a sort of beef stew) — along with delicious frozen mojitos.

“It’s in the cathedral square, old section of Havana, and I’ve got to tell you, Old Havana is just astounding. Architecture, every other car you see is right out of the American graffiti films, right out of the ’50s,” Dolinsky says.

havana-live-garbanzos & chorizo at La Cocina de Lilliam

Garbanzos & chorizo at La Cocina de Lilliam

havana-live-Picadillo at Doña Eutimia

Picadillo at Doña Eutimia

havana-live-Tostones Rellenos at Doña Eutimia

Tostones Rellenos at Doña Eutimia

havana-live-daiquiri at Al Carbon

Daiquiri at El Carbon

For a good and classic rum, lime and sugar daiquiri, Dolinsky recommends El Carbon or the Hemingway Hotel.
Credit: Steve Dolinsky

HAVANA, August 18 Back in 2009, Puerto Rican tropical star Olga Tañón performed in Cuba as part ofJuanes’ “Paz Sin Fronteras” show in Havana.

Now, Tañón is readying for a big return, planning two free shows on the island: One December 5 in Santiago de Cuba, and a second one December 12 in Havana’s  Malecón. Tañón will perform as part of a cultural exchange and is planning on inviting other acts to perform, too.

Olga Tañón Sings the Bejesus Out of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’

In the meantime, she’s warming up with a Cuban homage.

Her new single“Vivo la Vida” (I Live Life), is Cuba-inspired, and its video was filmed entirely on location in Havana. Shot documentary-style with handheld cameras, it incorporates Cuban musicians and locals into its shots as Tañón dances her way down Havana’s streets to a merengue beat. “The idea,” she says, “was to highlight the joy and musicality of Cuba, creating a bridge between today’s open country and the island she visited in 2009.”

Enjoy this exclusive premiere of the video above.