Tourist Art

Lisette Poole for the NYT
Lisette Poole for the New York Times

 

From the New York Times:

HAVANA — Kadir López was working in his studio at his elegant home here when the doorbell rang. It was Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

“I had no idea they were coming,” said Mr. López, whose work incorporates salvaged American signs and ads that were torn down after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

About an hour and $45,000 later, Mr. Smith had bought “Coca Cola-Galiano,” an 8-by-4-foot Coca-Cola sign on which Mr. López had superimposed a 1950s photograph of what was once one of the most bustling commercial streets in Havana.

A year later, recalling the event, Mr. López is still happily incredulous.

“Where else in the world does Will Smith turn up on an artist’s doorstep?” he said.

There’s more…

BBC: New York Times on a Cuban Crusade

Obama Shaking Raul Castro's Blood-soaked Hand

I noticed…

From the BBC, who also noticed:

Cuba clearly is on the minds of the editors of the New York Times.

In the last month the paper has published five weekend editorials in English and in Spanish asking the US administration to re-establish diplomatic ties with Cuba.

In the pieces the Times has asserted that the US trade embargo on Cuba is “senseless” and should be dismantled, and it has criticized the administration’s “stealth efforts to overthrow the government” in Havana.

In addition, they have suggested that the White House should remove Cuba from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorist organisations and should propose a prisoner swap that would see the release of Alan Gross, the American development contractor who has been in a Cuban prison for nearly five years.

“Washington should recognise that the most it can hope to accomplish is to positively influence Cuba’s evolution toward a more open society,” says the most recent editorial, published on Sunday. “That is more likely to come about through stronger diplomatic relations than subterfuge.”

There’s more…

Happy Birthday, Dad. Still missing you, man!

Share

Author’s Note: I published this entry on my father’s birthday for the first time in 2009. I still miss him and not only on his birthday, so I post it again today. This is the one post that gets picked up most by search engines. Other folks who missed their departed dads come here to read about mine. If you’re reading this, I wish that you were as lucky as I was in having known someone like my dad Gilberto. Blessings to yours and mine.

If my Dad was alive, today would have been his 81st birthday.  He died in a car accident in Cuba in 1979. He was 47 years old.  I almost died with him.

On a day like today, I am remembering his courage and his grace.

I would love to tell you a little bit about both.

We were in Cuba visiting the family we had left behind a decade earlier.  Ours was one of the first groups to travel back to Cuba under the Family Reunification Act.  This was a recent agreement of the Cuban and American governments that allowed family members living in the US the opportunity to visit relatives on the island.

Like a lot of Cuban families, ours had been split along political lines.  After supporting the Revolution from its infancy, my Dad broke with it in the early Sixties.  He felt the original promises of the Revolution — a return to democracy after Batista, with the Constitution of 1940 as guide — had been betrayed.  He called the Castro gang the real counter-revolutionaries.  After the nationalization of private property — including my Dad’s humble-single pump Sinclair station — and the declaration by Castro that communism, not democracy, was the future for Cuba, Dad filed the necessary paperwork for our family to emigrate to this country.  I can only imagine the pain Dad must have felt leaving his family and friends behind to move to a country that spoke a different language and lived a different culture.  He was only allowed to take with him the clothes he was wearing.

About a quarter of my family did the same thing.  The other three quarters stayed behind with different degrees of involvement in the Castro government.  Some close relatives, believers in and defenders of the Revolution, were high up in governmental circles.  I loved these people as much as I loved the ones that made it across the Florida Straits.  My Dad taught me that.  I never heard him say one negative, unloving thing about any family member that had chosen differently than him.  He had a big, accepting heart.

Continue reading

ROTFLMAO…What Cuban Elections?

Well, here’s a serious, informed discussion “with Ted Henken, a professor in the Department of Black and Latino Studies at Baruch College at the City University of New York; and Alexis Romay, an author and member of the board of directors of the human rights organization, Cuba Archive.” On Tiempo.

Romay on Tiempo

Via Alexis Romay

Richard Blanco’s Inaugural Poem

One Day

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper — bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives — to teach geometry, or ring up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind — our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across cafe tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me — in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always — home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country — all of us —
facing the stars
hope — a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it — together

Richard Blanco, 2013 Inaugural Poet

Image
Richard Blanco, chosen by President Obama to deliver the Inaugural Poem. Photo (c) 2013 Craig Dilger for The New York Times

From the New York Times:

From the moment Barack Obama burst onto the political scene, the poet Richard Blanco, a son of Cuban exiles, says he felt “a spiritual connection” with the man who would become the nation’s 44th president.

Like Mr. Obama, who chronicled his multicultural upbringing in a best-selling autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” Mr. Blanco has been on a quest for personal identity through the written word. He said his affinity for Mr. Obama springs from his own feeling of straddling different worlds; he is Latino and gay (and worked as a civil engineer while pursuing poetry). His poems are laden with longing for the sights and smells of the land his parents left behind.

Now Mr. Obama is about to pluck Mr. Blanco out of the relatively obscure and quiet world of poetry and put him on display before the entire world.

There’s more…

Why Does Change Take So Damn Long?

Image

From the New York Times:

With Cuba cautiously introducing free-market changes that have legalized hundreds of thousands of small private businesses over the past two years, new economic bonds between Cuba and the United States have formed, creating new challenges, new possibilities — and a more complicated debate over the embargo.

The longstanding logic has been that broad sanctions are necessary to suffocate the totalitarian government of Fidel and Raúl Castro. Now, especially for many Cubans who had previously stayed on the sidelines in the battle over Cuba policy, a new argument against the embargo is gaining currency — that the tentative move toward capitalism by the Cuban government could be sped up with more assistance from Americans.

Even as defenders of the embargo warn against providing the Cuban government with “economic lifelines,” some Cubans and exiles are advocating a fresh approach. The Obama administration already showed an openness to engagement with Cuba in 2009 by removing restrictions on travel and remittances for Cuban Americans. But with Fidel Castro, 86, retired and President Raúl Castro, 81, leading a bureaucracy that is divided on the pace and scope of change, many have begun urging President Obama to go further and update American policy by putting a priority on assistance for Cubans seeking more economic independence from the government.

There’s more>>>Changes in Cuba Create Support for Easing Embargo

(Photo above (c) New York Times, 2012)