YORUBA,SANTERIA. OCHUN OSHUN Folclorico de Oriente Santiago de Cuba
Doble Tambor en Cuba
oracion a oshun ( la caridad del cobre)
Cuba and the Havana Club Rum Wars
By Dariela Aquique
HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 24 — For years the courts have not been able to decide who holds ownership to the brand name Havana Club.
Cuba has filed complains against the United States on more than one occasion before the World Trade Organization regarding violations of accords adopted by the WTO institution regarding the appropriation of brands.
The Cuban delegation to the Permanent Mission in Geneva insists that “the only solution is the total abolition of the law known as Section 211?, approved by the US Congress and in force in the United States since 1998, which blocks the Cuban holder of Havana Club rum from filing a lawsuit in the US against the Bacardí company for their use of the brand name.
Since 2002, the Dispute Resolution Body of the WTO has considered Section 211, which protects Bacardí, to be unacceptable.
The French liquor and beverage group Pernod Ricard is also involved in the dispute and seeks to: “… prevent the illegal use of the name Havana Club by Bacardí in the United States.”
For more than a decade both companies have experienced setbacks and victories in their long commercial and legal battle over the name.
It all began in 1994 when Bacardi began its crusade against Havana Club when the rum hit the international market as a result of a trade agreement between the Cuban state company Cubaexport and the French multinational Pernord Ricard, which led to the creation of the joint venture Havana Club Holding, S.A.
Since then, Bacardí, a leader among the powerful Cuban American businesses in the US, has dug in its heels, defending their commercial interests by making the most of important connections with US political power.
The brand Havana Club had been registered in the US since 1974 by Cubaexport but since the imposition of the economic blockade in the early 60′s, sales of the Cuban rum, like all other Cuban products, has been barred there. Then, in 2006, the US arbitrarily refused to allow Cuba to renew the brand name that belongs to it.
In 1994, Bacardí solicited a license to use the brand name and introduce a new rum to the US market, which is made in Puerto Rico, under the label Havana Club. It is important to understand that the original brand never belonged to them. It belonged to José Arechabala, S.A. (JASA).
Arechabala had let their registration of the brand expire in 1973, losing the legal right to it. Nonetheless, they sold it in 1997 to Bacardi when the heirs of the Arechabala family reached an agreement by which, from that moment on, Bacardí would litigate on behalf of the company.
Thus, when the Arechabalas sold la brand name Havana Club to Bacardí they weren’t the owners. But this didn’t seem to matter because Barcardí believed that their influences in the US government were all that was needed.
The French firm stresses that over 15 years ago they’ve sold millions of cases of Cuban rum under the name Havana Club via a joint venture between Pernod Ricard and Cuba Ron in more than 120 countries around the globe.
The Supreme Court of Spain has rejected the appeal filed by Bacardi& Company, Ltd and the decedents of the Arechabala family against the 2007 ruling by the Provincial Court of Madrid which determined that ownership of the brand name Havana Club belonged to Cubaexport, the joint venture between the French liquor company and Cuba. The litigation between Pernod Ricard and Bacardi over the Spanish market began in 1999 when the US holding filed a suit claiming ownership of the Havana Club brand. In 2005, the court of first instance recognized Cubaexport as the legitimate owner of the brand. Bacardí appealed and in 2007, the Provincial Court upheld the ruling. That decision has now been ratified by the Supreme Court. The other battlefield for the Havana Club name is in the US where court decisions have favored Bacardi and where Cubaexport currently has two suits pending.
Cuba solidarity organizations and Cuban émigré associations in Europe want to step up the international campaign against Bacardí by calling a boycott under the slogan “Bacardí, un mal trago (a bitter drink)”. Among those promoting the boycott are:
The Star of Cuba (Germany), I Love This Island (Germany), Association of Cubans Residents in Andorra, Cuba Go (Austria), Cuba Go (Croatia), Cuba Go (Czech Republic), Association of Cuban Residents in Denmark, Association of Cuban Residents in Granada, Bronze Titan Association (Andalucía), 100×100 Cuban Association (Asturias), Association of Cubans in Cataluña, Association of Cubans in Baleares, Sierra Maestra Association (Basque Country), Association of Cubans in Galicia, Association of Cubans “Caguairán” in Valencia, Association of Cubans “Leonor Pérez” in Tenerife, Association of Cubans “Cubanacan” in Canarias (Canary Islands), Sierra Maestra Association (Madrid), Cuban Roots Association (France), Cuba Homeland Association (Greece), Siboney With Cuba Association (Italy), You for Cuba Association (Italy), Association of Cuban Residents in Portugal, Association of Cuban Residents in Russia, Cubans for Cuba Association, Sweden, and We Are Cubans Association, Switzerland.
They say that Bacardi has direct ties to and finances the extreme right-wing Cuban American organizations in Miami, especially with the powerful Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), implicated in numerous terrorist attacks in Cuba. They call on: the hotel industry, distributors and public consumers to reject Bacardi products, which are sold with a false Cuban image, in an attempt to educate the public about the company’s involvement in the economic blockade suffered by the Cuban people.
