Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bravo, Sweden

From the Associated Press:
Cuba protests diplomats' visit to activist's home
Click here for the whole story.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pánfilo — Where do we draw the line?

A Havana drunk who calls himself Pánfilo has become the central character in what is — to me — among the most intriguing Cuba-related human rights campaigns in recent memory.

It all started when an undeniably inebriated Juan Carlos González Marcos, better known by the nickname Pánfilo (Spanish for, among other things, "dimwitted"), interrupted what appears to be an interview related to reggaetón to give the world a piece of his mind on Cuba, the lack of food there, and the system that denies its people decent jama (a Cuban slang term for food... which can also take the verb form jamar, which means "to eat").

Thanks perhaps to liquid courage, the video went viral. At least in Cuban American circles. Pánfilo was a household name and on his way to becoming the face of Cuba's destitute. In the aftermath, Pánfilo recorded more videos, doing little dances, and giving testimonials about the need for food, the lack of freedom, and even making predictions that he would end up in a prison cell for having expressed his discontent.

But he also did this sober interview, where he never retracts his statements, but does give the impression that he never had any political objective in making them and probably hadn't made them had it not been for the curda. Further, he says in this video that he wasn't looking for trouble and would prefer not to have his image become a political tool.

By the time this video had gone viral, Pánfilos drunken predictions had become a sobering reality. He was sentenced to a two-year prison term for "pre-criminal dangerousness," a catch-all charge the Cuban regime uses to avoid such bourgeois nuisances as evidence and just cause. It's hard to make the argument that he was arrested for anything other than his dissent.

Advocates for human rights have a dilemma to face:
  • On the one hand, Pánfilo was pretty explicit about not wanting to be the poster boy of a political campaign.
  • On the other, he's since been put in prison, and that's an injustice that shouldn't be ignored.
Some have decided to move forward with campaigns and blogs such as Jama Y Libertad, which uses this as its site's banner:
(Don't let yourself be silenced! Food and Freedom)

There are other sites, social networking site groups, etc. as well.

The question is: Where is the balance between respecting that Pánfilo never wanted to make trouble for himself by being seen as an activist and making sure that we're not ignoring the abuse of his right to speak his mind — even when under the influence?

I don't know that I have that answer, but I'd like to hear what you have to say. So go on... discuss in the comments section. Hopefully this will generate some creative solutions to a delicate problem.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The curious side of the Cuban job market

From the Miami Herald and Cubanet:
Raúl Ortega, manager of the Villa Clara post office, told her (postal employee Rosario Morales) she was being fired because of her association with the Committee for Racial Integration. He said the decision was made by State Security.
Click here for the whole story.

Monday, August 24, 2009

In case you missed it: Raíces on CNN Newsroom

Here's the video from this morning, when Raíces' Felice Gorordo was interviewed by Nicole Lapin on CNN Newsroom. They discussed the future of Cuba, especially youth on the island.

Raíces on CNN... AGAIN!

Raíces de Esperanza's very own Felice Gorordo will be on CNN Newsroom today for an interview with anchor Tony Harris. Check it out today, Monday, Aug. 24, at 11:55 a.m. EST on CNN.

CNN's Tony Harris

As you might recall, Felice recently appeared on CNN's online streaming channel, CNN Live, for Nicole Lapin's "Young People Who Rock" series. These are indications that Raíces is increasingly being seen as a noteworthy organization and as an authority on youth in Cuba and their struggle for the right to self-actualization.


First, we have a correction: Tony Harris did not interview Felice, Nicole Lapin did.

CNN's Nicole Lapin

In fact, I should have noticed Nicole's status update on my Facebook news feed this morning:

Here are some shots (of my TV... we're very much on the cutting edge here at Raíces) from the interview.

CNN's Nicole Lapin introduces Raíces' Felice Gorordo.

Raíces' Felice Gorordo reacts to the significance (or lack thereof) of recent images of Fidel Castro.

Raíces is becoming more and more of a go-to authority on Cuban youth issues.

Felice points out the potential for youth empowerment through mobile connectivity.

This photo of two participants from the Raíces-sponsored UM Cuba Conference was among the still images shown during Felice's CNN interview.

