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Chismes - Street news
"Los Chismosos no pueden estar sordos!"
"Gossipers can't be deaf!"
by Tony Petit

4/27/15 Habaneros are using Trillian, a multiprotocol instant messaging application for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS, BlackBerry OS, and the Web to simplify communicating with multiple IM services, such as AIM, ICQ, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, IRC, Bonjour, XMPP, and Skype networks; as well as social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace; and email services, such as POP3, IMAP, Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail.
5/22/13 Various reports suggest that Zurbano's strategy of placing an article in the NYT has had big paybacks, moving the struggle against racism forward substantially. This is not being forgiven in various quarters, and when TV showed the ARAC announcement, they gave the other ARAC members much more air time than they did him. Those quarters would do well to ponder the $500,000 USAID/State Department is going to spend in 2014 to "raise awareness of issues affecting Afro-Cubans and assist in the development of a network of independent Afro-Cuban groups in Cuba."
4/10/13 The Cubans told the Venezuelans that they should not engage in projects with US universities for fear that these would be used to infiltrate Venezuelan societies with NED, Freedom House, and other programs. The Cubans are now engaged in numerous, growing projects with US universities. Tough competitors!
2/19/12 Mas libros sobre los Abakuá: Con motivos de la 21 Feria Internacional del Libro de la Habana, el domingo 12 de febrero a las 2:00 pm, en el stan D3, se presentaran los libros: La Sociedad Abakuá y el estigma de la criminalidad y La Sociedad Abakuá y su influencia en el Arte, de los investigadores Ramón Torres Zayas y Odalys Pérez Martínez.
1/17/12 Reports from Havana are that the debate around Rolando Rodríguez' book "La conspiración de los iguales" has reached a high pitch, with Rodriguez himself on record as advocating that some researchers on the Partido de los Independentes de Color could be considered annexationists, the favorite term for those who support Yanqui meddling. The man is desperate to hold up the farcical republic of 1912 as having some redeeming value, when it was a creature of the Plantocracy and the US and when it carried out a savage massacre of over 6,000 afrodescendientes. Rodriguez is said to be widely hated in Havana. For the record, we can only observe that there has been no recent instance of the US Government evincing the slightest interest in 1912, one way or the other, to own up to their role or deny it. US troops were used mostly to guard property and strategic points and to free up Cuban troops for their dirty work. There was one documented instance of US troops firing on PIC members, there may have been others and above all there was US pressure to deal with the Party and remove their threat to US interests - sugar mills, plantations, and railroads.
9/15/10 Why are the majority of journalists on Cuba's Blogs Periodistas Cubanos white in a country with a black majority?
6/16/10 Henry Louis "Skippy" Gates at Harvard is the presenter for a series on AfroCubans Lives produced by PBS. We know the researchers for his Encyclopedia Africana and they told us they consulted AfroCubaWeb extensively.
3/27/10 Molefi Asante, who is among the 60 original signer of Carlos Moore's Acting on Our Conscience letter attacking the Cuban government for racism, recently told an audience at a conference in New Orleans that he thought he and the other signers had been tricked into this stance by Carlos and should not have signed  it. We await further developments, which have never come!
3/25/10 The Amistad slave ship received an unimaginative and some say cold reception in Havana, where the African ambassadors left the ceremonies early.
3/22/10 Reliable eyewitnesses state that when the dissident Ladies in White were assaulted recently during one of their protest marches through Havana, the security forces and party members made every effort to protect them from a hostile crowd. In one instance that did not work, that was the instance used in the propaganda video that is circulating about the event.
3/15/10 After an initial period of wait and see on the new UNEAC Comisión de lucha Contra el Racismo y la Discriminación, people working in the area of race in Cuba express dissatisfaction with its activities, which so far consists of a few small ceremonies with no real substance. Others say more work is going on behind the scenes.

The Cuban government may or may not have shut down an exhibit at the Biennial: Tania Bruguera's exhibit on freedom of speech, now on YouTube. Bruguera had an exhibit in the 2000 Biennial, which was shut down after 1 day. Bruguera lives in both Havana and Chicago, where she has worked with former Weather Underground leaders Berandine Dohrn and Bill Ayers. Some sources say the exhibit was shut down, others that it was only set to run a short period.

5/3/09 Various sources confirm that dissidents have been invading public spaces. Recently they disrupted a meeting of Color de Cuba, headed by Gisela Arandia. Sources differ as to the impact this will have on the meetings, which may or may not be curtailed. Color de Cuba focuses on issues of race & identity in Cuba and has been running for years. It is one of the very few such endeavors and operates in a low key way, a reflection of how taboo its topics are.
8/2/08 The recent commemoration of the founding of the Independents of Color, the first all black political party in the hemisphere outside Haiti, was a quiet affair. Observers say many felt some anger and disappointment at this. The Commission organizing this is supposed to disseminate knowledge of the massacre of over 6,000 AfroCubans throughout the school curriculum, which largely ignores this seminal event in Cuban history.
2/17/07 After undergoing a period of unprecedented open dialog on the many problems Cuba faces, rumor has it that the dialog has to a large extent been shut down, leaving people frustrated.
10/20/07 A national commission has been set up in Cuba to oversee the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Partido de los Independientes de Color, August 7, 1908.
11/18/06 Dutch Queen Beatrix, whose father Prince Berhard was in a Nazi SS unit in WWII, is in Curacao where her minister has imposed a total news whiteout on upcoming changes in the relationship between Curacao and the colonial power that is Holland. The plan involves taking Curacao's 5 islands and instituting a direct relationship between each small island and Holland, instead of the present arrangement where all 5 island form the same administrative unit. Divide and conquer, as after all, there is oil offshore and the islands are needed as forward bases against Venezuela. Eugene Godfried interviews the leader of Curacao's Independence Party on this scheme -- Joceline Clemencia, who is forced to turn outside her country to have her voice heard.
11/2/06 A young black man from the Cuban city of Guantanamo crossed over to the US base some time back and wound up recruited into the FBI as an agent who on occasion fulfills an intelligence role dealing with AfroCuban issues. We occasionally run across his traces...
11/2/06 Jose Marti was not mentioned much after 1959 until Radio Marti starting broadcasting. Then he was also taken up by the Cuban government. Everyone has cheerfully forgotten that Marti is on the record as being anti-communist and anti-socialist -- both the comrades and the folks in Miami, never known for being very literate.
10/16/06 Professor Jualynne Dodson, who has organized many workshops in Cuba, mostly around the Santiago Festival del Caribe, was well known at Yale University in 1990 for organizing trips to Cuba on behalf of a Christian sect with a missionary bent. Her flyers included one proclaiming "Bring Jesus to Cuba!"
9/26/06 Cuba is experiencing a sea shift in the acceptance of AfroCuban themes which were allowed and encouraged when tourism was the principal revenue generator. With the advent of cheaper oil and the immense efforts being made to develop science, technology, and engineering, AfroCuban themes are deprecated -- "why do we need these?"  However, the source of that cheap oil, Venezuela, has a far different approach. There, the AfroVenezuelan organizations backed Chavez from the beginning and are now in a position to write legislation.

