BIENNIAL JOURNAL: Warriors (+ PHOTOS)

Artist Miriannys Montes de Oca has placed a real army at a central park in Havana. But those warriors do not carry weapons.… 

From Mariana Grajales Park (23rd Street, between C and D streets, Vedado) a real army surprises passers-by: they are the warriors of visual artist Miriannys Montes de Oca, downcast figures that evoke an act of repentance, rather than a battle.  

The sculptural group, one of the proposals of the 13th Havana Biennial, is made up of thirty pieces facing the street.  

They’re warriors, but do not carry weapons: ultimately, the installation seems a metaphor of peace: these “creatures” only hold mysterious colored spheres, as if they were offerings.


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Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

NEWSPAPER OF THE BIENNIAL: Rachel Valdés Sinks us in Blue

Immersion, the work that the artist placed in Havana Malecon Avenue is one of the most popular proposals in the project Behind the Wall.

Rachel Valdés returns to this XIII Biennial of Havana with another mirrors game, another recreation of dreamlike ambience that reshape what we call “the reality.”

Her piece Immersion, seating in the Havana Malecon Avenue as part of the project Behind the Wall, proposes the spectator another revealing game: looking at the context (our context) through a glass that becomes a metaphor in itself.

The angle, the light, the color… shapes our vision of the world; they can, in fact, get to establish other parallel realities: the realm of virtuality.

The idea is to distort the landscape, but not to overwhelm the spectator, but to enlarge his perspectives: the goal of Immersion is in the end the goal of all art; there is something else, unspeakable that enriches existence, another dimension that exists because we dream of it and make real… Life is the sum of all things and the way of thinking them.

People need to escape from their circumstances once in a while… or at least “adorn them”: therefore Rachel Valdes’s work has gone so popular. The well-known landscape that occupies, to which we must add the living landscape that surrounds it —from inside this minimalist structure, also if you look at it from outside—sunk in a blue dream.

Rachel cares about beauty, but an essential beauty, unaware to sterile baroque styles.

After the Biennial is over the work will integrate the art collection of Havana, paying homage to the 500th years of the city: it will rest at the Real Fuerza Castle, so that it serves as wonderful passageway between environments and conceptions.  

BIENNIAL JOURNAL: The largest gallery (+ PHOTOS)

The “Malecón” (seaside esplanade) has once again become one of the most popular spaces of Havana Biennial. “Detrás del Muro” (Behind the Wall) project includes dozens of artists from several countries…

Right now, it is the largest gallery of Cuba: Havana’s Malecon, from the Antonio Maceo Park to the entrance to the tunnel under Havana’s Bay, houses works from dozens of artists participating in the “Behind the Wall” project, one of the most popular proposals of the 13th Havana Biennial.

In the previous edition it was already an authentic public phenomenon… and this year it will undoubtedly be the same. The way these pieces “meet” passers-by ensure an unusual interaction in traditional art exhibition spaces.

Therefore, most of the creators bet on discourses of great social impact: strong messages, suggestive images, emphatic palette… and ludic invitation to dialogue.

The particular architecture of an area, where recently restored buildings or under restoration coexist with real ruins, becomes support, inspiration or even realization of many of the works. To the extent that, at first sight, art merges with what we call everyday life.

Cuban artists share the space with US, Mexican, Spanish creators… in a mixed sequence in which sculpture and art installation prevail.

“Behind the Wall” represents the very core of Havana Biennial: art that breaks elitist schemes and lavishes itself for the satisfaction of the people… and to provoke them, in the best sense of the word.

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Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

Congress of the Cuban Workers' Federation wraps up in Havana

The XXI Congress of the Cuban Workers Federation (CTC), concludes today in this capital with the reading of the report resulting from the debates and the presentation of the secretariat and the National Council of that workers' organization.

The three previous days served for the nearly 1,200 delegates to review the functioning of the organization at all levels and to trace the guidelines that will govern the path of trade unionists in the next five years.

At different times, high authorities of the Party and the Government provided the attendees with data on the current state of the economy and showed the alternatives that the Island follows in the path of updating the economy and society, as an alternative to the challenges imposed by the financial situation.

Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers made it clear that these are times to strengthen union structures, while working for efficiency and to exploit the reserves that still persist in the production processes in Cuba.

He also called for a reordering and to work on the country's two priorities: defense and the economy, in which, he said, Cuban workers, organized in the CTC, contemplate a determining role.

For his part, Salvador Valdés Mesa, First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers, called for the confrontation of illegalities, as it is one of the main burdens for Cuban aspirations and damages the country and the Revolution.

In the day prior to the closing of the conclave, José Ramón Machado Ventura, Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, called for an effort to achieve the unionization of a greater part of the workers in the non-state sector.

Machado Ventura expressed that unity is the indispensable instrument to achieve that end, since he called for joining forces, for the benefit of the Cuban workers movement, the working vanguard of the country.

Also yesterday afternoon there was a speech by some of the more than 50 foreign delegates attending the meeting on behalf of 30 trade unions from 16 countries.

The guests agreed that Cuba and its trade union movement are good examples to follow, and constitute living proof that it is possible to win in the workers' struggle and to be participants in the project of the country for which we are working.


 
  • Published in Cuba

Former Vietnamese President Le Duc Anh Passes Away at 99

Hanoi, Apr 23 (Prensa Latina) Former Vietnamese President Le Duc Anh passed away of natural causes on Monday night in Hanoi at the age of 99, official media reported on Tuesday.

Details about funerals and posthumous tributes to the late statesman will be announced in coming few hours, the Commission for Protection and Healthcare of Officials of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam said.

Despite the care and treatment from doctors, the Party, the State and his families, Le Duc Anh died at his house in Hanoi due to his old age and a cerebral hemorrhage that had kept him in critical condition since February, the release stated.

A four-war veteran, Anh led the Vietnamese troops deployed in Cambodia after Pol Pot genocidal regime was defeated in 1979. Although Vietnam withdrew from the neighboring country in 1989, Ahn is credited with the final defeat of the Khmer Rouge in 1998.

Le Duc Anh was a Minister of Defense from 1978 to 1991 and he assumed the presidency of Vietnam in 1992, until he resigned five years later due to health problems.

  • Published in World

We Cubans do not give up

On April 17, 1961, Cuba was invaded by a brigade of Cuban-born counterrevolutionaries, organized, trained and equipped by the CIA and the Pentagon. The day before, aircrafts bombed the tiny revolutionary aviation on the ground without achieving their goal. The invaders were defeated and arrested, mostly, in less than 72 hours of constant and bloody combats, including heroic air actions of the pilots of the revolutionary air force. Hundreds of thousands of Cuban men and women, full of patriotic and political awareness, took up arms and, as Fidel once said, we could have simultaneously defeated several landings like that. In April 1961 we were already much better human beings thanks to the revolutionary practice and reading, linked to the exceptional teaching of Fidel’s speeches.

The White House chose the anniversary of its failed invasion of the island so its mediocre Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and criminal National Security Adviser John Bolton announce new sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. They do not want to leave a single independent government standing in our America. Pompeo informed that as Helms-Burton Act (HBA) Title III establishes, Americans are allowed to file lawsuits at courts of their country to claim compensation for their properties confiscated in Cuba. In an act of supreme illegality within a really colonialist legislation like the Helms-Burton Act, contrary in all its content to the international law, Cubans who did not have US citizenship at the time of the nationalizations are authorized to sue too.

From Clinton to Obama, every six months the acting president waived activation of the lawsuits. It was not gratuitous. It was due to a protest of the governments of the European Union and Canada for the harm that those claims could cause to their companies on the island. Apparently Trump has decided to ignore that deal. It is already usual that he kicks Europeans out and does not care about them, except to demand from them bigger contributions to NATO, or accept Washington’s actions that harm them. But there’s despair to frighten off foreign capital from Cuba behind what would seem another diplomatic swindle of the United States. Nothing new, because the blockade has been based on that logic for six decades: to attack incomes so Cubans rebel against the government.

Individuals and companies from U.S. could have reached compensation agreements with Cuban authorities but Washington refused to talk. It was already preparing the invasion of Cuba and figured out that a stooge government in a few months would again be installed on the island that would return their properties back. Since then, there have been 58 years of constant and failed attempts to put an end to the Revolution with different tactics, from terrorism to the ever hardened blockade. The best evidence that the compensation could have been viable lies on the satisfactory agreements reached by the island’s government with companies and citizens from Spain, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom, which received their compensation years ago.