I also recorded the audio from the interview just in case CNN doesn't post the video on their site, so you'll have either streaming video or an mp3 of the interview coming soon. Check back for updates.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Comming Attractions

Miami Dade College's Tower Theater in Little Havana (1508 S.W. 8th ST.) routinely showcases films made by or about Cubans. This week they have three such films screening. Although I cannot vouch for the content or quality of the films as I have not seen them or read much about them but the programmer, Orlando Rojas, is known for bringing interesting films to Miami that do not get very much exposure otherwise.

If you get a chance to or have seen any of these films please let us know your thoughts in our comments section.

For more information you can contact the theater @ 305 643 8706.

Dream Havana'

Saturday, August 8: 5 p.m.
Sunday, August 9: 7 p.m.
Tuesday, August 11: 7 p.m.
Thursday, August 13: 9 p.m.


Director: OGary Marks
Genre: Documentary
United States. Digital Projection, 82 minutes, English and Spanish with English subtitles. Not Rated (NR)

In August 1994, two writers, friends since adolescence, are faced with a choice: Continue struggling in Cuba or brave the open waters on a homemade raft. Ernesto chooses Cuba. Jorge chooses the sea. This is the story of their struggles, their successes and the friendship that binds them.

En agosto de 1994, dos escritores, amigos desde laadolescencia, se encuentran ante una encrucijada: seguir luchando en Cuba, o navegar mar abierto en una balsa artesanal. Ernesto opta por quedarse, y Jorge decide emprender la aventura. Una historia de sus luchas, sus éxitos, y la amistad que los une.

“Stirring … A provocative look at Cuba”.
Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune

“Cuban reality without sugar coating, without romanticizing…”
Yoani Sánchez, Concenso desde Cuba


Director: Humberto Padrón
Writers: Alejandro Brugués, Humberto Padrón
Cast: Jorge Perugorría, María Isabel Díaz, Yailene Sierra
Genre: Drama

Cuba-Spain. 95 minutes, Digital Projection. Spanish with English subtitles, Not Rated (NR)

Faría is an audacious prostitute who has to settle a debt or endanger her livelihood. Avelino is a radical Communist who denounces his wife's illicit business undertakings to the police. Miro is a painter who can’t sell her artwork at the fair but manages to obtain the financial support of a foreigner in exchange for her company. These three stories of sexual corruption become intertwined when a mysterious painting crosses their paths.

Faría es una prostituta audaz cuya vida corre peligro si no salda una deuda. Avelino es un comunista ferviente que denuncia a la policía los negocios ilícitos de su esposa. Miro es una pintora que no logra vender sus cuadros, pero consigue el apoyo económico de una extranjera a cambio de su compañía. Estas historias de amores difíciles y corrupción sexual se entrecruzan cuando una pintura misteriosa entra en escena.

Frutas en el café

Friday, August 7: 9 p.m.
Saturday, August 8: 7 p.m.
Tuesday, August 11: 9 p.m.
Wednesday, August 12: 7 p.m.


Director: Ernesto Daranas
Cast: Carlos E. Fonseca, Annia Bu, Isabel Santos, Silvia Aguila, Hector Noas
Genre: Drama
Cuba - Mexico.
Digital projection, 90 minutes. Spanish version with English subtitles. Not Rated.

Laura is a professor who delves into the San Isidro neighborhood, infamous for prostitution, to learn more about Alberto Yarini, the most famous pimp of the 20th century. Her curiosity turns personal when she gets involved with one of the pimps.
Laura es una profesora que explora el barrio de San Isidro, conocido por su pasado de prostitución, en busca de testimonios acerca de Alberto Yarini, el famoso proxeneta del siglo XX. Su curiosidad se torna personal cuando se enamora de uno de los “chulos”.

“Dioses rotos is professional cinema at its best: spectacular, realistic, accessible to all, aesthetically adult and conceptually rich, complex, and controversial.” Joel Rio, Sidney Latino Film Festival.

Dioses Rotos

Friday, August 7: 7 p.m.
Saturday, August 8: 9 p.m.
Sunday, August 9: 5 p.m.
Wednesday, August 12: 9 p.m.
Thursday, August 13: 7 p.m.

PRICES: General Public: $6; MDC Students, Seniors, Miami Film Society Members: $5

Learn to speak Castroese

From the Associated Press:

I can't wait for the pocket-size version.