In Cuba, the apagons, or electricity outages, are largely a thing of the past, leading to greater stability for a variety of economic activity. Tourism caused a lot of problems for the government as it led to the use of foreign currency and the creation of a whole group of people with less than perfect adherence to communist ideals and some means.  So it is not surprising to see it downplayed. However, in deprecating AfroCuban culture, there is far more than tourism at stake.

8/20/06 In the first three days after the announcement of Fidel's illness, a number of Havana venues where the more lumpen and chuli elements among black Cubans tend to gather, such as some rumbas, were shut down. No such shut down was observed in white gatherings.
8/15/06 Afro-Cuba de Matanzas has brought in a fresh group of younger members, replacing some who have moved on. Los Muñequitos were recently on tour in Venezuela but are now languishing again in Matanzas.
3/16/06 Several members of the cultural organization in Matanzas which manages groups playing in Varadero were fired and charged with embezzlement in 2003 or so. The hotels in Varadero were paying them partly in dollars and they were pocketing a portion of those moneys. They were noticed when they started buying electronic goods and committing other acts of conspicuous consumption.
8/5/05 A new book is out by Carmen V. Montejo Arrechea: Sociedades Negras en Cuba 1878-1960, Editorial Linotipia Bolivar y Company S. en C., Bogota DC, Colombia, ISBN 959-06-0307-6. The Cuban author wrote this originally as her thesis in Cuba: it was rejected! And she was being polite about what the Revolution did in its early years to the sociedades negras. Some Mexicans helped out and it was then published in Bogota. She is now more accepted in Cuba, especially by places such as the Centro Juan Marinelo, which came out with a Cuban edition. Eugene Godfried recommends it in the context of his article Dialogue with Founding Leaders of Guantanamo’s Social Club ‘La Nueva Era’
2/13/05 The director of Afro-Cuba de Matanzas, Minini, suffered a heart attack but has recovered. Renowned rumbero Pancho Quinto died recently.
7/18/04 The mantle of this column passes from Cristina to Tony Petit.
12/20/03 Bamboleo's tour had to be cancelled as their visa was denied. An important AfroCuban scholar who has EU citizenship may not be able to visit the US due to new Additional Administrative Processing which targets visa seeking citizens of the EU born in North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq & Libya.
11/20/03 The Cuban Institute of History, which is a direct dependency of the Central Committee, is taking a strong interest in the 200th anniversery of the liberation of Haiti, to be celebrated in 2004.
11/16/03 After Pablo Milanes' recent comments on freedom of speech in Cuba (Pablo Milanés critica a Cuba  11/1/03 El Universal, Venezuela), the Instituto Cubano de Radio y Television (ICRT), Casa de las Americas, and the Minesterio de Cultura are all promoting Silvio Rodriguez as the leading Nueva Trova artist. Pablo takes his influences from Cuban Son, Silvio from Spanish music.
9/29/03 Reliable reports from Santiago marvel at the amount of Reggae being played there, and how it is gradually being cubanized to old cuban rhythms.
9/20/03 The 2004 Fiera del Fuego in Santiago, put on by Casa del Caribe, will be dedicated to Haiti.
3/9/03 A delegation of African Americans was recently in Colombia, visiting AfroColombians. They made a trip to the US embassy where they met with the woman in charge of reparations to Colombians who have been affected by US biochemical agents, such as herbicides. She was proud that out of 400 cases, only 3 were verified. When she goes to verify a claim, she takes 10 goons, sorry, bodyguards, with her. Many US personel deployed in Colombia in civilian or military capacities do not even speak Spanish.
3/2/03 The US Interest Section/State Department is requiring fingerprints for US visas. Cubans are supposed to pay $85 for these and $100 for the visa, out of reach of the ordinary Cuba with a $20/month salary. The Cuban government has ordered its citizens not to submit to fingerprinting. Unless this is resolved, visas may not be issued in another chapter of the US War on Culture and just about everything else. See our Travel from Cuba page.
2/14/03 Senior Cuban organizations are holding closed door meetings to discuss Papá's latest speech, Fidel Castro Ruz, at the closing session of Pedagogy 2003 Conference, 2/7/03. There apparently has not been much discussion of it in the Cuban media. Assertions are that it has not appeared on front pages in Cuba. It makes some accurate observations about life in Cuba but of course many others view the matters discussed in other ways. It will be interesting to watch the reactions in organizations such as Color Cubano.
11/26/02 The US Department of the Treasury is pressing much harder these days on why an event such as a scholarly conference needs to be held in Cuba. They recently denied a license to all scholars to travel to Santiago for the annual meeting of the Caribbean Studies Association, thus helping to force the relocation of the meeting - part of the War on Culture. The May meeting suffered a mortal blow when Cuba, after a long series of negotiations, announced it could not accomodate it in Santiago and it was too late to reschedule it for Havana, raising questions as to their sincerity and their interest. The CSA meeting is currently looking to hold their May meeting in St Andres, a Colombian island off the coast of Honduras which was founded by Puritans and Africans, an interesting mix...
11/25/02 The Spain based e-zine Encuentro en la Red is said to be funded by Ford and National Endowment for Democracy money, which helps it along in its right wing positions. Its founder, Jesús Díaz, was a well known racist, homophobic, and stalinist "professor of marxism" at the University of Havana who defected. That is the word to be used in this case, which was a conversion, unlike that of most emigrants. He converted his biases to the new cause.
10/26/02 Cuban TV is continuing its none too stellar treatment of Black History: it recently denied airing to a film on 1912, demanding that the history it presented be researched when the major historians working in this field had served as its advisors.
10/15/02 We are getting emails from Florida prisoners and their families describing extensive and in-depth repression of AfroCuban religions. Some prisoners are not even allowed to discuss their religion in prison visits or any other conversation. These are rights that have even been extended elsewhere in the US to Wicca, the religion of European brujeria. We are interested in hearing more about this topic.
10/10/02 It's now much harder for a foreign firm to make a record in Cuba: after Buena Vista's success, you have to go through 4 ministries to get permissions. This can take as long as 2 years for a foreign company.
9/25/02 As a recent rap song in Havana on 1912 has it: "Evaristo Estenoz, Ache! Tomas Robaina, Ache! Gloria Rolando, Ache!"
8/16/02 Brothers to the Rescue have been accused in the past of rescuing only fair-skined Cubans. In one famous incident from the 90's, a news camera caught a Brothers plane flying over a boatload of AfroCubans and never coming back. A Diaz Balart (another Diaz-Balart...) news-anchor made various implausible excuses about how they had to go get gas.
6/12/02 Havana - UNEAC's Gisela Arandia held a conference entitle "Color Cubano, La Guerrita de 1912 y la Conspiracion del Silencio" on 6 & 7th of June. "Color Cubano" is from a Guillen poem. They showed Gloria Rolando's film on 1912, Roots of My Heart, and held a debate on issues of multi-ethnicity vs afrocentrism. A young black historian in dreads brought up the issue of what would happen if a party similar to the Independents of Color were launched today. Noted actor Alden Knight pointed out that concrete steps needed to be taken, especially with respect to mass media, to better represent the ethnic realities of Cuba. Rogelio Martinez Fure was recognized not only for the national dance prize he got recently, but also for his work as an investigator, especially around afrocuban songs. Overall, attendees rate this as a very positive event.
5/26/02 A Venezuelan radio personality has affirmed that Chavez made Yemaya in Nigeria. Other rumors confirm his involvment in Yoruba religion. Chavez supporters are called Ton Ton Macoutes by the white upper class in Caracas, a reference to their tendency to include Yoruba culture in political meetings. Reminds me of the propaganda around 1912 which had the Independents of Color led by Haitian revolutionaries.
4/10/02 Now it's Granma's turn: the comrades "borrowed" an image of Rogelio Martinze Fure from AfroCubaWeb. Compare Martínez Furé, la estampa viva del folclor  4/4/02 Granma, Cuba and our Fure page with the photo copyrighted by Pedro Perez-Sarduy. Hey, at least give us the credit, comrades!
3/10/02 La Jiribilla has been able to use some images generated for the launching of Gloria Rolando and Imágenes del Caribe's Roots of My Heart. Images were taken from pages

Jiribilla's articles are:

¡ALTO SONGO, SE QUEMA LA MAYA!  2/1/02 Jiribilla, Cuba: (FRAGMENTO DE CANCIÓN DE RACHEL) - Los negros son peligrosos con un machete en la mano, muy peligrosos. El asunto, según yo lo recuerdo, empezó por lo de la Ley Morúa. Morúa fue un hombre decente del gobierno, pero tenía la desgracia de ser mulato. Miguel Barnet"

1912: ¿Racismo vs Racismo?  2/1/02 Jiribilla, Cuba: "Evaristo Estenoz: "La marginación republicana contra los negros empezó a vislumbrarse aun antes de la fundación misma de la República, desde las primeras determinaciones nacionales. ¿Qué fue si no la sustitución del Ejército Libertador (donde éramos por lo menos el 80 por ciento) por una nueva institución armada en cuanto comenzó la intervención yanqui? - Rosa Muñoz Kiel y Marcel Lueiro Reyes Estudiantes de Comunicación Social Universidad de la Habana"


LA MASACRE DE LOS INDEPENDIENTES DE COLOR  2/1/02 Jiribilla, Cuba: first time this has been discussed in recent Cuban media: "Los orígenes del movimiento de los Independientes de Color se remontan a la preterición, en la recién estrenada república, a que fueron sometidos los mambises negros y mestizos en particular y en general la población negra. Esto se debió a diversos factores ; en primer lugar los prejuicios raciales creados durante 400 años por el poder colonial español, así como por la presencia del ocupante norteamericano. Silvio Castro Fernández | La Habana"


LA MASACRE RACISTA DE 1912 (FRAGMENTO)  2/1/02 Jiribilla, Cuba: article by Aline Helg, the author of "Our Rightful Share," part of a series in Jiribilla, an offshoot of Juventud Rebelde.

MÁS ALLÁ DEL COLOR CLIENTELISMO Y CONFLICTO EN CIENFUEGOS, 1912  2/1/02 Jiribilla, Cuba: "La rebelión no se limitó a Oriente. Cuando se amplía el alcance de la investigación a otras regiones, surge un cuadro más complejo. Una mirada cuidadosa al entramado de acontecimientos en Cienfuegos, en la provincia central de Santa Clara fue un lugar significativo de la organización del Partido Independiente de Color y el único lugar de insurgencia armada en 1912. Alejandra Bronfman | Estados Unidos"

Hey comrades, how about a link back!