Background of Havana Club
In 1935, the great grandfather of the current patriarch Ramón Arechabala was the original founder of the recipe and the brand name Havana Club. The company was nationalized in 1960 by the revolutionary government.
The Arechabala family, like Bacardí and all the large Cuban proprietors did not accept la intervention that forced them to abandon their facilities and head to the US to await the fall of the new government when they would return to the island. That never happened.
When in 1993, the Cuban government signed an agreement with the French company Pernod Ricard to produce and distribute the rum under the original brand name, Havana Club, the Arechabala who at that time was not economically solvent, wanted to protect their interests and would go on to sell the recipe and name to Bacardi, with which it sympathized for having suffered the same interference by the Castro government.
On the one side, Cuba says it is the only entity that can sell real Havana Club, made on the island. On the other, the Arechabala family says that only they have the original recipe and that the appropriation did not confer use rights to Cuba. They further argue that even though their version is made in Puerto Rico, it is still original Cuban rum.
The History of Bacardí
Between 1828 and 1832 the Bacardi brothers arrived in Santiago de Cuba from Sitges, Barcelona. One of them, Facundo, went into business distilling sugar cane. By 1838 he married Lucía Victoria Moreau, a young girl of French decent born in El Caney.
In 1862, with few resources but much imagination they opened a small distillery with a sheet metal roof, an old cast iron still, and a few fermentation tanks and aging barrels. After much experimenting, Facundo perfected his formula.
There were a lot of bats at that location so Lucía Victoria (also called Amalia) decided to adopt the bat as the symbol of their new business. According to ancient legends of the Taino Indians of Cuba, bats are the symbol of wisdom. Local popular mythology claims they bring health, fortune and family unity.
The bat became the trademark of Bacardi which quickly became a famous liquor brand. With the passage of time, new technologies, and greater distribution it became an important early distillery of a powerful industry.
In 1874, the aged mixes in oak barrels gave rise to the first genuinely Cuban rum, best known as Bacardí 1873 or Extra Seco (Extra Dry), different from any other mix. It won a gold medal in the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris and was declared to be the King of Spain’s brand.
Upon the death of Facundo, his decedents maintained the “secret formula”. For generations the business was successful in Santiago de Cuba, and other locations around the country, making the family one of the wealthiest that ever lived in Cuba. Since the beginning the company has remained in the family.
After the coming of the Revolution and the accompanying nationalizations, the owners of the company decided to move to Puerto Rico, where they had established a distillery in 1936 in order to avoid paying duties on the rum exported to the US.
That distillery, located in the town of Cataño, is considered the biggest in the world. It produces 100,000 gallons of rum per day with most of the company’s operations still centered there.
Their facilities are part of Puerto Rico’s tourist attractions. The Casa Bacardí museum has guided tours where visitors learn the history of the family, the company, and the production and taste different samples of the famous liquor.
The company has offices in Miami and its headquarters are in the Bermudas where it is registered as Bacardi Limited. It is currently worth several billion dollars.
Usurped brand or political entanglement?
To make good rum only requires the right ingredients, effort and patience. Made in Cuba or in Puerto Rico, if you are using the same formula the results will be identical. As the saying goes there is nothing hidden under the sun and when the Bacardi family left in 1960, the veteran workers of the company remained and began producing Caney rum. Tasters could not detect the slightest difference between the original and the new liquor. Only the name and bottle changed. The King of Rums or the Rum of the Kings maintained its unmistakable and unique taste.
Only political positions and pressures have converted into a trademark war one of Cuba’s best creations– its excellent rum.
A Musical Bridge from Cuba*
by Osmel Almaguer
HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 20 — X Alfonso figures among the most talented and versatile young Cuban musicians of today. His work in fusion combines diverse forms such as jazz, pop, rock, electronic music, hip-hop, African bells and any other rhythm that he finds appropriate for a specific song. A graduate in piano from the School of Music, and later from the National School of Art (ENA), his musical career began with the nationally renowned group “Synthesis,” directed by his parents.
Later he founded the rock group “Havana,” in which he performed as the bassist, vocalist, arranger and composer. His career continued as a soloist beginning in 1993, giving extremely successful concerts in Havana theaters. He has composed music for dance companies and musicals, as well as for full-length feature films. Recently he racked up another success when venturing into the directing of music videos. As a demonstration of his social consciousness, being an artist whose subjects are marginalization and the critique of human degradation, his music is used in sections of the National Television News (NTV). He has produced a number of CDs: Mundo Real (2000), X Moré (2001), Delirium Tremens (2002), Civilizacion (2005) and Revoluxion (2007).
ANGELES del CD Revoluxion (2007)
Angels are those mythological beings to which people have attributed the virtues of kindness and innocence. This is the story of a fallen angel:
- He awoke. Running tired / escaping from the sun. His wings now / didn’t have the energy / to return. He remained / an angel / lost / wanting to return.
- So he sat down on the ridge of a roof / with his wings folded and his porcelain attire / and he began to see / how the human species was the only one that destroys itself and how its members eliminate each other / and how their cities exist within an absurd oppressive atmosphere of decadence. Your skin becomes perverted for no reason. So he became frightened.
- He began to cry / lost in the center of a great city. He was in bad shape / saturated with the world that God / had showed him. He asked for help / but no one / no one / heard him.
- He ran and fell with his wings / dragging his porcelain attire / asking in the middle of traffic but people backed away / they shut their windows / they pushed him and screamed. They tossed him coins / and even sometimes humiliated him / then he began to sing. (Vocalization of lament).
- They thought he was just another wolf. They handcuffed him and locked him up / for a long time. They pulled off his wings / along with his porcelain attire. They pulled his eyes out / they took away his innocence. He just turned his head up at the sky / and tears swelled up in his eyes. This was how he spent his time in a far-off jail. Then they let him go.
- There he goes / sleeping in the streets / not knowing who is. The angels / are the vagabonds who are / with him / who know who he is / who hide / their wings / from this world that is so cruel.
- That’s why / we never see them / pass by.
The expressive and extensive lyrics of this song impel me to comment the least possible, only what’s essential. The idea that moves through this theme from one end to the other is that all of us, at some moment, have been fallen angels, souls that come to us from another dimension. With pure souls, we fall into this world built by the greed of other angels who lost their wings a long time ago, but who adapted.
This is an urban story. Perhaps it’s about those beings that couldn’t become alienated, that couldn’t adapt to the law of the survival of the fittest.
It is a furious critique of our own hypocrisy, of dreaming daily of idealized beings but not knowing how to see that they’re among us, because we ourselves are those angels.
It is a critique of superficiality, of judging something as being good because of its appearance and condemning what we aren’t familiar with. It is a critique of the humanity that we’ve fashioned, and a warning because it has slipped through our hands.
It’s also a beautiful fable, a song paying homage to those people who many reject: vagabonds.
And coming from X Alfono, the instrumental form of the song could be no other than a modern waltz full of today’s sounds (hip-hop, trip-hop); though it’s rather gloomy, as if flowing through a long metal conduit.
Employing parasitic sounds of technology, distortions are used to recreate the atmosphere of an intermediate world shared by beings from two dimensions. These are appropriate notations to these beautiful lyrics that recycle elements of marginalization.
(*) A Musical Bridge from Cuba: This is an effort to find new bridges that promote communication between peoples of the diverse regions of the planet. I will be using simple narration in a series of articles to connect with those who are interested in the messages transmitted by Cuban songs, which due to their limited commercial potential and the difficulties posed by their translation, languish in a state of communicational stagnation – despite their being true jewels of Cuban culture.
A Family Bar
The bar at the pizzeria at 23rd and 12th street and the tables of the G St. café, with its unbeatable “alcoholic” drinks without alcohol, were the nearest things to my concept of true bars.
Still, to me these places seem surprisingly distant from those bars that were so plentiful in those Havana nights prior to 1959, the ones referred to in books (novels like Tres Tristes Tigres, by a non-friend of the revolution, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, but who’s now published here).
The jukeboxes began to disappear with the eradication of neighborhood bars. Boleros, trova and son — along with undiluted shots of rum — would later begin to be marketed only to tourists.
The old bars, signs of a tradition inherited from Spain, now lie in ruins or were decorously transformed into stores for the selling of subsidized products.
But today, as we witness the slow death of the ration book, is wouldn’t be strange to expect the rebirth of bars.
I discovered an embryo of this a few nights ago. Don’t ask me to say the name of the establishment or its location. I won’t commit the sin of being inconsiderate or an informer.
Establishments that sell alcoholic drinks are illegal when they’re not property of the government. The private ones have to request special permits for the sale of these products in restaurants or cafeterias, there are no private cantinas or taverns.
I went to the place I mentioned which has a long dark passageway. I didn’t plan to pay high prices charged by state-owned facility to hang out, tabs that are only paid by little rich kids or foreigners, people whose wallets are much deeper than most students and young workers here.
I got in line to go in, where seemingly nothing happens; in fact, the door looked like one to any home on any dark street.
But when I walked to the end of the house, everything began to take on meaning. The place was full of people who were laughing, listening to music and playing dominos.
Also overflowing was the bar, where they sold a finger of rum for 10 pesos, a mojito for 20, sangria at 25, and a can of beer for 1 CUC (a little over one dollar USD).
Though everybody was drinking, there wasn’t a face in the house that showed any sign of aggressiveness. Many people were talking among themselves while sitting on benches located among plants, candles and figures of Buddha. Those who were the most entertained were dancing while chanting along to songs by Queen, The Police, Led Zeppelin and others.
My friends and I enjoyed a pleasant family business where the grandfather poured the beer, the granddaughters prepared and served the shots, and the father (a hippie from the ‘70s, now with a gray beard) was the one who took care of the music.
Bars were eliminated in 1959 as a means of counteracting the evils of alcoholism and prostitution.
Now we have a strange country where state-owned cafeterias have more alcohol than food and tap beer steals the money and souls of more than a few alcoholics, though we’re trying to eliminate alcoholism.
It’s a country where girls will strip naked in discos for a case of beer (like in the Guanimar Cabaret incident) and shake their butts to entice tourists or Cuban ricachones, yet it’s a nation where we prefer not to speak of prostitution.
I’ll stay with the family bar, where you can read interesting phrases on the walls but where you don’t see an unhappy face on any of the workers.
Jorge Milanes: My name is Jorge Milanes Despaigne, and I’m a tourism promoter and public relations specialist. Forty-five years ago I was born in Cojimar, a small coastal town to the east of Havana. I very much enjoy trips and adventure; and now that I know a good bit about my own country, I’d like to learn more about other nations. I enjoy reading, singing, dancing, haute cuisine and talking with interesting people who offer wisdom and happiness.
A Gift for the Doctor
Jorge Milanes Despaigne
I went to the shop located on the first floor of the Florida Hotel in Old Havana to buy some cologne for my mother’s doctor. I’d already bought him a couple pairs of socks and she had insisted on cologne.
In the window were several flasks, each with a unique scent. These bottles of cologne are inexpensive compared to others in great demand. Still, I had to comply with my mother’s instructions because there wasn’t any more money.
Due to the importance of what a gift for a doctor represents, I took this task of searching for cologne very seriously. To tell the truth though, it didn’t turn out to be so complicated, not like on other occasions where I’ve had the money but couldn’t find the desired object – “not even in spiritual centers,” as the popular expression goes.
Doctors need this type of attention too because the wages they receive aren’t enough to take care of even their basic personal needs.
Cologne in hand, my mother went to her consultation content. The doctor always attends to her well. He even tells her that she could be his grandmother, which is why my mother has developed such special affection for this young doctor who has won not only her heart but mine too, especially after his numerous displays of concern whenever she has been admitted.
She had to wait in line almost two hours because this doctor has many patients. But my mother doesn’t like to abuse people’s trust, so she calmly waited her turn while reading the last book by Cabrera Infante published by Ediciones Union.
Later that afternoon I asked her what the doctor had told her, and she responded by saying that he had found her “overflowing with good health.”
But when I inquired about the gift she lowered her head.
In very low tone she told me: “After he examined me very politely, he asked me the regular questions and then told me that I was fine. I then handed him the gift, but on his desk, there sat the exact same bottle, a gift from another patient.”
Reflections of a Green Recruit in Cuba
Military service in Cuba is mandatory – unless you’re gay, crazy or have enough money to pay off a corrupt official to get you out of it.
I don’t know anybody who has ever voluntarily gone to sign up at the recruitment office. Who the hell wants to go around marching and cutting weeds under the August sun or taking absurd orders like: “Don’t scratch yourself standing at attention!”
I know people who have played crazy, acted gay, left the country (to their regret), mutilated themselves and even taken their own life with a bullet rather than join our “boys in green.”
I have no doubt about the importance of being prepared for war, especially now with NATO attacking wherever it wants and doing whatever it pleases. But what type of war is FAR (Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces) preparing the young people for who are inducted into its’ ranks every year?
It’s known that people in the Third World, lacking sophisticated armaments, can only resist modern armies by adopting Gandhi-like approaches, availing themselves of each element of nature as a weapon. But to achieve this we would have to be closely integrated with our environment so as not to be as foreign in our own land as any invader.
What would the preparation for this type of war be like?
As for me — someone who’s no soldier, and who doesn’t want to be — it came to my mind that they could push themselves a little and take the recruits to the mountainous areas of the country, of which there are more than a few, some not so far away.
In those areas, in addition to teaching them combat tactics (and leaving them to train each other), they could go over practical questions: those related to geography, how to orient themselves in the woods without the need of equipment, various healing techniques, how to identify eatable and poisonous plants, or intoxicants and entheogens (these could end up being necessary in certain circumstances), or how to obtain drinking water and some of the thousands of tricks that campesinos know well.
It would be an amusing and an appropriate way for those of enlistment age to train and learn useful things, and not only those for waging war.
It wouldn’t be bad to teach them about the culture and spirituality of people who live in the remote areas of the country and to stimulate respectful human contact between the locals and the recruits.
They could include history classes on military conflicts fought by our people or other peoples in the face of imperialistic aggression. It would be important for the recruits to feel good, for them to get into the mood and connect with the environment.
In passing, they would get to visit the country’s beautiful areas, those with aesthetic and ecological value that go beyond mere utilitarian aspects. They would learn how to love this island and its people, which is what is fundamental for them to later want to defend it.
It’s good that they learn how to handle an AKM rifle, but there are also alternative weapons, ones that anyone with knowledge of the land can master without having to rely on very many resources.
It would be important to teach them to be disciplined, to obey those orders imposed from above, but also to be organized independently, know how to act autonomously, take initiative and trust themselves. These are vital abilities in a war where small dispersed units would play a primordial role.
I believe that only in this way would it will be possible to organize a resistance capable of taking on GPS equipment, night vision glasses, satellites, smart bombs and Lord knows how many other infernal and sophisticated devices the invaders might bring.
A friend of mine told me that after several weeks, the only things they made them do was march under the sun in a polygon formation, cut weeds and to take “political” classes.
Learning how to march and to move around in rigidly organized groups is — in addition to being useless and dangerous in an actual war-time situation — an extremely boring and tiresome activity for restless youth who have barely left adolescence.