So... let's have some fun with this. In the comments section, leave your own suggestions for entries in this new dictionary. (English and Spanish are both welcome)

A ver... vamos a divertirnos un poco con esto. En la sección para los comentarios, déjenos palabras y definiciones que se podrían añadir al diccionario de Fidel. (En inglés o español)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Llega y pon community in Las Piedras

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Click here for the text story that accompanies this video.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cuba's new home-grown tourists

From NPR:

Cuba's Resorts Welcome A New Clientele: Cubans

Click here for the whole story.

Key quote no. 1:

"You know, this is how it works in the rest of the world. Either you can afford something or you can't," said Felix Beatoy, an actor at one of the resort hotels. "It didn't make sense that a Cuban wasn't allowed to stay in a hotel even if they had the money. We've fixed that — just like Cubans not being able to have cell phones. Now, if the offer's there but you can't afford it, that's a different problem."
Key quote no. 2:

Miami resident Karel Alemany left the island a decade ago, and while his family members seemed to be enjoying themselves by the pool, his thoughts were elsewhere, with the real Cuba beyond the beach.

"What about the other 11 million people that live here? What if they don't have someone else that comes to Cuba to take them to some place? How do they live, how do they eat? That's something that you got to think about," Alemany said.

In case you missed it — Raíces de Esperanza on CNN Live

Today at 3:30 p.m., CNN Live aired an interview with Raíces de Esperanza co-founder Felice Gorordo as part of Nicole Lapin's "Young People Who Rock" series. Here it is in case you missed it:

Congratulations to Felice and the whole organization for some well-deserved recognition.

What are your thoughts? We'd love to hear them in the comments section.

TODAY: Raices' very own, Felice Gorordo, on CNN Live

Today is the premier of Felice Gorordo, a Raices member and founder's interview on CNN Live's segment, "Young People Who Rock".
Nicole Lapin will be talking with Felice about his road to founding Raices and his connection to the Cuban cause.

Tune in today to CNN at 3:30 p.m. EST to watch live, or click here to learn more and watch the segment online.

Cuban-American Jeanine Mason wins So You Think You Can Dance

From the Miami Herald:

Miami Herald Staff

A South Florida student was chosen by fans as ``America's favorite dancer'' on Thursday night.

Jeanine Mason, an 18-year-old graduate of Ransom Everglades School, was declared the winner during the two-hour finale of season five of the Fox's hit show, So You Think You Can Dance.

Mason, who grew up in Pinecrest, will receive a $250,000 cash prize.

She plans to attend UCLA, where she will major in journalism, although dancing and acting beckon. She says she has three passions: theater, dance and acting.

Click here for the whole story.

As I was Googling Mason (because we journalism people are creepy that way), I came across an essay she wrote for the 2004-2005 Junior Orange Bowl Creative Writing Contest. She's 18 now, so she was about 14 at the time. Here it is:
By Jeanine Mason

I am pro-choice. If you disagree with me will you hurt me, will you isolate me, and will you take my life from me? No because I am American.

Every day in this country we have the opportunity to speak our mind. We can believe in what we think is right. We can fight and argue for what we think is wrong.

As an American I treasure this, and as a student who has been encouraged to become a lawyer I always take advantage of this. While writing this paper I wondered if there are children in other countries like Cuba, which close their eyes and imagine themselves in America. Do they say to themselves in the lightest of whispers, so quiet and so secretly that their small lips seem to not even move, “I believe…” “I think…” “I want…”? Do they dream of raising their voice so that they are heard? But then they open their eyes and realize that if they do those might be their last words.

My entire family is Cuban and I am extremely proud of my heritage. I know that I unlike my family in Cuba can say “I am pro-choice,” “I believe the Vietnam War was pointless,” “I disagree with Fidel Castro and the communist government and want nothing more than to get them out of Cuba.” I unlike the residents of Cuba would be able to live to see if I made a difference because my beliefs were heard. I know that people in other countries not only Cuba would give everything they have for themselves or their children to be able to have the freedom we have here in America. For this reason I always speak my mind and always explain to others why I believe and in what I believe.

In America we not only get to raise our voice, but we can make sure what we say is heard. There are many ways we can make a difference. Voting is one way millions of Americans exercise their ability to make a difference. Every American should vote for as many political positions as possible. Even if time only permits you to vote for the presidential elections and then run back to your busy life in a busy country.