2/6/02 The Cubans are understandably nervous about the expected flood of Americans coming into their country as travel rules are relaxed. Plans call for all US tourism to be channeled through Havanatur, which is the only Cuban outfit big enough to handle a centralized approach. Soon to be left out are the Cuban universities and others operating tours, educational groups, etc. This will affect any US entity attempting to set up tours, it will have to be done through Havanatur, which may result in additional layers of bureaucracy and a certain lack of flexibility inherent in any centralized operation.
1/26/02 One of the most ground breaking films on race in Cuba in recent years was Imágenes del Caribe' s "Raices de mi corazon" ("Roots of My Heart") which deals with the 1912 massacre of Afrocubans by a Cuban Army backed up by the US, for the first time in the Cuban media since 1912. I heard recently that this outstanding film was not even considered for the Havana Film Festival, organized by Alfredo Guevara. But then Alfredo was never known for his open attitude towards AfroCubans - there were very few black actors or directors under his tenure at ICAIC, the Cuban film institute, as he did his bit to contribute to the great Cuban media white-out. Various afronorteamericano academics and others plan to ask Alfredo about this when they next see him.
1/24/02 The Buro de Abakwá is charged by the Cuban government with sanitizing the Abakwá potencias, to the extent it can. The potencias fought long battles throughout the triumph of the revolution to maintain their independence. Reports are that Buro de Abakwá is trying to muzzle foreign scholars who come in to talk to Abakwá. Understandable enough if they are CIA, but smells like a scam when they are not. Classic tactic: incite drunks against foreigners by claiming violation of religious tradition. This sort of thing does not even occur in the Cross River Delta, home of the Efiks and Efos, where they are under the duress of northern Moslem domination and people are selected out and hung for resistance to oil company rule.
12/1/01 Maybe we missed something, but this year's line up for the Havana Film Festival, organized by the former head of the Cuban film institute, Alfredo Guevara, does not seem to have any Afrocuban contributions, much less any films dedicated to AfroCuban themes. One possible exception, in a country 70% of whose inhabitants have African ancestors, is Miel para Ochún (Honey for Ochún), by Humberto Solás. But that turns out just to be a cultural borrowing to be Cuban... See A glance at the Havana Film Festival, in Granma. Better luck next year!
11/23/01 La Jiribilla is a smart young magazine of the new generation started by a group from Juventud Rebelde. The current issue has Pablo Milanés: Simplemente Entre Amigos.
11/22/01 Cristina taking over from Paul here. Alfredo Prieto Gonzalez, the editor of Temas, writes The Image of Cuba in the U.S. Mass Media and does not use the word black, afrocuban, or even Africa once! And this is on the US leftist site Connexiones, IDG Data Center! I will forego the jokes around prieto...As the intro says: 

"The author is director of the Popular Communications Department of Havana's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center, where he edits Caminos, a journal of socio-theological thought. He also edits Temas, a leading culture studies journal in Cuba. The following essay is part of an extensive study by Mr. Prieto on the ways Cuba is represented in U.S. media."

And yet there have been entire issues of Temas devoted to AfroCuban issues. OK, at least one. Perhaps he will deal with the topic in other installments of the extensive study.

9/16/01 Los Muñequitos' Anna and Jesus Perez have stayed behind for a series of workshops and courses, based out of LA. They will be here through the end of the year.
8/9/01 Who says the music industry doesn't have any clout? The CANF, Cuban American Nacional Foundation, which has enough clout to force Wayne Smith to make retractions about what is common knowledge and well documented, is in the middle of a crisis that arose from the City of  Miami's refusal to host the Grammy Awards. When the falangistas heard that LA made 50 million from the ceremonies, Mas Canosa Jr. himself set up the welcoming comittee for the next Grammy. Not being given to rule by consultation and consensus, he pissed off the old guard who is now defecting, I mean resigning and going elsewhere: people like Perez Castellon, information officer, etc. The idea of Mas Canosa having to hug some Cuban musician awardee proved too much. Meanwhile some bright Miami boy renewed the registration for the name CANF, a task left undone by the not too efficient CANF administration. He now owns it free and clear! See Alberto Jones' Requiem for a Terratoma for more.
8/8/01 Update on visas for music groups: those in the know say that rather than any political change, there is more quality control going on with both sides (Cuba and the US) to avoid disaster tours which have happened on a few occasions. So Bamboleo is coming, as are Arte Mixto, Havana Sax, Cachaito, Aragon, Cubanismo, and Irakere. Buena Vista has a new tour in the works with IMN. However, Charanga was denied their visa for now, which does not mean that they won't come in the future..
7/29/01 The Bush administration seems to be denying visas across the board for Cuban musicians and artists. Recent cancellations due to visa problems: Charanga Habanera, Bamboleo, Geraldo Piloto y Klimax, and Irakere, which was to play at the AT&T Latino Festival in Queens, NY.
7/28/01 Cuba is attending the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, which starts this August 31st (see People say that the few preparatory meetings conducted in Cuba were downplayed and given no publicity, but knowing about frequent failures in publicity on the island, others wonder how conscious that was... Meanwhile, the US is threatening to pull out if the conference talks about reparations or Zionism.
7/27/01 The meeting of the Efik National Association will take place on July 28, 6pm - 2am, Saturday evening at the Pratt Institute, Activity Resource Center/ ARC Building, 200 Wiloughby Ave., Brooklyn NY. Dinner is served at 8pm. This is their "annual fundraising dinner" dedicated the "The Plight of AIDS in Africa". After dinner, they will host what is as far we know the first public encounter of Abakwa and Efik musical groups who will play and compare notes. 
5/1/01 Lourdes, a professor we know of in California, is writing on the history of black intellectuals in Cuba. There is precious little on this published in Cuba itself...
3/11/01 Those who know the inside of Cuba well say that a little while back there were more blacks in leadership positions but, in addition to the impact of Eurotourism and dollars from Miami which has gone against blacks, there was an anti-corruption drive which brought down a number of them.
3/8/01 Gisela Arandia is in the US on tour, presenting her interesting project on the multi-racial identity of Cuba, with working groups in the area of history, social sciences, actors, community activists, and goverment leaders.

The showings of Gloria Rolando's film on the 1912 massacre of over 6,000 members of the Independents of Color have been standing room only in Havana. Many Cubans have never even heard of this defining moment in Cuban history, so the film is quite a revelation.

