Roberto Fernández Retamar, the Poet

Roberto Fernández Retamar (1930-2019) bequeaths a huge work: in verses, in prose… also in the fertile commitment to a Revolution to which he devoted his best efforts.

One doesn’t need to read Roberto Fernández Retamar’s poems twice to understand him. This is not a virtue in itself, but in his case it says a lot of lyrical calling: Retamar wrote to share. That’s why his verses seem as something from of each one of us. That is: they speak of our dreams, of our goals, of the ups and downs of our lives. And they also speak, , with our words, those we use every day. The way of "spinning" those poems is already something else: one has the impression that even oneself could not say better what the poet puts before us… and it’s, in the end, what we had needed to say.

The poet brings together two environments, the romantic daydreaming and everyday life, and when he brought them together he made them a single thing. That is, in the end, one of the wins of poetry: that the lyrical work becomes "tangible" nature. The transparency of what he proposed never became simplicity in the thinking. Roberto Fernández Retamar was born from a perfectly identifiable landscape and he "returned" it without alterations, marvelously recreated. It was not adorning the context, it was to discover its essential beauty.

It’s exactly for that reason that the scope of his themes is so wide. He wrote of love and also of the issues in the construction of a new society that were many and far more pressing. Seem like that, it sounds as socialist realism, but Retamar never allowed a functional and dogmatic exaltation, more propaganda rather than poetry. It were remarkable the critical vision and the lyrical bravado.

In his more epic and social poetry, Roberto Fernández Retamar was always an optimist. More than a thousand times he called to see a better future… and fight to attain it. The Revolution of 1959 showed him the road of that possibility. No one (much less him) said that it would be an easy road. He pointed out contradictions many times, he was involved in polemics… and his work is abundant in recollecting. He never tried to simplify the reach (and obstacles) of a renovating political process. He neither tried to sweeten history.

But he always offered the other side of the coin, the most intimate, and the personal history that so many times depends on the great history:

The time and memory, it’s known are key elements of poetry. In Retamar’s poetry also appear, of course. Here and there he outlines a game of apparent opposites, past against future to finally explain the convergence: we are always consequence. Nevertheless, the poet doesn't goat on what he lived, he prefers to wait a new morning:

The feats or horrors of the past don’t exist. / The present is faster than the reading of these very words. / The poet greets the things to come / With a salvo in the dark night. (Excerpt of the poem A Salvo of Future).

The death of a lucid poet is not just that of the man, but of the possible work, the one a lifetime wasn’t enough to do. Roberto Fernández Retamar has bequeathed an impressive lyrical body that is fortunately saved. What he took with him was that other poetry, patrimony of the dreams.

  • Published in Now

Cuban dance company Malpaso returns with new work

Jackson is getting a taste of Havana this week.

For the second time this year, Dancers’ Workshop is hosting Cuba’s premier contemporary dance troupe, Malpaso Dance Company, for a week of festivities surrounding the nonprofit’s annual gala Thursday.

Malpaso was last in Jackson in the spring for a residency during which it worked with the esteemed Canadian choreographer Aszure Barton on a new piece. While the new work is in process, Malpaso performed the first piece the group created with Barton, “Indomitable Waltz,” during the gala. They will perform it again at an additional performance Saturday.

Outside of the performances, Dancers’ Workshop is throwing a Cuban fiesta on Friday, complete with food trucks, a salsa band and dance demos to celebrate the Cuban dancers’ arrival. The event is free and family friendly — don’t forget to pack your picnic blankets and dancing shoes.

“It’s an event to really draw a celebratory atmosphere around them coming here from Cuba,” Case said.

Dancers’ Workshop Artistic and Executive Director Babs Case has wanted to bring Malpaso to Jackson for years. She first heard about them by following Barton, who has worked with some of the biggest names in dance, including Mikhail Baryshnikov.

With a visit to Cuba under her belt, she was intrigued by the dance company that has been taking international stages by storm. After seeing them in New York a few years ago, she knew she wanted to share their talents with the Jackson community.

“They’re highly technical dancers, which I think comes from their strong ballet tradition,” she said. “But they’re this strange combination of highly technical with raw emotion.”

The emotion infused in “Indomitable Waltz” makes it one of her favorite pieces of choreography right now.

“It’s beautiful, sensual, and there’s lots of emotion in it,” she said. “It’s just a beautiful dance.”

  • Published in Culture

Films from 26 Countries Compete in Cuba's Festival of Gibara

Over 70 works from 26 countries are competing for the Lucia awards the jury of the 15th International Film Festival of Gibara will grant at the end of the event in Villa Blanca until July 13.

The list of films consists of nine feature films, 15 fiction short films, 10 animated short films, eight long documentaries, eight short documentaries, 15 unpublished scripts and nine ongoing films.

The low-cost film festival will screen 95 materials from Cuba, Germany, Argentina, Spain, Colombia, China, Kenya, the Netherlands, Iran and Russia standing out as the most represented nations.