It is, however, the perfect training if what one seeks is to atomize, to annul horizontal relationships, depersonalize, homogenize and train obedience to a central command. It is ideal for subordinating people to officials and professional specialists with power and rank but devoid of moral authority.
As these youth understand nothing about why there’s so much senseless waste, they end up embittered, hating the instructor-sergeants and the whole machinery that sustains them.
Added to this are the political classes that, according to my friend, no one pays any attention to. Some deal with our national symbols (a topic that couldn’t be more abstract and alienating).
On another occasion they alerted the troops of the delicate military situation that the nation was experiencing because: “at the root of the marches by the Ladies in White is the United States, which is plotting an act of aggression.”
It’s easier to dominate these kids by filling them with the fear of an attack, and in doing so trying to generate a subliminal association between their anxieties and the street demonstrations of these women.
This treatment of these recruits by FAR is typical of how elites respond to the “masses” – a body that they underestimate and fear at the same time.
The populist authorities here publically flaunt the concept of the “War of the People,” but what they understand by this is the subordination of ignorant peons to the orders of a professional army that keeps all of the weapons and knowledge of war under lock and key.
These are the Revolutionary Armed Forces. Let’s see whose side they take if the party heats up.
Trabaja en una corporación de nuevo tipo, de esas que ocupan una lujosa mansión en el barrio de Miramar e importan mercancías desde el extranjero. Para lograr tal empleo, le bastó con apelar a la influencia de su padre teniente coronel, tirar levemente del árbol genealógico. Pertenece a una nueva generación de empresarios sin ideología, aunque para mantener su puesto grite de vez en cuando una consigna, finja fidelidad a algún líder. Este pícaro “hombre nuevo” busca las ofertas más baratas –y de peor calidad– que hay en el mercado internacional y las hace pasar por la opción que sus jefes le han asignado comprar. Por esa diferencia, miles y miles de dólares van a parar a su bolsillo cada año. Como él, toda una camada de lobeznos ávidos de dinero defalcan en las empresas cubanas, apertrechándose financieramente para el cambio que viene.
El más reciente episodio de la podredumbre moral en el sector empresarial, está relacionado con el publicitado cable de fibra óptica que nos enlaza con Venezuela. Anunciado desde 2008, sólo llegó a nuestras costas en febrero de este año, bajo la mirada ansiosa de 11 millones de ciudadanos que sueñan con poder conectarse masivamente a Internet. Después de varias postergaciones, se había señalado el pasado mes de julio como fecha para que comenzara a funcionar. Entre rumores callejeros, despachos de agencias extranjeras y testimonios de trabajadores de la única empresa de telefonía permitida en el país, hemos sabido que el cable es un fracaso. Una mala elección del material del que está constituido, la ausencia de la cobertura correcta para que no fuera mordido por los tiburones que tanto abundan en las aguas del Caribe y hasta la sustracción de fondos destinados a su activación, parecen haber inhabilitado su puesta en marcha, hasta nuevo aviso.
Pero más allá de los detalles casi cómicos del cable que no funciona, llama la atención el alto nivel en la jerarquía política de los implicados en este nuevo escándalo de corrupción. No son funcionarios de segunda categoría, sino rectos servidores de un Partido que habían detentado encumbradas responsabilidades con anterioridad. ¿Cómo fue que estos fieles empleados de ministerios, empresas mixtas y firmas extranjeras, se convirtieron en delincuentes de “cuello verde”, en ladrones de carnet rojo en el bolsillo? Quizás fue su olfato azuzado de oportunistas que les hizo creer que el futuro estaba más cerca y los cambios debían encontrarlos con una base económica que los convirtiera en empresarios del mañana. Por cada uno que ha sido descubierto, hay decenas que siguen “faenando” en las sombras, gritando una consigna, jurando lealtad a un líder, mientras a solas calculan el número de dígitos que ya tiene su fortuna personal, el volumen del monto que han logrado sustraerle a un estado que los creyó confiables.
Una versión ampliada de este texto fue publicada en El Comercio, de Perú
Wandering through Centro Havana
Photo Feature by Elio Delgado
HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 22 — I left home early to capture images in Centro Havana, one of the most populous municipality of the Cuban capital. In the streets life boils. Some people are on their way to work, others going to the store shopping.
Over here, a group of taxi drivers are waiting for riders; over there, women are looking through the stores for the things they need. Everything in the streets of Centro Havana is the going and coming of people of different ages, each one focused on their own affairs.
On each street is combined large-scale State commerce with small owner-operated businesses gradually increasing in number. Although begging isn’t common in Cuba, there’s no shortage of those who take advantage of the images of saints to request money from passersby, exploiting people’s beliefs.
Click on the tumbnails below to view all the photos in this gallery
Looking for Food
Anyone would think that with the weekend should come the chance to relax after a demanding work week.
But that’s not the situation for me. Saturday and Sunday are days for going out scouting for food.
I’m not the only person who finds themselves in this situation of continuing to work during the time supposedly reserved for leisure.
The fact that many families are in this situation is a topic among the crowds of people who turn out every weekend at the Carlos III Agricultural Fair.
Carlos III proper is a central thoroughfare whose name they decided to change to Salvador Allende Avenue at some point in time, though no one paid attention to that re-christening.