3/6/01 Professor Louis Perez at University of North Carolina, has on his web page: "Principal research interests center on nineteenth and twentieth-century Caribbean, with emphasis on Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Current research project explores the sources of Cuban nationality and identity. Most recent publication is On Becoming Cuban: Identity, Nationality, and Culture (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1999)." Yet he is reported to be loath to consider the contribution of black Cubans to Cuba. Without blacks, there would be no Cuba, it would still be a Spanish colony! The latest estimates put Cubans of African descent, which the Spaniards persists in dividing into blacks and mulatos, at 70% of the population.
2/25/01 Ethnologist Rogelio Martinez Fure was due to come to the US for a visit starting at Pomona College, but there was some miscommunication and the visit has apparently been postponed.
2/23/01 Artists Elio Rodríguez Valdés and Roberto Diago, grandson of Roberto Diago the painter have just arrived from Cuba. Alexis Esquivel, one of the organizers of Queloides, an exhibit on race & identity issues in Cuba, is in residence in Boston, MA through April. Andres Montalvan, also an exhibitor in Queloides, is in residence in New Jersey. 
2/11/01 Alberto Jones is setting up a travel and tour business highlighting the rich African and Caribbean heritage in Cuba.
2/2/01 The buzz is growing on Gloria Rolando's new film, Raices de Mi Corazon, the first film to rescue from oblivion the story of the destruction of the Independents of Color in 1912. It was shown in the Biblioteca Nacional and will be shown at the UNEAC and at the Union de Periodistas de Cuba. The news has been on Cuban TV.
10/7/00 The National Black Chamber of Commerce is enthusiastic about previous trip to Cuba, and they are planning a new one.
9/24/00 • Upcoming tours: los Muñequitos, Charanga Habanera. Los Muñequitos are not bringing key players such as Jesus Alfonso, Alberto, Carne, and Ana, but there is talent on hand. Toto is trying to make it in from Canada. More details soon on los Muñequitos.  As to Charanga, see their page with the listing of their tour.
9/19/00 • Fidel's recent speech at Riverside Baptist Church in Harlem contained an offer to train black, native, and low income medical students from the US in Cuba. He also spent the last 15 minutes on issues of racism, marginalization, and sexism in Cuba. Speech now available.
9/18/00 Manolín, el Medico de la Salsa, moved from Cuba to Miami, but became disenchanted with the Miami musical wasteland. He is now in San Francisco...
9/17/00 We hear that an outsanding group of Matanzas musicians was put together over the past two years, including bata master Daniel Alfonso, Puchito, the son of Paula and Israel Berriel of the Muñequitos, Odali Dome Perez, and others. They were told that there was a tour waiting for them in Spain if only they could get the plane fare together. They worked long and hard and did, and they went. On arrival the Cuban HDP who has encouraged them told them it was all a ruse to get a woman and her offspring who were members of the group out of Cuba. The group was there without a single gig! Matanzas ingenuity prevailed and they played on street corners, in cabarets, wherever they could. They actually were able to raise the money for their fares, acquire various goods, and head back to Matanzas.  We salute them!!!
9/15/00 Fidelito Romero, until recently the head of the Centro de la Musica in Matanzas, is now incarcerated and undergoing investigation in the Technico in Matanzas. He stands accused of embezzling musicians' money in Varadero. His Centro is responsible for all professional musicans in the province of Matanzas and thus in Varadero, Cuba's lucrative resort area with its many European owned hotels.  The case comes not long after one of Romero's subordinates, Abilio Barcelo, was arrested for embezzlement. The authorities are likely trying to figure out how far the corruption extends. Romero, who is a hispanic cuban, was exploiting his mostly black musicians mercilessly and many people, especially musicians and dancers, are pleased at his arrest.  As a result, the Festival de la Rumba, which Romero was doing nothing to promote, has been put off from October until next June, when it will likely turn into an important event.
8/26/00 There are persistent rumors that Coretta Scott King is involved with the Cuban American National Foundation...
8/18/00  We hear that Aline Helg's fine book, Our Rightful Share, will not be translated into Spanish in Havana after all. The book deals with the Independents of Color, the party the Mambi veterans formed which was the first black political party outside Haiti, and its demise in the 1912 genocide.  This was one of the defining moment in Cuban history and it has been ignored ever since it occurred. We understand that there may have been sound economic reasons not to do a translation, but continuing to ignore the event could well have negative repercussions...
8/8/00 Los Van Van just played at a very upper class British local which normally only plays Brahms...

Juan Garcia was recently named director of the Conjunto Folklorico Nacional, a nice move that brings a dedicated and very savvy, knowledgeable person to the helm of an organization that is in dire need of revitalization.

La Vieja Trova Santiaguera, unknown in the US but hugely popular in Europe, continues their wildly succesful tours in Europe.   When will we see them in the US?

La Caro band, a great all women timba band from Jovellanos, is rumored to be coming to NY.  Anyone have any dates? Also NG La Banda, Isaac Delgado, and Orquesta Reve are touring Europe, but where can you get the dates? Cuba has yet to figure out the value of posting this material on-line...

7/24/00 Mazi Jamal (Mumia's son), Lebwah Sykes and six other youth organizers from the US were on one of the nationally televised round table discussions in Cuba
6/29/00 Rep. Barbara Lee (D), the Smithsonian's James Early, el Nuevo Herald's Enrique Patterson (a columnist in Miami), and Manuel Cuesta Morua , who lives on the island and who's a member of a group called "Social Democratic Current," were on a panel yesterday or today in DC courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations.  Cuesta Morua is reported to have been arrested as a dissident in '97.
6/2/00 A lukumi house in Havana by the name of Ile Tuntun has babalawos who dress in African clothes and study Yoruba culture closely.   They are interested in hooking up with Yourbas from Nigeria for further study.   At the same time, they are periodically taunted by other babalawos for not being Cuban and similar nonsense.  It is also said that they have not been able to secure the necessary permits for having ceremonies that involve anything more than a very small gathering.
5/14/00 Ethnologist and Conjunto Folklorico founder and co-director Rogelio Martines Fure and famed Conjunto Folklorico singing star Teresita Pollero are in LA next week with Saul Landau at Cal State Pomona.  We hope to find out more.  Update: visit cancelled because the State Department would not grant them J-1 visas.  A very stupid decision.
5/11/00 We hear that there will be an increased emphasis within Cuba on two salient facts of Cuba history: the Ten Year's War and the Massacre of 1912.  The Ten Years' War (1868 to 1878) is frequently referred to in the context of the struggle for independence from Spain.  What is usually left out is that it was one of the greatest slave insurrections of this hemisphere - the Army of Liberation, the Mambi Army, itself a Congo term, was made up of 80% to 92% AfroCubans.   The nascent Cuban ruling class gave up on this struggle, partly it is said because they feared the end of slavery.  However, Antonio Maceo did not give up, he uttered his protest at Baragua and continued his resistance.  He led the Mambi Army again in 1895 in collaboration with Jose Marti, and that efffort proved decisive in 1898.  The US then entered the war against Spain and snatched the victory away from the Cubans. A bare 14 years later, when the Mambi veterans were protesting their marginalization at the hands of a Cuban upper class they helped free from the colonial shackles, that same ruling class created a virulent press campaign full of wild exaggerations and set them up for a massacre at the hands of the Cuban army -- over 6,000 AfroCubans were murdered.  These central facts of Cuban history have been studied by historians in Cuba but widely ignored for too long.
5/10/00 Heard repeatedly at the Queloides art exhibit on racism at the Centro de Artes Visuales last spring: "here comes the fundamentalistas negros" referring to the artists. Some voicing this judgment were black themselves. Such is the paranoia around expressions of black self images.