Cuba will be present with a total of 16 films in competition, as well as including eight projects in the sections of ongoing films and unpublished screenplays.

According to Sergio Bemvenuto, one of the organizers, the event will count on selecting very high aesthetic value films; following its tradition, it will have a multicultural and interactive profile.

As the festival's novelty, Lucia de Honor award will be delivered this year having an international value and Puerto Rican actor Benicio del Toro, the Cuban director Fernando Perez and Cuban actress Daisy Granados will carried off such award.

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French Violinist Performs Concert with Cuban National Symphony

The Month of French Culture in Cuba closes Sunday with the concert of the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of the renowned French violinist Remy Ballot.

The concert will be performed in the National Theater from 11:00 local time, the recital offers a tour of classical pieces of the French repertoire such as Debussy (Nocturnes, La mer) and Ravel (Ma mere l'Oye; Bolero).

Prior to the event Ballot starred in a concert at the Literary Cabaret of the French Alliance of Prado, in Havana with the violinist Iris Schutzenberger, as well as the recital of this renowned violinist with the Cuban pianist Mayte Aboy.

In the coming days, he will be presented at the oratory San Felipe Neri, located in the historic center of this city, to conclude with this series of special concerts.

A well trained violinist, Ballot, also studied music theory, management and pedagogy in Paris. Thus, he has a wide repertoire which ranges from baroque music to contemporary creation.

The 4th Month of French Culture in Cuba began on May 17 and will run until June 30 in Havana with a varied sample of music, dance, exhibitions of decorative and plastic arts, among several events.

The artists Joelle Ferly (from Guadeloupe) and Nathalie Muchamad (from New Caledonia) participated as part of these days of exchange with the French-speaking culture, in the 7th International Colloquium Cultural Diversity in the Caribbean.

The Arroz con Mango project was a great success, an initiative that combines dances, writing, workshops, games, photos, music and diverse culinary offerings, as well as creators of both nationalities.

  • Published in Culture

Cuban President Participates in 9th Congress of UNEAC

The Cuban President, Miguel Diaz-Canel, is participating this Sunday in the closing ceremony of the 9th Congress of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC). The delegates to the event debate in the final day on the current challenges of Cuban culture, prior to the presentation of the new presidency of Uneac elected by vote.

During the meeting held this Sunday and Saturday, in the Convention Center in Havana, the writers and artists of Cuba gathered in the entity strengthened the commitment to contribute so that this organization permeates and talks with the social class of the nation.

They also exchanged on the impact of new technologies that coexist with traditional modes of communication and ways to foster the formation of an audience capable of discerning with critical judgment what is culturally valuable and authentic.

Under the slogan 'Without culture there is no possible freedom', it is hoped that the event will mark the starting point for a new stage of work at Uneac, an institution founded in 1961 by the national poet Nicolas Guillen.

Currently, the entity has 9,000 members and branches in all the provinces of the country.

  • Published in Cuba

Social Objectives of the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists

The president of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Uneac), Miguel Barnet, stressed today that the main objective of this organization is cultural and social.

On the way to this ninth Congress we have put into practice a much more effective method for discussing our agenda and to ensure greater depth in the participatory vocation of the creators, said the ethnologist at the opening of debates at the Convention Center of this capital.

As explained, assemblies across the country allowed a thorough review of the structures, led to a much more fruitful and timely dialogue with the institutions and established a critical path to set clear problems and define strategies.

The most diverse opinions were expressed with complete freedom and absolute respect in assemblies that almost always had a very high participation, which confirmed the convening power of the organization, he said.

Barnet acknowledged the willingness of the Ministry of Culture, its institutions and provincial directorates to work in coordination with Uneac in the construction of an open, unbiased and transparent dialogue.

The cultural development in a society like ours does not only belong to the intellectual and artistic movement, not even to the institutions of the sector, but to the whole society, he stressed.

The Uneac has always been a banner of truth and cultural diversity. We have fought valiantly against the unique thought that laments consciences; That is why we defend the profound debate of our culture, he added.

The poet, narrator and essayist recalled that the Uneac has contributed to establish principles and hierarchies in culture, in an all-out struggle against the banal and the superfluous.

It is necessary and urgent, he said, to promote ethical and aesthetic values, promoting integral growth of the human being.

Culture should accompany the effort that is being made today to unleash the productive forces of the country and achieve a prosperous and participatory socialism, against the current growing imperial hostility, he observed.

At the same time, he recalled that a component of prosperity lies in the spiritual dimension offered by culture.

The cohesion of Cuban cultural policy is a priority task against the enemies' attempts to divide the artistic movement with siren songs and manipulate it for subversive purposes, he added.

According to the president, the Uneac is in the inexcusable duty to support and promote the authentic national culture.