On Saturday mornings I throw on daypack, with who knows how many plastic bags stuffed inside, and I head out for the popular street market.
What can I find there? – almost everything, from recycled clothes, soap, air fresheners, children’s bikes, earrings and plants, to food stands from Havana restaurants selling products like shrimp or beer.
But the thing is that I’m not searching for any of those products; I go to look for something very basic: food, the kind that’s supposed to exist at an agricultural fair.
But at Carlos III, what’s scarcest is food and what are in excess are people looking for the same thing as me.
So, it’s not unusual for the lines that form even in front of lemon stands to stretch for miles, or for the would-be buyers —drained by the heat— to end up doing everything from screaming at each other to fighting.
If you happen to be interested in buying fruit, in the best case scenario you’ll have to choose between only two alternatives. I’ve been making guava juice for the past three months because I don’t like papaya.
And if you have a taste for salad, you may well end up leaving with empty hands, which is what happens when the only things they have to offer are avocados and you don’t like them.
The fair is a battle between all those who want to buy produce without first getting in line, and with the sellers who strive —I don’t know how— to make the scales always mark in their favor.
You leave exhausted, wishing to never again return to a place like this, but knowing full well you have no choice.
In addition to being tired, I end the day upset, because I know that there are people who don’t have to invest their Saturdays and Sundays in this struggle. Those are the ones who I can’t figure out where they get the money to buy shopping carts full at supermarkets that sell in hard currency CUCs, those same stores where it’s hard for me to buy a bar of soap.
A 48-point Proposal to Deal with Racism in Cuba
HAVANA TIMES, June 29 – The Cuban civil rights organization Cofradia de la Negritud (the Negritude Brotherhood) has recently released an action plan to fight racism in Cuba. Here is the HT translation of the proposal:
The Tasks and Actions aimed at obtaining objective results aimed at the elimination of all manifestations of racial discrimination existent in Cuban society, as well as the reduction of the racial inequalities that have intensified in the last years.
1. That the Cuban Parliament organize and carry out during the next Legislative session a Parliamentary hearing to analyze the manifestations of racism and/or racial discrimination existing in our society.
2. That the corresponding permanent commission of the Cuban Parliament present an official opinion during the next Legislative session on the existence of manifestations of racism and/or racial discrimination in Cuba.
3. The establishment of a Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Cuba, taking as their model the entity of that same name in the United Nations.
4. The creation of a National Commission to attend to, coordinate, and be accountable for the application of the Cuban State’s policies on the racial question.
5. The introduction of appropriate changes in the different levels of the educational system, applying a scientific and multi-disciplinary focus to assure that students are exposed to an effective process of values formation. This should take into consideration ethical, historical, axiological and other perspectives and strengthen values of equality and humanism, while discouraging discriminatory and hostile attitudes towards other people.
6. That specific curriculum plans be introduced at different levels of study to provide an appropriate treatment of the contributions made by African natives and their descendants to our country’s economic progress and the forging of the Cuban nationality and identity.
7. The short-term establishment of appropriate new procedures to assure that those from poor families have proportional access to the highest-rated education centers, as well as to the university careers that are not unavailable in the municipal campuses and where intellectuals, engineers, diplomats, scientists are formed.
8. Improvements in the conditions and quality of the student-instructor relationship, and in the material conditions of the schools with an elevated proportion of students from poor families, especially in the trade schools, as well as an improved social and community attention in these centers.
9. The creation of homework centers in zones inhabited mainly by poor families, to assure that interested students who lack these conditions in their homes can count on appropriate conditions for their individual preparation.
10. The establishment of appropriate practical measures based on principals of affirmative action, particularly in educational and working spheres.
11. Inclusion in the plan for housing construction contemplated in each year’s annual budget of an appropriate proportion of housing destined to better the living conditions of families who reside in shelters, tenements, slums, etc.
12. The implementation of realistic and accountable programs to diminish or eliminate within appropriate timelines the different hardships suffered by families living in conditions of misery or extreme poverty.
13. The establishment of effective short-term control and supervision mechanisms for the employment agencies and exchanges that determine workers’ access to positions in foreign currency stores, tourism, and related firms and corporations; these measures should impede them from operating as instruments of policies that are discriminatory towards the black and mestizo population.
14. The elimination of any requirements referring to skin color or the physical characteristics of applicants from announcements of employment or professional training.
15. The promotion of an appropriate treatment of racial topics in the mass media, using a scientific and multi-disciplinary focus, and taking into consideration the diverse aspects of the racial question. In the same way, the facilitation of a constructive debate in the different spaces for opinions, both those that currently exist and those under creation.
16. The incorporation of goals referring to an appropriate treatment of the racial question for organizations that carry out ideological work among their membership.
17. The implementation of appropriate measures to facilitate a more proportional and effective presence of dark-skinned people and mestizos in the artistic media, especially on television, in the movies and in the ballet.
18. The establishment of appropriate alternatives to the exclusive use of entrance examinations to obtain access to the distinct types of instruction.
19. Effective assurances that the preventive actions of the police refrain from giving the impression of procedures based on skin color stereotypes, and that there not exist any differentiated treatment of the citizenry for this reason.