Meanwhile, every ethnic group you can think of has a lifeline going to their constituents: arabs, chinese, jews, and spaniards, who are so numerous they have been divided into provincial associations dealing with every province in Spain.  Yet when there is talk of forming black organizations, there is sometimes unexpected resistance, albeit very unofficially. It just makes some people nervous...  It remains to be seen whether a currently favored line of solving the problems of racism by decree can work.

4/26/00 Many artists have had their exit permit from Cuba delayed or placed in suspended animation due to Cuban officialdom's complete preoccupation with the Elían case.  One wonders what other work has been shunted aside... However, several permits have been recently granted and more are on their way.   Meanwhile some of those peaceful demonstrators in Miami shot up an AfroCuban travel agency.
4/21/00 International Rumba festival in Matanzas this October with numerous rumba groups.  More to come on that as we will be getting the announcement with photos.  Also, Oloyo, a celebration of Congo roots, to be held during October and in Elian's home town of Cardenas.
4/20/00 One of Cuba's top percussionists, Sandy Perez, has arrived in the US.  He will be teaching at the Humboldt's AfroCuban Dance and Drum workshop.
4/19/00 The year 2000 is the hundreth anniversary of diva and genius Rita Montaner's birth.  She defined the Mulata in a career that spanned the 20's to the 50's. Her music went from classical to very african, including pieces by the composer Gilberto Valdez, from the very African town of Jovellanos, in Matanzas Province.  Vice Minister of Culture José Elías Maragoto is in charge of the celebrations in Cuba.
4/17/00 Rumor has it that La Charanga Habanera is coming to Los Angeles in May 2000. Anyone have any leads?
3/14/00 Awesome music tours coming up: Los Papines, end of April; Bamboleo, July; Sonoro Sonora, July to September; Pancho Quinto, May 18 to June 18; Frank Emilio, the legendary blind pianist, 1st week of June.  We hope to have the details up on the Music page soon.
3/13/00 Carlos Moore, whose crusade against the Cuban government spans decades, has recently donated $1,000 to an afrocuban organization in Oriente we know.  Carlos distinguished himself last August at the Conference on Afro-Cubans in Cuban Society: Past, Present and Future in Washington, DC, where he called for the partition of Cuba along racial lines, with AfroCubans to get Oriente.   Now, aside from other silly aspects of this deal, why would you give away the richest part of the island to your "racial enemies" if you are 70% of the population?
3/10/00 Rebellion in Florida: march of 80,000 on Tallahassee protesting the end of affirmative action, complete with Jesse Jackson and numerous organizations.  Expect more on this as Jeb Bush received firm support from the Cuban American right, who declared they were speaking for all latinos in supporting the end of this program!  Now let's see, how long will it take the left/liberal Cuba solidarity groups to figure out this is worth supporting?  Another 40 years?   And guess what, if they try, they're likely be rebuffed as no one in Florida knows that Cuba is 70% black... because no one told them!
1/18/00 A delegation of 9 African American journalists and columnists are going down to Cuba Feb 1.  More to come!
1/16/00 The Elian case continues to paralyze both Miami and Havana, which can probably afford it the least.  The Miami branch of Elian's family have all acquired Lexus cars and appear newly rich off of the money pouring in.  Several have quit their day jobs... The eternal exile money machine making the big bucks off of AntiCommunismo, Inc!

In Cuba, somone we know looked at the kid's paperwork at school and elsewhere, everytime a phone was given, it was the father's.  When the kid landed in Miami, the only phone he had was his Dad's and he got him in touch with his mother's relatives in Miami! 

Meanwhile, it's impossible to even get a normal interview with some Cuban officials in Havana because of the mess. And the Cuban government is not granting many visas to Cuban Americans and others who need them to go down there (ordinary tourists just get them normally as part of the travel package and that is not affected). Is this to be a repeat of the plane affair -- whenever relations are thawing between the US and Cuba on a broad front, the hard liners feel a need to put in some distance? Lighten up comrades!  You have other work to do besides this one case.  And if you want to win this one, best to be taking care of business, like forging alliances with people in the US who can break the back of this Miami bullshit.
1/11/00 Fall out from the Van Van concert in Miami:  observers note a more pronounced racial polarization.  One newspaper even noted how at the end of the protests, the white Cubans left angry and bitter, having had their say,  waving flags and throwing rocks.  And then "there was an endless stream of mulatos and mulatas in limos and glittering clothes"!

On the other hand, another article, discussing the infamous Elian case, says: "What they mean is rights for them only, the Cuban whites and mulattos, almost all deserters of the Cuban revolution who have taken Miami's businesses, many of them foul. Blacks have been excluded. And the Haitian and Blacks of Miami will probably take this fact into account when election time comes around."  Go figure!
1/10/00 Cocaine is now readily available in Havana and elsewhere at astonishingly low prices, around $10/gram.  Many folks are now aware of the dangers of crack and that has died down, but they are ignorant of the effects of cocaine.  Coupled with the food shortages, we predict some pretty wasted skeletons...
10/22/99 The Conquista continues! The Catholic Iglesia de la Merced in Havana has started an aggressive crusade against santeros and paleros as instruments of Satan.  A mulato priest there sermonizes against people who practice African religions and forbids people coming to church from wearing anything that pertains to these religions.  People coming in to baptize their children are warned that the godparents cannot be the same godparents as the padrino or madrina de santo, an African title.  Parents whose children have an azabache, which protects against the evil eye and is perhaps more mediterranean in origin, are told that they must remove it.   About 70% of Catholic priests in Cuba are of foreign origin, mostly of Spanish extraction, either from Spain itself or from South America. Thus continues the holy work of Christopher Columbus and the slave traders....