Bolton chose Miami to make his announcement, protected by veterans of the great defeat at Playa Girón and of decades of terrorist actions against Cuba. The defeatist vocation of the American imperialism’s Cuba policy is strange. By the way, if Bolton managed to count on that beaten audience it was thanks to Havana, because after capturing the invaders of their homeland, it respected their physical and psychological integrity and also facilitated an agreement with Washington that allowed their quick comeback to Miami in exchange for several tons of food and medicines.

Bolton "was pleased to announce" they would reinforce the application of the Helms-Burton Act Title IV. That is, many fewer Americans will get visas to travel to Cuba. Also, that Cuban Americans, who had no limits in the amount of remittances to their relatives on the island since the Obama administration, now can only send $1,000 per quarter. Strangely, this measure greatly hits the emerging private sector on the island, although it is frantically carried out hoisting antisocialist banners.

As a whole, between these measures and the previous ones adopted by Trump, Cuba will be deprived of billions of dollars in revenues, vital for the importation of food, raw materials and medications. They take these steps at the same time that the so-called Lima Group miserably slanders Havana for its fraternal solidarity with Venezuela.

Faced with these criminal actions of Washington, the response from Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel was fast: “Nobody is going to take away from us, neither by allurement nor by force, the Homeland that our forefathers won us standing. The attitude towards those holding the sword against us will not change. We Cubans do not give up…

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

Why Havana Club is Unique and Why in Miami Mojitos are not Sold

A BBC report of the last year affirms that there are two versions of the Cuban rum Havana Club: “one which is for sale in the United States and another that is sold in the rest of the world.”

However, Yahima del Pilar Rodríguez Alvarez, communication specialist for San José rum distillery, where Havana Club made in Cuba is produced, the one which is commercialized in “the rest of the world”, assures that there’s only one and she explains some features of the process that makes it unique:

To obtain the base liquor “the raw material, the first ones which are water and the molasses, have to be authentic. The molasses is a by-product of the Cuban sugar industry, must be diluted in water and we add something that from the know-how point of view, or technology is only property of Havana Club, any other producer, even if it’s Cuban can use it which is the yeast.”

I say, those who produce Havana Club and sell it in 8th Street, for example, do they import the molasses from Cuba? Well, no. This would be a Puerto Rican Havana Club, fruit of those brother sugar plantations, but foreign anyway.

On top of that the recipe of the Cuban rum is very demanding, Yahima herself told us other details that differentiate it from the rest of domestic and foreign light rums:

“The yeast in the interaction process contributes certain compounds like ethers needed to obtain a liquor of unique quality and then the structure of the distillation column complete the unique taste of the sugarcane liquor that serves as base for our Havana Club rum.”

There are other important data: “The aging is natural, there is no control of temperature, neither control of humidity, it’s the exchange between that liquor, the oxygen that penetrates through fibers of the barrel and the barrel itself.”

“The natural aging distinguishes the light Cuban rum, in the case of Havana Club, it’s identified completely by a natural aging, in barrels of white oak that have already aged whisky before, that is part of the tradition that has become a law, that is, it’s part of the regulations established by Cuba Ron which is the Cuban party to which we belong. The aging must natural, full, and continuous, those are the characteristics we try to preserve in order to give the client that rum of quality.

So patiently, and with a lot of care “it’s obtained a dynamic system of rum bases and with different formulas, in different proportions, the rum master is able to tell apart one product from another, creating a taste profile for all dark rums of Havana Club trademark, beginning with the Especial, the Especial Plus, the Ritual, the Reserva, after that come the age markers, as in the case of the 3-year and the 7-year aged rums…”

Of course also the exquisiteness of the rum master and the taste judges put some spice in the process: “The rum bases have a minimum age which is that of the rum being produced, but more difficult than having the correct bases is to attain the same taste profile in each edition of the product, rum masters also contribute to that, because it’s them who make the adjustments to the formula to find the exact taste profile.”


It’s not like we don’t want to make a toast with a Mojito…

The recipe of the drink includes peppermint, sugar, and lemon in short that any bartender anywhere could fix the drink, but it clarifies: Cuban rum. Then I understand why in the United States, regrettably, mojitos cannot be sold.