20. Recognition of the legal right to exist for social and community organizations that propose to contribute to the nation’s efforts to eliminate racism, discrimination and racial inequalities.
21. Appropriate and systematic attention by social and community entities to the situation of the prison population, in coordination with the authorities responsible.
22. Consideration of the information on skin color provided in the pertinent demographic and statistical data that is routinely collected.
23. A differentiated attention to the country’s provinces, to permit in an effective manner a diminishing of the diverse inequalities between the most developed and the most backwards areas; this attitude should be expressed in the policies and data published each year.
24. That the racial question no longer be considered a taboo theme, but that a constructive treatment of it on the part of diverse social actors should be promoted.
25. The design of a new scientifically founded racial policy that takes into consideration the avatars of the historical evolution of the racial problem, and can serve as a secure bridge towards the full integration and dignity of all Cuban men and women.
26. The implementation of adequate mechanisms and procedures to permit improved economic possibilities for poor families, taking as a starting point their demonstrated initiative and capacity.
27. That the institutions that study the life and legacy of Jose Martí promote among the Cuban population a closer study and familiarity with the Apostle’s ideas on the racial question in our country.
28. That the entities charged with studying the life and legacy of Antonio Maceo promote among the Cuban population a greater study and better knowledge of the Bronze Titan’s ideas regarding the racial question in our country.
29. The development of diverse types of relationships, particularly of the people to people variety, with the African countries and the African Diaspora, in correspondence with the real possibilities.
30. Awarding the honorable title of “Mother of our Country” to Mariana Grajales Coello in well-deserved recognition of her unique foundational attitude and as a symbol of the contribution of Cuban women, especially mothers, to the formation of an elevated patriotic spirit among the Cuban people.
31. The realization of scientific and sociological investigations regarding aspects of the racial issue, guaranteeing at the same time that the results be adequately shared with the public and serve as instruments in developing State policies on the topic.
32. Effective social and community attention to the contingents of workers who are permanently working outside of their provinces, in coordination with the organizations that they belong to, so as to foster the growth of these workers as citizens.
33. The realization of appropriate events for reflection on the ideas expressed by the Cuban president regarding the racial question in the book “One Hundred Hours with Fidel.”
34. The establishment of norms to assure the existence of a well-trained functionary or cadre in each province with responsibility for overseeing the implementation of national policies on racial matters in that province.
35. Permission for the creation of religious spaces where the religious systems of African roots can be institutionalized if they so desire.
36. Promotion of the sale of products and services for beauty care that take into consideration the specific physical characteristics of the black and mestizo population.
37. The establishment of measures to better satisfy the nutritional requirements of young children from families whose incomes are clearly insufficient.
38. Release of new editions of the works of the principal exponents of Cuban antiracist thought, as well as of authors who have expressed in a relevant manner the ideals and values of the Cuban black population.
39. Appropriate incorporation of the debate on the racial question into the process of discussion of important topical events by the political and mass organizations.
40. Inclusion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination into the national program of commemorations every year.
41. More efficient social and community attention focused on better conditions for the elderly, particularly in poor families.
42. Incorporation by the Federation of Cuban Women into their plans and actions in support of non discrimination in gender attention, of the related question of discrimination suffered by non-white women in diverse spheres due to their racial condition.
43. Incorporation into the orientations and actions of the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC) of the question of discrimination against non-white men and women workers in some sectors of labor activity.
44. Incorporation of the racial question into the discussions and actions of the University Students’ Federation, especially the insufficient presence of non-whites in certain careers and areas of University activity.
45. Consideration in the policies of the country of the concept that respect for diversity can be an appropriate route towards solidifying national unity.
46. Promotion, under conditions of equal opportunity, of the development of relevant cultural manifestations through which the descendents of Africans express their spirituality and their manners of perceiving reality.
47. The establishment of appropriate short-term policies and measures that effectively limit the expression of diverse types of inequality existing today in the fundamental attitudes of the younger generation of Cuban men and women.
48. Establishment as a prioritized social objective of the country’s policies the principal of real and effective equal opportunity for all male and female citizens.