In parallel, we are seeing a wide-spread hispanification of Cuba due to the money brought in by various Spanish entities to fund Spanish oriented societies such as the Associacion Catalan or the Sociedad de Andalusia, which in istelf is not a bad thing and is helping out many a Cuban.   However, there is no parallel movement on the part of African countries, who typically do not have the funds to engage in this.  They could be engaging in more highly leveraged activities such as bringing in some copies of their music and arranging to have it played on Cuban radio, but there is no evidence that even this is being done.   African music, which Cubans respond very positively to when they can hear it, is practically unknown in Cuba. 

Nor is there any parallel movement from African Americans, who are still largely unaware of the island with a Black majority 90 miles from their shores.

9/16/99 They have revived the Teatro Bufo, Cuba's equivalent of the Minstrel Shows, in Havana for tourists.  An apt metaphorical move, since eurotourism, by preferentially hiring and putting dollars into Spanish Cuban hands, is contributing to a resurgence of racism.  As in the US with Minstrel Shows, Teatro Bufo was used to belittle and subjugate the AfroCubans. For more on Teatro Bufo, check out Flor Amalia's "Donde Esta Dios?".
8/27/99 Musica cubana: NG La Banda is in Miami and Sintesis in California.  Pablo Milanes is coming soon, as are los Papines and Iraquere.  Sintesis had to pack up and leave after a few gigs, not clear what happened... Two of their members defected after this...
8/12/99 Raúl Castro is reputed to have gotten angry at a recent high level meeting because not enough progress was being made against racism in Cuba.
8/6/99 The director of one of Matanzas' roots groups was just fined $1,000 (US) for having someone stay overnight at his house.  There was a similar case earlier this year in Matanzas involving a folkloric dancer.  Cubans are allowed to have guests only if they register with Imigracion and get a stamp for $40 or $50. The law is almost never enforced in Havana or other major cities.

Matanzas is a hemispheric center of African culture but the party and govenmental leadership there does very little to promote that culture and issues these fines without regards to the consequences on relations with the external world and tourism.  In fact, over a dozen students of the dancer who was fined earlier chose not to visit Cuba as a result, costing the island at least $12,000.

If you are planning to visit Matanzas especially, see Traveling to Cuba for details on how your host would get a $40 stamp and avoid these kinds of fines. The stamp is good for the whole stay. I would like to hear about it if anyone is refused a stamp, but from all indications in Havana at any rate, they are easy to get. [Note: the fine for the roots group director was paid at a knocked down rate of $500...]
8/4/99 Tourism has been way down for some number of months in Cuba, not just with the summer season.  And tourists who come are not coming back, they are doing single visits.  Could it be that the crackdown, which has gone to great lengths to criminalize Cuban citizens' contacts with foreigners, is backfiring?  Cuba's tourism industry is based on antiquated tangibles, such as sand and hotel rooms, not on the promotion of its people and its culture. These are Cuba's strengths and why tourists would choose to come back.
6/26/99 We have recently heard of a Canadian firm, TransCard, which has reasonable rates for sending money to Cuba: from $50 to $250, $12.69 fee; from $250 to $500, $16.90 fee.  Check out their web site at  The person in Cuba, including a Cuban citizen, gets a plastic debit card which can be fed in Canada via money order, wire transfers, bank checks, etc.  That debit card is recognized in Cuba at many banks for cash withdrawals and merchants for direct purchases. A better rate than Western Union, which charges $29 for up to $300...
5/28/99 More music: Pablo Milanes to visit in Puerto Rico, NG La Banda in NY and Miami.  Maraca to tour.  Pancho Quinto to come with 16 year old wonder Lucumi and Jane Barnett.
4/27/99 A company owned by Florida sugar barons who fled Cuba after the revolution withdrew a day of sponsorship of SunFest '99, a festival in West Palm that draws 300,000, because Cubanismo! will appear there.   Florida Crystals Corp., a unit of Flo-Sun Inc., asked for its money back for the day that Cubanismo! is scheduled to play on the stage the company sponsored at SunFest '99, company spokesman Jorge Dominicis said.  Flo-Sun is owned by Alfonso and Jose Fanjul, who built a sugar empire in Florida after losing the family canefields in 1959.

"We just don't want anything that we contributed going toward paying for that act,'' Dominicis said. "We don't want to lend our support in any way to a group that is representing that point of view.''   Hey Dominicis, what about that big fire in the Everglades, you gonna put it out?
4/21/99 Forest fires continue to burn in South Florida's Everglade.  This area was once a very large wetland, but has been drying up ever since its water source from Lake Okeechobe was choked off some 30 years ago to help the sugar industry. This sugar industry is dominated by -- you guessed it -- Cuban Americans, the cultural and political descendants of old time Cuban plantation owners, who arrive in 1959.... They are still blocking any changes to area water structures.  As a result, South Florida is an ecological disaster, with an impact far out into the keys where the coral reefs are dying en masse because the nutrients in the run off from the Everglades have disappeared. And we won't even mention labor practices in the plantation economy...
4/21/99 The Harlem GlobeTrotters may go to Cuba. Check out AP article
4/21/99 "The Russian mafia is rumored to be extending their presence in Cuba."  It's true that there are still Russians living in Cuba who staid behind.  Many work in the state stores selling foreign goods, a position that might give them some good opportunities for parallel market activities...
4/20/99 Phone calls from the US to Cuba have become very much more difficult in the last few days.  This is said to be due to the $70 million judgment against Cuba enforced by a spineless federal judge in Miami.  The families of pilots shot down by Cuba in 1996 succeeded recently in attaching the payments made by US based phone companies to Cuba for phone service.  So it is that to satisfy the need for vengeance on the part of the pampered Miami Right, the rest of us have to suffer.  And we can pause here to remember that Brothers to the Rescue, the alleged humanitarian aid organization responsible for flying the downed planes in 1996, is in fact the brainchild of one Jose Basulto, who has a long and shady past as a CIA contractor and terrorist.
4/19/99 The crackdown in Cuba continues.  People say "we have gone back to the 1980 days of autocensura," autocensoring.   Even senior people are afraid to be seen in public with foreigners, especially Americans. The police have ingenious ways of signalling Cubans when they want to talk with them so that foreigners remain unaware that their Cuban companions are being hailed by the cops. The Cubans then simply excuse themselves and go talk to the police without revealing what is happening.  Being with a foreigner per se is not illegal, but leads to a lot of harrassment on the part of police who investigate, ask for papers, etc.
4/12/99 Reports continue to come in of heavy fines from Treasury for going to Cuba, etc, without a license. One city council was fined $25,000 for going down to Cuba and taking folks at the port of Havana out to dinner, folks with whom they were doing some post embargo planning. For tactical reasons (they are located in Florida) this city council elected to pay, although in most other states, they would probably have fought it. A university professor was fined $30,000 for traveling without a license - her university is fighting it.  This is a record fine: they had been running around $1,000 with a tendency within the last year to get up to $6,000 or so. See Traveling to Cuba for details and for a project to present a united front on these illegal and unconstitutional tactics.
4/11/99 The word jinetear, to hustle, has now been pretty much extended in Cuba to mean talking to a foreigner.  Various reports still have the country in the grips of a hysteria around contacts with foreigners.  Every contact can be twisted by others into some kind of criminal activity. Comrades, comrades, what has happened to your internationalism!  The police crackdown continues and occurs even in non-tourist areas. Whites over 40 say "La calle esta mejorandose" ("The street is getting better") while Blacks under 40 say "La calle esta malo" ("The street is bad"). Street vendors continue to shine by their absence.   Hey Giuliani, take notes!  Tourists report they feel safer walking down the street.  Cuban Americans and Radio Marti are targetting young urban people of color in a PR war that only promises to heat up.  Anyone out there get the flavor of a Radio Marti broadcast on this?  It must be choice considering that the station is organized by the Cuban Americans Right and the CANF, the organization of exiled plantation owners which has been implicated in a bombing campaign inside Cuba (See Luis Posada Carriles and the CANF).
4/3/99 Cubans walking down a street with members of a women's Cuba solidarity group were fined in Santiago recently.  What probably happened was that like any Cubans now seen with foreigners in the tourist areas, they are subject to an ID check.  If there is anything wrong, if they don't have their papers, etc, the Cuban can be fined.