Americans celebrate freedom in America on July 4, with fireworks, parties, or other traditions. My family and I celebrate freedom in America everyday. All of my family votes and always come home overflowing with joy, knowing they expressed their ability to be heard. I celebrate freedom in America by participating in class discussions and expressing what I think, and then letting out a sigh of happiness knowing I am an American.

We sometimes forget how fortunate we are to live in this great country. We unlike the little boy, who closed his eyes and dreamed of being in our place, are able to live his dream. We unlike the little boy don’t have to whisper. I am pro-choice.

Jeanine Mason
Ransom Everglades Middle School

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Full Court Peace raises just under $4K for Belfast kids... shooting free throws

Full Court Peace, an organization that brings together young Irish Catholics and protestants in heavily divided Belfast, had an incredible idea for an innovative fund raising campaign not too long ago.

FCP co-founder and friend of Raíces de Esperanza Mike Evans would shoot 100 free throws, and donors would pledge to give the amoung of their choosing for every shot he made.

How many did he make? Well... let's just say I skipped though most of this video beause watching the ball go through was starting to get boring.

In all, Mike and FCP raised just under $4,000 with this campaign. Which made me think two things:
  1. Mike and everyone at FCP who made this such a success deserve some congratulations.
  2. Raíces' own Felice Gorordo needs to get to work on his shot after his CNN Live interview on Friday.

15 years later, people still remember "El Maleconazo"

The watershed event known as "El Maleconazo" today marks it's 15th anniversary.

15 years ago today, thousands of Cubans took to the streets in the section of Old Havana where the ocean wall of El Malecón runs along the sidewalk.

It was the first time a civic uprising of this sort had ever been seen in Castro's Havana. Police forces responded immediately and arrested an estimated 700 civilians.

The following is a news clip showing shown the day of the uprising.

Many peaceful demonstrations will be happening today to
commemorate this day. If you would like to participate, see the
times and locations (in Miami) below.

The Assembly of Resistance (part of the Yo No Coopero Campaign):

  • 8 p.m. at the Monumento a la Brigada 2506 (8 St. and 13 Ave.) in Little Havana

    8 p.m. at La Carreta Restaurant (Bird Road and 87 Ave.) in Westcher

    8 p.m. at the Westland Mall parking lot (49 St. and 16 Ave.) in Hialeah

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cuban-American community is backdrop for novel about lesbian teen

An interesting bit about a new book.

From School Library Journal:
Cruelly outed by a teacher, Laura Amores is kicked out of her home in Mayra Lazara Dole’s Down to the Bone (HarperTeen, 2008). In Miami’s Catholic Cuban-American culture, “tortilleras” are morally depraved. Laura moves in with best friend Soli, and surrounds herself with new friends including Tazer, a transgendered Cuban lesbian. After much vacillation, Laura officially comes out to herself and others, defying her mother’s manipulations and rejection. The Miami Cuban community offers an evocative backdrop to the story and Dole fills Down to the Bone with sassy characters and fresh dialogue. Themes of social class friction, racial diversity, relations within the LGBTQ community, and the use of sexual slurs are topics that sociology and communications classes can explore.
Click here for more on this and other books about LGBTQ issues for young adults.

Reflections on Cuba and our young generation

The following are responses to questions asked as part of the application for the 2009 UM Cuba Conference. The text is posted here with permission from the author.

The author and conference alum, Camilo López, is currently a student at the University of Florida.

Question 1:
Why is Cuba important to you? *

Para mí, Cuba es mi casa, mi ciudad, país, y paraíso. Como todo cubano, siento un gran respeto y admiración por mi país, el lugar en donde me crié y crecí para ser lo que soy hoy. El lugar en donde dí mis primeros pasos y aprendé a hablar el castellano. Ahí es donde aprendí sobre arte música y sobre todo el baile. Donde yacen los restos de mis ancestros y donde aún vive mi familia.

Having left Cuba four years ago it has been difficult to forget my country. I often find myself longing for that island while playing my guitar or listening to los Orishas. While I'm with my friends playing dominoes, racquetball or windsurfing, I recall these hobbies that I learned and grew to love in my country. Cuba holds a special place in my life and it is a major ingredient in my frijoles negros con puerco.

Question 2:
How do you think the conference's theme of "Generation in Action" can be applied to Cuba? Try to be as concrete and specific as possible. *

Esta conferencia puede ayudar a muchos cubanos que viven en el exilio a matener un lazo con su país natal, lo cual les sirve para involucrarse en el tema cubano. A la misma vez estrecha las relaciones entre las nuevas generaciones que viven por todos los Estados Unidos. Pero no solo es de valor significativo para los que estamos exiliados, sino para aquellos que aun viven en una libertad ficticia. Así, todos podemos contribuir a la causa cubana y al país como tal.

"Generation in Action" simply means that it is the time for our generation to take action in driving forth the notion of a free Cuba where people will have the opportunity to pursue their goals in life. We the young thinkers of our countries take a stand in helping those that are in need and provide means for information. Therefore, our generation is the one that needs to rise up and fight for those who cannot and contribute to aid our country, Cuba.

Cuban medical professionals in the U.S.

From the New York Times:

Doctors in Cuba Start Over in the U.S.

Published: August 3, 2009 Click here for the whole story.

While the rest of the country is suffering from a shortage of primary care physicians, Miami is awash with Cuban doctors who have defected in recent years. By some estimates, 6,000 medical professionals, many of them physicians, have left Cuba in the last six years.
Click here for the whole story.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Raíces de Esperanza on CNN Live

CNN Live Anchor Nicole Lapin has a column called "Young People Who Rock". It features individuals under the age of 30 who are doing remarkable things.

CNN's Nicole Lapin

The lastest person featured is a fellow "Root", our friend, colleague, and one of our founders, Felice Gorordo. Her interview with Felice will air online on Friday, Aug. 7 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Click here for Lapin's blog post and a link you can use to watch the interview on Friday. You can also use the comments section of Lapin's blog to suggest questions for Felice.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What's "The Comedian" up to?

According to the New Times, Bill Murray, Robert Duval and James Caan were in Havana for "professional research."

From the Miami New Times:

What Is Bill Murray Doing in Cuba?

Quiceañera cutbacks

From the Associated Press:
Milestone parties shrink to survive for teens

MIAMI — For a generation of girls, coming of age during the recession calls for a celebration that can be as much DIY as it is mini-wedding.

Planning a quinceanera? Think about choreographing your own dance routine. Feeding a Sweet 16? Hope you know how to bake. Bat mitzvah on the way? You might want to share your party with a neighbor.

"You don't know if you're going to lose your job. You don't know what's going to happen. You don't want to go overboard," said Yanicet Ganuzas. For her daughter Yanelis's quinceanera, the lavish party many Latino families throw when their daughters turn 15, she spent $14,000 — a little more than half of what she spent two years ago on another daughter.

Click here for the whole story.

Newsweek edtorial: What's the hold up?

From Newsweek:

What Happened to That New Cuba Policy?

By Michael Hirsh | NEWSWEEK
Published Aug 1, 2009

It's been about four months since President Obama announced looser restrictions on travel and sending money to Cuba. But they haven't gone into effect yet, the Treasury Department confirms to NEWSWEEK. So what's the holdup?

Click here for the whole article.

Key excerpt:
In late July, in yet another sign that the Obama administration wants to make nice, the State Department shut down an electronic billboard that the Bush administration had erected across the front of the building that houses the U.S. interests section in Havana. The billboard, which is said to have irked Fidel Castro, continually flashed quotes about freedom from American icons like Lincoln and King. But with Castro's brother, Raúl, in charge, Team Obama believes that it can make more progress talking than sniping.
Question from the blogger:

The New Oxford American Dictionaty defines sniping as "Making a sly or petty verbal attack."

Why is it that, when it comes to how we communicate on Cuba, quoting Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King is considered "sniping"?

Raul: "They didn't elect me to hand over the Revolution"

From Reuters:

Castro to U.S.: communist Cuba will not change

HAVANA (Reuters) - President Raul Castro said on Saturday he would not change Cuba's communist system to make peace with the United States, but repeated his willingness to discuss all issues with the island's longtime enemy.
Click here for the whole story.

Some diverse reflections on leaving Cuba

From the BBC:

Cuban revolution: Exiles' stories

The Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power in 1959 provoked a large exodus of people, most of whom headed for the US. And in the following 50 years, there have been waves of Cubans seeking exile abroad.

Five Cubans based in Miami spoke to the BBC's Emilio San Pedro about their lives.

Click here for the package.