The ongoing student demonstrations in Chile began as a protest over the costs, profits, and fairness of higher education there. They have since attracted other segments of Chilean society venting frustration over wages, health care, and other issues. Uniting the protesters is common dissatisfaction with hugely unpopular President Sebastian Pinera and social inequality. Workers joined a 48-hour general strike in August which, like many demonstrations during the course of the protests, was met with police using tear gas and water cannons on the participants. With changes in the education system still unsettled, the student protests are likely to continue. Chileans yesterday celebrated their national independence day. — Lane Turner (34 photos total)
Students are hit by water cannons during a rally to demand changes in the public state education system in Santiago July 28, 2011. (Carlos Vera/Reuters)
2Students march during a rally to demand changes to the public state education system in Santiago August 18, 2011. (Carlos Vera/Reuters) #
3Students demanding education reforms kiss during the “Kiss Party,” a protest against the education system in Santiago on September 1, 2011. Protests have been mounting since President Sebastian Pinera announced wide-ranging education spending cuts earlier this year, even though the country has one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. (Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images) #
4Students in body paint shout slogans against Chile’s government as part of a rally to demand changes to the public state education system in Santiago September 2, 2011. (Carlos Vera/Reuters) #
5Demonstrators run from riot police during a 48-hour national strike in Santiago August 25, 2011. (Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters) #
6A riot police vehicle releases tear gas toward demonstrators during a 48-hour national strike in Santiago August 25, 2011. (Carlos Vera/Reuters) #
7A demonstrator reacts after breathing tear gas during a student rally against the government’s public education system in Santiago on September 14, 2011. (Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters) #
8A riot policeman rides past a burning billboard during a 48-hour national strike in Santiago August 25, 2011. (Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters) #
9Demonstrators block a main street during a 48-hour national strike in Santiago on August 24, 2011. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters) #
10Riot police stand covered with paint thrown by demonstrators trying to reach La Moneda presidential palace on the second day of a national strike in Santiago on August 25, 2011. (Victor R. Caivano/AP) #
11Students run from mounted riot policemen during a rally in Santiago as they protest the government’s public state education system on September 8, 2011. (Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters) #
12People carry the Chilean flag during a rally to demand changes in the public state education system in Valparaiso, Chile on August 9, 2011. (Eliseo Fernandez/Reuters) #
13Pamphlets are hurled by workers and teachers of public education toward congressmen during a protest against a new law on public education during a session of the Chilean congress in Valparaiso on April 20, 2011. The new law allows the dismissal of teachers who are poorly evaluated and the closing of schools that are providing poor quality education. (Eliseo Fernandez/Reuters) #
14A student kicks a tear gas canister during a protest against the government of President Sebastian Pinera and a the new education law in Santiago on August 4, 2011. (Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images) #
15A photographer reacts after being covered by tear gas released from a riot police vehicle during a protest by students demanding changes in the public state education system in Valparaiso on August 4, 2011. (Eliseo Fernandez/Reuters) #
16A student is knocked down by a water cannon in Santiago on August 24, 2011 during a 48-hour national strike. (Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images) #
17Riot policemen stand guard during a student rally to demand changes in the public state education system in Santiago on August 9, 2011. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters) #
18A student shouts slogans through a plastic banner during a rally to demand changes in the public state education system in Santiago on August 18, 2011. (Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters) #
19A photograph of a riot policeman and tear gas canisters are displayed during a protest demanding changes to the state’s public education system outside the Chilean congress in Valparaiso on August 16, 2011. Protesters said the canisters were collected in previous protests after they were used by riot police to break up the rallies. (Eliseo Fernandez/Reuters) #
20A woman passes as riot policemen release a tear gas canister during a student rally to demand changes in the public state education system in Santiago on August 9, 2011. (Carlos Vera/Reuters) #
21Riot policemen stand shrouded in tear gas in Santiago on August 24, 2011 during a 48-hour national strike. (Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images) #
22A student shows wounds after being fired upon by riot police during a rally to demand changes in the public state education system in Valparaiso on August 9, 2011. (Eliseo Fernandez/Reuters) #
23A chained worker demonstrating against Chile Bank sits on road sign as a policeman talks to him during a protest to demand an increase in salaries and better job conditions in Santiago on August 17, 2011. Workers have been demonstrating since since August 8, 2011. The worker was eventually arrested without injuries, according to local media. (Franco Moreno/Reuters) #
24An injured protester is assisted after being struck by a vehicle during a 48-hour national strike in Santiago on August 24, 2011. (Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters) #
25Riot police help a man affected by tear gas in Santiago on August 25, 2011 during a 48-hour national strike. (Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images) #
26A demonstrator pulls down his pants in front of riot police during a 48-hour national strike in Santiago on August 25, 2011. (Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters) #
27A demonstrator throws a tear gas canister toward a riot police vehicle during a 48-hour national strike in Santiago on August 25, 2011. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters) #
28Riot police hit students with their batons during a 48-hour national strike in Santiago on August 25, 2011. (Carlos Vera/Reuters) #
29High school students of Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso lie on the ground on the second day of their hunger strike in Valparaiso on August 30, 2011. The five students, who do not want to be identified, are holding the hunger strike to demand changes in the public state education system. (Eliseo Fernandez/Reuters) #
30A student dressed as a skeleton stands inside a subway car after a student rally to demand Chile’s government make changes to the public state education system in Santiago on September 2, 2011. The words on the heart read: “No more profit”. (Victor Ruiz Caballero/Reuters) #
31Chile’s student leader Camila Vallejo speaks to reporters at La Moneda government palace after holding a meeting with Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera in Santiago on September 3, 2011. (Roberto Candia/AP) #
32A riot policeman is assaulted by demonstrators during a protest marking the 1973 military coup in Santiago on September 11, 2011 that ushered in a 17-year dictatorship under former General Augusto Pinochet. (Carlos Vera/Reuters) #
33A protester holds up an image mocking Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera as demonstrators march toward La Moneda presidential palace on the second day of a national strike in Santiago on August 25, 2011. (Victor R. Caivano/AP) #
34A student gestures during a rally to demand changes to the state education system in Santiago on August 18, 2011. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters) #