This sort of thing happens less in non-tourist areas.  Police are even stopping Cubans who carry bags in the tourist areas on the theory that they are up to no good, that they have just robbed someone.  These incidents are based in several factors: 1) many Cubans are genuinely worried by a crime wave (however insignificant it might be in many other countries) 2) Cubans are nervous about foreigners in the wake of the trials of the mad bombers paid by Luis Posada and the CANF 3) the impact of the trial of the dissidents who were supported by the US and who were actively trying to scare off European investors (anybody try that kind of thing in the US during WWII?).   However, true to form, the Cubans have a hard time explaining their actions and have allowed the US to cast the debate over dissidents as a free speech issue instead of the calculated act of treason that these US financed folks engaged in.

We understand that the Cubans are worried about the famed Torricelli Track II, where Americans are encouraged to subvert Cuba in people to people contacts.   However, Cuba may want to review the public relations battle it's in.   In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas lost their public relations battle with egregious consequences for that country...

2/1/99 The US Treasury Department denied Afropop Worldwide (an NPR show appearing on over 200 stations nationwide) their license to lead a group on a Cuba study tour.  Their attorney, who shall remain nameless, erroneously failed to count Christmas and New Year in his tally of days to calculate when to send in the application so as to get it there 30 days prior to departure.  The attorney also presented the weakest student case first, which may have soured Treasury on the lot.  Applicants are judged on a case by case basis, but if the first one is a flake, the others will be viewed with suspicion.   Treasury is not set up to handle these cases efficiently and is preoccupied with other theatres, such as Pakistan and Iran.  So much for Clinton's desire to push cultural exchanges...
1/13/99 Cubans taking in a foreign citizen as a paid overnight guest without having a license or permission from Imigracion to do so are subject to a US $1,000 fine, a fortune on the island.  If they don't pay in 30 days, the fine is doubled, and after that they go to jail, at the rate of $1/day. Cubans have the right to have a foreign friend as a guest (see Traveling to Cuba).  Cubans can also opt to pay $100/month (several times their monthly salary, and this goes up to $250/month in tourist areas near beaches, etc) for a license to take in foreigners as a business.  In order to get permission to have a foreigner as a non-paying guest, Cubans have to register them with Imigracion and pay a fee ($50?), and you will need to present your passport. It's unclear what limitations there are on this procedure and we welcome additional information.  Some customs/imigracion people will tell you it's only blood relatives who can stay with permission and without the license, others will say that it can include others.

This law is only episodically enforced in Havana.  However, in Matanzas, there was a recent case where a dance teacher who had traveled abroad was fined $1,000 US for having a woman friend and student visiting with her.  She was warned twice before she was fined, so from the official Cuban point of view, this was perfectly reasonable! There are sometimes differences between the capital and the provinces in how laws are enforced.   But it is the case even in Havana that if you try and rent out private accomodations to foreign tourists as a business without a license, you will face stiff fines.  There are a number of people doing just that, despite worrying about the risk.  The law about licensing a room for home stay has been in existence for over a year, but apparently the fines have increased recently.

1/12/99 Crack cocaine has made its appearance in Havana and a few other places. Many Cubans are unaware of what this is and do not understand that it is fundamentally different from other drugs - they equate it with marijuana! Authorities are faced with some difficult choices: 1) whether to continue with the current policy of criminalizing all drug use or use their extensive medical network or some combination of the two approaches and  2) whether to have a public education campaign and risk attracting further users.
12/15/98 Street crime has been on the rise for some time, especially in tough areas like Old Havana (Habana Vieja) and Santiago. In general personal security is probably better than in the US -- there is more respect for human life in Cuba both by the police and by criminals.  However, the Special Period is taking its toll and the rumor is that harsh new sentences are being incorporated into the criminal justice system in response to what Cubans perceive to be a crime wave -- however tame it is by other standards.   Already, assaulting a foreigner gets you 70 years and being a pimp, 20 years.  A second offense on many crimes will bring you life.  However, unlike in the US, prisonners are elgible for parol after serving half of their sentence.

There are more police out in the street, especially in the Old Havana and in high visiblity areas such as the Malecon. If you are a black Cuban especially, you will be asked for ID, even though many cops are black. That, incidentally, is much less likely in non-tourist areas.

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