Boulder-Cuba Sister City Organization : bouldercuba.org
Boulder-Cuba Sister City Organization
"Promoting cultural sharing, understanding, and exchange."
Spense Havlick: A new revolution in Cuba
Observations from the Boulder-Cuba Sister City delegation to Cuba, October 22-Nov 1, 2016 from the Boulder Daily Camera
The mountains in Yateras, our sister city area. (Spense Havlick / Special to the Daily Camera)
Lights flickered at our first short power outage in the airport in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's second largest city. The 13-hour delay for an internal Cubana Airlines flight made local Cuban travelers restless. This was a harbinger of things to come during our recent Boulder-Cuba sister city trip.
Roads were washed out in eastern Cuba during Hurricane Matthew delaying us from bringing relief supplies to our devastated sister city area. Except for the storm damage very little has changed from a year ago in eastern Cuba where oxen plow the fields, where no American tourists are seen, and where taxis are horse-drawn buggies. Tap water is undrinkable. Rest rooms seldom have toilet paper or soap.
Yet home restaurants (paladares) and bed-and-breakfasts (casas particulares) are more numerous, as are the young people who huddle around the few Wi-Fi hot spots at night with their cell phones and iPads. Thus the seeds for a new revolution are potentially planted as millennials connect with counterparts in Cuba and the rest of the world. Social media have proven a tool of change elsewhere.
Social changes are more apparent in Havana and larger cities compared with our sister city trip last year. During our 2016 October-November trip we saw uban families and young adults frequenting paladares, the ballet, musical events and nightclubs where most of them were using iPhones or cell phones.
There appears to be a new economic stratification widening the gap between young entrepreneurs and the traditional working folks who still get about $20 per month and a food ration card. On a busy street we came upon Erik, age 34, who on that day had just opened his doorway-sized churro sweet shop. He had graduated from college with a journalism degree but could not find employment in television or print media. With money sent from relatives in New Jersey he invested in the sweet dispensary. He was on the sidewalk discussing his business plan with us while admiring his two employees doing a brisk business.For me the most startling discovery was a visit to La Fabrica de Arte Cubano, the Cuban Art Factory on Halloween where thousands of very well dressed Cubans poured into a gigantic four-story retrofitted cooking oil factory. Artists had negotiated with the government to refurbish the building as studios and a showcase for their creativity. Dozens of artistic examples were on display (paintings, modern architecture renderings, sculpture, jewelry, and many forms of still photography, dynamic video productions, political films, and an all-night live jazz concert comparable to what you would hear in the French Quarter of New Orleans). At midnight a line several blocks long was patiently waiting to get in. In the same Vedado area of Havana several other nightclubs were rumored o also be crowded with haute couture attire.
New cars and tour buses are more numerous. In fact dozens of new Chinese-built tour buses queue up in front of major tourist attractions like the Havana Club rum museum and at access entrances to historic old Havana. Hotels are double-booked and restaurants are overflowing with hours of wait time. Narrow pedestrian streets are jammed with tour groups. Begging is more common with the influx of foreign visitors.
It is an open question whether or not Cuba can preserve its charm and novel attractiveness with cruise ships arriving and U.S. commercial airlines delivering multitudes of tourists plus the annual $6 billion of remittances from relatives in orth America. One may wonder if the quiet revolution of youth not accepting the status quo of economic stagnation will evolve and replace the half-century of the Castro brothers' regime.
The Cuban embargo or blockade created in 1962 has been punctured and partially dismantled inasmuch as the U.S. is today the sixth-largest importer to Cuba. Eight U.S. commercial airlines have been approved for direct flights to major Cuban cities. Estimated value of our annual exports to Cuba is approximately $300 million, almost entirely agricultural products. The recently opened U.S. Embassy gave us a warm welcome and a concise history of Fidel's revolution.
Halloween costumes and celebrations have been banned in state-run restaurants and other venues. But on Halloween night last month in old Havana we saw a dozen very little kids fully costumed as pirates, witches, devils, zombies and skeletons going door to door for tricks and treats. And at the Cuban Art Factory many of the attendees were in (forbidden) Halloween attire.
Change, if only as a subtle revolution, is surely underway in today's Cuba.
Spense Havlick is a former member of the Camera editorial advisory board and president of the Boulder Cuba Sister City Organization.
A year-long program featuring presentations by experts on all things Cuban--economy, film, book club, cuisine.
Past events include:
"US/CUBA: Can the Best of Enemies Kiss and Make Up?"
Featuring Vicki J. Huddleston, former Chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, currently president of a small company that provides workshops for entrepreneurs in Cuba and board member of Finca Vigia, Hemingway's former home in Cuba.
Thursday, April 7, 2016, 3:00 pm University of Colorado Muenzinger Auditorium.
“Public Health in Cuba: An Overview.”
Dr. Gisele Coutin Marie, physician and biostatistician from Havana, discusses the Cuban health system and some of the challenges it currently faces to a standing room only crowd. (Jan 26).
Upcoming events include:
June 23, Joe McGowan Jr "A Day With Fidel Castro"
August date and time TBA, Cuban award winning photographer, Julio Larramendi
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Presenting a painting of Boulder made by students at BCSIS to Yateras
School Children in Yateras
Making new friends
to our volunteers, participants and sponsors who contributed to the success of BOCUSCO'S
Colorado Cuba Arts and Dance Festival
October 18-24, 2014.
Miguel López at Intercambio Fiesta Art workshop with Tony Ortega and Oscar Lasseria
Dance classes with Yaneisi Chibas Drum classes with Miguel Angel López
Cuban Art Show
Ezequiel Torres Group Yaneisi Chibas as Yemaya
Sikan Afro-Cuban Dance Project
Sabanas Blancas project
Art Historian Jorge Núñez Enthusiastic audiences
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to hurricane Sandy relief in eastern Cuba. BOCUSCO contributed to medical relief containers sent by MEDICC and Global Links and received this message: