The Festival and I

Time sometimes passes without we realize it.

The 39th edition of the International Festival of New Latin America Cinema is running now and I remember when I started in these affairs, in the 15th edition, over 20 years ago.

In these more than two decades I only missed one edition of this seventh art event and that happened when my daughter Liz was born in 2006. Then I have participated actively in the rest, although in recent times the quality of the film proposals has declined quite a lot. But hey, I am not going to talk about that, so no one thinks it is about an old man’s aftertaste; whoever reads these lines will appreciate it on his/her own.  

In 1993, I was in my second year at the University of Havana, and the Festival hadn’t trapped me. Twelve months earlier, I went through several movies and was frightened by the long lines, since I have always been an enemy of those idiotic schemes that are both necessary and unbearable. Inexperience made me think that such figure of people could not fit in the movie, and passed by.

However, excited by a more experienced mate from the boarding school, I decided to try my luck and woke up one day for the first show at Chaplin movie. I will never forget it, not only for what came later, but also because buddy “entered me” into the movie even without buying the ticket. The film was “Tango Feroz” (Fierce Tango), and it ended up bringing down the taboos I had on Latin American cinema, which I had appreciated wrongly and little.

As it became customary edition after edition, I finished that one, which also had an unforgettable presentation (the cleverest in my opinion throughout this already long time of festival celebrations), with more than 20 films seen, most of them belonging to samples from Spain, France, Nordic countries, Italy, Germany, retrospective from some famous filmmaker and special presentations. Certainly, although the youngest do not believe it, all those samples were shown at the same time during the festivals, and you could connect one with the other without going through so many misfortunes, like those I have found too frequent in the last decade.

Nor can I forget the day when I saw “Fresa y Chocolate” (Strawberry and Chocolate), at Chaplin movie too. I have already said that my debut was quite devious; because for Titon and Tabio’s film the strategy was to go the previous show and then to hide myself in the toilet, because I knew that half Havana and its nearby towns were waiting outside. The previous film was “Tirano Banderas”, a wonderful adaptation of the literary classic practically forgotten, and at the end I was about to go out after squeezing the last credict on my seat, when I ran into an avalanche of spectators on the aisle overlooking the exit door. They overlooked the police, glasses and usherettes. Thus I returned to the seats, without thinking twice, and remember that I saw the film in the middle row, in a seat facing the aisle, where it was impossible to walk, because all spaces were occupied by people sat on the floor.

After that year, there have been many stories, lines, whacks from the people and the police in a riot and, especially, the great films I could see, but I always keep a nice memory from that, my first time.

  • Published in Now

Boxing: Once Again the Everlasting Spark of Cuban Sports


Boxing, with five gold medals and two more in the World Championship of Hamburg, ran off as the best individual Cuban sport in 2017. Julio Cesar La Cruz commanded the team with his fourth medals in a row.


He makes his way with his fists. That has been an unquestionable foreign principle of Cuban boxing since the 70’s of the last century, when Orlando Martínez (48 kg), Emilio Correa (67) and Teófilo Stevenson (+81) had a golden debut in the Olympic Games on September 10th, 1972 in Munich.


Up until today our boxing school has established a universal feud, challenging the rest of the powers in boxing. Only in the Olympic Games we add 37 golden, 19 silver and 17 bronze medals, while in world championships, the score soars up to (76-34-25).

The Cuban team kept this year in Hamburg (five golden and two silver medals) the hegemony reclaimed in Doha, Qatar 2015. Those, in fact, were the only golden medals of our sport movement in World Championships of 2017, together with equal amount of silver and bronze medals.


Running a preliminary analysis is more than fair that our boxing team had achieved the position as best individual sport, as well as the Domadores had deserved the distinction among the teams.


The Domadores team was runner-up on the VII World Championship. I personally still have a bitter taste as for the yield they showed. I remember waking up at 5:00 a.m. like thousands of other Cubans to enjoy the final match day. We were almost caressing victory, after the smashing start, but it faded little by little, until the team broke down on the second half of the tournament.


Anyway as consolation remains the fact of being the most winning team in the competition, winning 43 out of 61 fights.


On top of that another solid argument is that we have located five of our boxers in the first or second position in the AIBA World Ranking, other two are third and one of them is fourth on a total of ten divisions existing at present. Likewise, to this side of the Atlantic, they made it clear who’s in charge, with eight gold medals in the continental competition, besides two runner-up positions.


Any other country of the world with similar successful record in boxing would be brimming with joy. In our case, although we end the year on the ring with Playa de Girón Tournament and great satisfaction, the role of everlasting spark role of boxing always raises a notch. The always demanding boxing fans are at times unaware of all the efforts and variables that must come together to win medals on the elite.


The “crossroad” of Two Hellish Cruz


Julio Cesar la Cruz, and Andy Cruz. Just mentioning these two names now inspires respect and care in any rival. From the corner, even when they don't show it, the coaches of the opponents are almost sure their pupils will enter a lost battle against the “Cruzifiers” from Cuba.


Julio Cesar won the fourth gold medal in world championships in a row. Very few boxers in history have accomplished such deed. With a style that has won the nickname of “The shadow”, for his cat-like speed to get close, punch and avoid the blows of his rivals, dancing on the ring, waving his torso, La Cruz had a terrific year winning 12 out of his 13 combats.


By the way, in the final match in Hamburg, as mimicking what happened in Qatar in 2015, he bent the knees of the Irish Joe Ward again.


Although his fighting style still doesn’t convince some fans, there’s no doubt he has an elevated degree of effectiveness. Actually winning his fourth medal in a row won him the best individual sportsman of the year.


Andy Cruz, is assessed as one of the best boxers pound by pound today, I totally agree. Chosen as the most outstanding boxer in the World Championship of Hamburg, the boy from Matanzas won over the 18 opponents he faced in 2017, six of them in an impeccable way in the VII World Championship of Boxing.


To his first world medal he added the Pan-American title, therefore he appears on the second position of the world ranking in the 64 kg. That is why he has been chosen as Rookie of the year, when he wore the Cuban color he had already won the gold medal in 56 kg in the Pan-American of Toronto.


If not for the fourth medal of La Cruz, to me Andy would have won the condition as best individual athlete of the year. Just watching each of his matches regardless the opponent to certify that we are witnessing one of those boxers that exhibit the so-called total boxing: good domain of distances, effectiveness with his punches, either jab, swing, uppercut… speed, excellent defense and dodging.


It’s a feast to the eye when he is boxing, besides the sensation of victory almost 100% he inspires. I recall Stevenson, Ariel Hernández, Héctor Vinent, Mario Kindelán, Guillermo Rigondeaux, and other historical boxers along four decades of splendor.


Undoubtedly a pleasant crossroad where these two boxers are taking us. No wonder five out of the best ten athletes this year belong to this sport. They are Jhoannys Argilagos (49 kg), Yosbany Veitía (52), Lázaro Álvarez (60), Roniel Iglesias (69) and Erislandy Savón.


I’d like to finish with statistical fact from the World Championship of Hamburg: ours boxers won in 27 fights and only lost four. That without taking a representative in the + 91 kg. We must conclude that we are strong with these credentials.

  • Published in Now

UCI’s role in the informatization of Cuban society highlighted

The University of Computer Science (UCI Spanish acronym) celebrates its 15th founding anniversary this December 12 with important achievements in teaching, research and software production, a few days after having been subject to an accreditation process by the National Council of the Ministry of Higher Education.

In a meeting with the press, PhD Miriam Nicado Garcia, Rector of the institution and member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, highlighted that even when they do not have the results, voluntarily subjecting to an external evaluation like that was a “boldness”, which they undertook with the challenge that it would remain as a working tool.

Experts from all over the country and from different bodies took part in this process; in which they evaluated over 500 students in several subjects, visited 13 classes and several institutions —among them the Mariel Special Development Zone, the Prosecution, the General Customs of the Republic and the Council of State’s Office of Historic Affairs— geared at confirming UCI’s role in the informatization of society.

High organizational culture, leadership, active role of the student organizations favored by a solid staff committed with the Revolution, were some of the preliminary opinions left by the specialists, which the rector commented on.

“The UCI arose from an idea of Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro”, she added, “with the criterion that it would assume different ways of teaching, of preparing young people and conveying knowledge; and that it would be both a teaching and producing center, hence its atypical nature.

She remarked that the institution has done its bit to the informatization of the country, with the deployment of software products in more than 130 institutions, among organizations, ministries and entities.