To close the inaugural words, Barnet invited to dedicate the work of this 9th Congress of the Uneac, to the memory and the legacy of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, who is and will be a guide and source of inspiration for the intellectual and artistic vanguard.

  • Published in Culture

For a Lot of Millennial Men, the American Dream Is Dead

Depending on what you read, millennials are either lazy and entitled moochers who can’t move out of their parents’ basements, or they’re victims of the most severe and protracted economic slowdown since the Great Depression.

A comprehensive new report from Stanford University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality suggests it’s the latter narrative we should be paying attention to. The report reviewed the state of the millennials, covering topics as varied as student debt, employment, income, and social mobility. In general, it presented a mixed outlook: While some millennials — in particular, those with college degrees — are doing okay, for others — namely those without an advanced education — it seems the American dream has become a distant memory.

Certainly, millennials can lay quite a bit of blame on the recession. Researchers have found that generations who enter the labor force during recessions often pay a long-term price for that timing. Labor market disadvantages tend to build on each other — that disappointing first job, taken perhaps in desperation in the depths of a recession, makes it harder to get a great second job, and so on and so on. “Anytime anything goes bad in the economy and in the labor market, it hits young people the most because they’re the most marginal workers in the labor market,” says Harry Holzer, a public policy professor at Georgetown University who worked on the report. “And there are a lot of things in the labor market that haven’t been great.”

Especially so for men. In one chapter of the report on income and earnings, sociologist Christine Percheski finds that millennial men in their twenties and thirties had lower median income than previous generations. What’s more, wage inequality is higher for male millennials than for any previous generation in young adulthood. But the narrative is flipped for millennial women, who are enjoying higher incomes and lower levels of inequality in comparison to Gen X and Baby Boomer women.

Percheski says this is not surprising — given just how poorly women in previous cohorts fared at work. “Millennial women are working at higher rates than baby boomers, and their wages have gone up,” she says. “A lot of this has to do with how very unequal women were before.”

The declines in male income can be largely explained by the fact that millennial men are simply less likely to be working than previous generations. (Percheski finds that median earnings for employed millennials were slightly higher than Gen Xers, and on par with baby boomers.) In another chapter in the report, Holzer, the Georgetown professor, finds that between 1996 and 2016, labor force participation for men aged 25 to 34 declined by 4.4%. (Millennial women saw declines as well, but they were much smaller.)

    “You’re not seeing an improvement of the sort that Americans have long expected.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, less-educated millennials have been particularly hard hit. Over 90% of millennial men with college degrees worked in 2016, versus 70% of high school dropouts. The gap among female millennials is even bigger: Eighty-three percent of female, millennial college graduates participated in the labor force in 2016, versus only 50% of high school dropouts. The divergence doesn’t stop at labor force participation — researchers also found that millennials with a high school degree or less are earning less than similarly educated workers in previous generations. In other words, for those without college degrees, economic security is much harder to attain today than in previous generations. “It’s really the non-college millennials whose participation is down,” Holzer says.

A common trope about millennials is that they’re just doing everything — finishing college, moving out of their parents’ house, getting married, having children — a little later than previous generations. And many of the researchers who contributed to the report suspect that millennials might yet “catch up,” at least partially, on some outcomes. But David Grusky, the director of Stanford’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, finds the overall data less than encouraging.

“You’re not seeing an improvement of the sort that Americans have long expected,” he says. “Overall, it would be hard to look at these results and be pleased.”

  • Published in World

Art in Internet: All you Need is Love

Zayda del Río looks at the spectator from a dreamlike time and landscape that can perfectly be confused with our most romantic evocations.

Well yes, this is Zayda del Río, the famous Cuban painter, depicted by Flavio Garciandía in 1975. Zayda looked at it (and now she looks at us) with a thrilling tenderness. If happiness truly exists, that face is its perfect concretion. It’s (it could be) the fleeting happiness, that of the moment we all have lived at some point: to be in the right place and at the right time, no strings attached or pressures, looking who we want to look.

No need to go around it: straightforward, Zayda del Río falls in love. She invites. She soothes. Flavio knew how to make that expression eternal… and shape the icon.

All you need is love is a key work of hyperrealism in Cuban painting. Here, between us, that movement sought to offer a romantic and optimist vision of the world: emphasizing the beauty and harmony, direct communication and nothing traumatic with the spectator.

This is a painting that will never go unnoticed. And not just because of its dimensions, nor the spark of the palette (those high greens); also (and perhaps above anything else) for the atmosphere that sets: a dreamlike time and landscape that can be confused with our most intimate fantasies.

All you need is love, of Flavio Garciandía. 1975. 150 x 250 cm. Collection: Contemporary Art (1967-1981). Style: Hyperrealism. Collection at the National Museum of Fine Arts; Havana, Cuba. Exhibition site: Building of Cuban Art, ward of Contemporary Art (1967 -1981).

  • Published in Specials
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