It’s even clearer in times of a fundamentalist administration in the White House and systematic return to badly conceived plans like the Helms Burton Law, created to separate two towns, even families, like seas haven’t been able to do it. The blockade forbids raising a toast, each one in their side, with the same drink:

“We are present in more than 120 countries around the world, we work approximately with 60% of the total demand of rum worldwide, because the 40% appears in the United States and we don't have access to the North American market”, says Yahíma. Her colleague Venus Carrillo, Communication and Public Relations Specialist of Havana Club International S.A. adds:

“On the data collected through visitors from the North American market we know the rum Havana Club has good acceptance therefore sales would be guaranteed. The masters themselves have publicly said that Havana Club rum has today the capacity to cover the North American market, for both the pleasure and the production, but we cannot sell due to the limitations of the blockade.”

The hindrances of the blockade to our Havana Club began earlier: “Aging barrels are made from white American oak, they are imported, the U.S. manufacture them, we don’t have direct access to the North American market, then we buy them from Ireland or Scotland, after they are used to age Jameson, Chibas, we buy them from these producers already used, to give a bit, but not so much, because if they were new it would be whisky what we obtain. Undoubtedly just the transportation would reduce the costs, although they are trademarks commercialized by Pernod Ricard, and the negotiation among partners lowers the price, the distance increases”, Yahíma explains.

Venus shares eloquent figures, those that opened eyes wide: “Despite that, we are in 120 countries, we are today the number one in Premium and Super Premium rums, is the world trademark, although Pernod Ricard, to which we belong, is second as for commercialization, we have a very good position regarding rums.”

According to the BBC report, the litigation has been long and expensive, those “condemned” assure that they have “the recipe”, the owners have demonstrated they have the origin, the raw material and also, the recipe (you have tasted it). I tell you we have the molasses as thick as our will and of course, when the blockade is lifted, not the embargo as the BBC timidly names it, we will have a toast with mojito.

By the way, we’ll do it in our homes, using the Havana Club rum born in sugar cane factories, our factories… if we defend the mojito with such strength, imagine how it will be with our homes and land, with the freedom and the principles…

Cuba Strengthens State Entrepreneurial System, Eases Private Sector

Cuba is improving the state entrepreneurial system due to its key role in economic development, and it is making the rules that govern the private sector more flexible, Marino Murillo, president of the Commission for the Implementation of Guidelines, told the People's Power National Assembly (Parliament) on Saturday.

When speaking at Havana's Convention Center at the extraordinary session of the Cuban Parliament to analyze economic matters, the head of the Commission in charge of following up on the strategies to update the country's socioeconomic system noted that measures have been taken in both sectors.

According to Murillo, the state entrepreneurial system has undergone several transformations since 2011, when the 6th Congress of the Communist Party approved the 274 Guidelines for the Economic and Social Policy.

Work is underway in 22 new medium- and short-term impact (this year) measures to boost the state enterprise, which is facing financial difficulties and less flexibility than non-state forms of production, actions that are pending for approval, Murillo noted.

Among the initiatives is the chaining of the companies linked to the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM, in Spanish), a key component in the projects to attract foreign investments, which will allow Cuba to diversify markets, promote exports and reduce imports based on an increase in domestic production.

Regarding the private sector, Murillo said that additional rules will be announced soon to make it more flexible, although without renouncing the control of that sector, which is considered a complement of the socialist state enterprise.

Over the past few months, rules were announced to make self-employment more flexible, considering that there are nearly 600,000 self-employed workers in Cuba.

According to Murillo, the country's leadership has established other priorities in the implementation of the guidelines until 2021, in addition to those related to the state enterprise, including the monetary ordering with the currency unification and exchange and the conclusion of the Economic and Social Development Plan until 2030.

Murillo also referred to the comprehensive revision and improvement of the policies that support the socioeconomic update, considering that some of them did not have the expected results.

Regarding the current situation, marked by economic challenges that to a great extent are the result of Washington's hostility and the tightening of the economic blockade of Cuba for nearly 60 years, he noted that it should not be interpreted necessarily as an obstacle to the implementation of all 206 policies approved by the Congress of the Communist Party.

Although the situation is complex, progress does not always depend on a financial problem but on our capacity and intelligence for implementation, Murillo added.

  • Published in Cuba
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