In Cuba, its graduates represent 52 percent of Computer Sciences specialists, and so far 14,458 professional have received their university titles here.

Today, this center, attached to the Ministry of Higher Education, ranks first and third respectively, among Hispanic American universities that collaborates the most with national and international entities and the most committed one with free software.

Fidel’s dream has become true, because today the UCI has chained its productions with industry, and produces tablets, laptops and minicomputers with operating systems developed right here.

In addition to Computer Science Engineering, Bioinformatics Engineering began in the current school year with only 34 students, figure that will grow in the coming years.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

  • Published in Specials

Jhoen Lefont: Between land and water…. without impossible things with a ball (+ PHOTOS)

Jhoen Lefont always thinks about new world records, as if the ball were a branch of his body. Now, he beat the 50-meter mark in ball control in 1:14.15 minutes  

There’s always merit in perseverance and because of those whims of fate, Jhoen Lefont swam again at Baragua Pool Complex. He didn’t do it to break the competitive boredom and try to tune up his capabilities like in the times when he was in the national water polo team. Now, he swam the 50-meter Olympic pool controlling a soccer ball on his head in 1:14.15 minutes. The key? To demonstrate that nothing is impossible between land and water, when it is about world and Guinness records.

This time his brother became a chief supporter in his preparation, because his coach Jorge del Valle was immersed in the competitive commitments of the women’s water polo squad. He dialogued with Cubasi on this intensive level and other details:

Why did you choose this modality and decide to set the new record here at the reopened Baragua Pool Complex?

“We were managing it for a while now. On land, athletes seek ball control records running 100 meters in less time. We wanted to extrapolate it to the water. It’s the aim since I started this path in 2010. To try to homologate the biggest possible number of marks. Hence, the idea to control the ball in an Olympic pool.

I began my preparation since I finished the previous juggling record (12 minutes and fraction) and here since it is a roofed complex, climatic variables do not influence and conditions are much more favorable”.

I think of that 200-meter record set in the channel of Marina Hemingway. Main differences as regards preparation with respect to this one?

“The #1 difference is that for the previous record I worked very hard in balance, with heavy aerobic loads on the ground and in water. It was a distance record, there was no pressure with the time, but the wind was my enemy. The best way to perform the displacement modality is backwards and at that time I did it forwards, especially because of the sun, which was behind me and I could not carry it out backwards.

This one requires speed and I am happy with the mark. We intended to finish below 1:20 minutes and the 1:14.15 minute mark was good, although I think I did the first half a bit slow”.

I sought pace in the first half and sped up after 25 meters.

Was your water polo inheritance key?

“That was the idea strategically. Overall, I swim the first 25 meters very fast, but we decided to change in order to guarantee the distance and to finish off toward the end. So it happened. The legs suffer a lot; they are the push or engine. Moreover, I need a lot of concentration on the ball and the arms operate as a sort of helm of the body.

Next year, the first thing I will try to do will be to surpass the 1,513 head bunt record.

We are also assessing the 200-meter record or the 12-minute ball control record, but I will open with the 1,513 bunts”.

What do you feel when you see yourself in Guinness Yearbook along with Usain Bolt, Julio Cesar La Cruz, and some other world sports greats?

“A very great pride. They are very selective when it comes to choosing categories. In addition, it is one of the best selling books every year and that also means to place Cuba’s name next to Julio César. We congratulated one and other, and were talking on that privilege”.

Lefont sets off towards new records. His family is an essential component at every step he takes. He has established an unyielding alliance with a ball, his red and black wetsuit. The Dolphin of ball control, as he is nicknamed, has well-defined horizons among bunts, water dribbles, and balance and time challenges.

Jhoen Lefont

altJhoen Lefont along with his brother and his parents




Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

“I was Always Attracted to Mella”

Said restorer Amanda Torres Rodríguez who around these days works on the mortuary mask of the communist and revolutionary leader murdered in Mexico in year 1929.

In some sort of attic at the rectorate of Havana University (HU), surrounded by books, papers, and several articles at an old desk, and always accompanied by a cup of coffee, Amanda Torres Rodríguez works every day on the mortuary mask of Julio Antonio Mella.

Fresh out of the university—University of Arts graduate, specialized in Conservation and Restoration—the girl took upon the commitment and responsibility of restoring the piece, as close to its original state as possible.

“I am a lucky girl”, she said to CubaSí while we talk for a while about her work and the work of Mella, revolutionary and communist killed in Mexico when he was barely 26 years old.

Starting her professional life, in fact, with this work makes her think of her as a lucky person; because she was always attracted by the life and work of Julio Antonio Mella whose enigmatic death still awakes interest.

How do you stumble over the mask?

“Once professor Alexis Martin who teaches stony materials, commented that he had seen the mask and that it needed restoration.

“I was interested in plaster works. Before entering San Alejandro Art School, where I studied carving, I had studied at the workshop Gaspar Melchor from Jovellanos, in Old Havana, where I learned elementary details on how to work this material, to make molds, among other things.

“So once we were working on a marble sculpture at the Arts and Letters Faculty, I began to get familiar with the institution to see if could work on my diploma paper there. That’s how I did the restoration of a piece (larger than that of Mella); a reproduction of the 1st century B.C., a sort of theater mask.

“The diploma work had good results and it allowed checking several hypotheses, then the directress of Patrimony at Havana University, Doctor Claudia Felipe Torres, asked me if I’d be capable and was willing to restore Mella’s mask. Something I wanted since I knew the state in which it was in.

“I was thrilled at the idea. The piece was donated to Cuba in 1996, delivered to Raúl Castro Ruz by the Mexican Félix Ibarra Martínez, nephew of Alberto Martínez who was one of Mella’s biggest friends, and he preserved it for many years.

“In search of information I found that a year later, in 1997, several replicas of the mask were made. One of them is here at the Havana University and the other in the University of Camagüey; which has contributed to its deterioration.”

Once in your hands, what was the first thing you did?

“I ran a full analysis on the mask and I discovered that the hypothesis of Alexis as for the piece to contained salt was true. We must consider that plaster is more soluble in sodium chloride than in water.

“That is, salt is a threat, because it can lead to the dissolution and degradation of the plaster. When you work this type of permeable material you realize it’s very similar to a pumice stone or a sponge, since everything that falls on top of it will be absorbed.

“The mask was made on his death and the person that took the mold of the face used salt to accelerate the hardening and it was a quick job. Let’s not forget the circumstances surrounding his murder and the turmoil in which Mexico was summoned in those years.”

How long have you been working on the mask and what other task you have performed on it?

“It’s been like 20 days. First thing I did was something necessary; desalinize it applying an agar gel, a natural hydrocolloid extracted from algae that allows a quick drying. In this case it contributed to moisten the surface and wash away the salt.

“I did not apply the gel directly, because it’s a damaged surface, but using washi (Japanese paper). It’s a process with different steps, first you must protect the piece, and after the gel is applied check that there are not remains.

“Today I am confident that the work was treated several times. When the replicas were made certain substances were applied as well as grease to dismount the copies. All that and the initial salt brought harmful consequences to the surface that also shows dents and scrapings.”

You told me that you looked for information on the conditions in which his death took place. The details are important and can clear out doubts to what happened at the crucial moment of the murder…

“Mella not only strikes me his capacity as historical leader, but his sensibility and lucidity; the love letters to Tina Modotti, (whom might have been involved in his crime); his smart speech, when for example he spoke to workers in the manifestations in Mexico. He was an intellectual, not only a leader. He did many things with only 26 years old.”

How do you assess your work?

“It’s very important, because it’s a historical piece. It’s his last face which is more than a picture. Right now I can determine to what extent his cheekbones were, how much black hair he had, how round they were his eyes, how thick his lips.

“All that I can tell from the mask I have in my hands. Today I see some of his sculptures and I no longer consider them in his face so exact. Of course, it’s the interpretations artists have made of his face. Sometimes with protruding cheekbone, almond-shape eyes. However, his were round, and his hair like mine, not so wavy.”

How much have you approached Mella the fact of having the chance to work with his mortuary mask?

“Although I had read enough about Mella and I kept newspaper clips published on his life and work, the mask—undoubtedly—has helped me to know him more. Right now I am about to add the final protection.

“In fact plaster does not need protection, but I will use an acrylic solution to mitigate powder and humidity. The purpose is to preserve the work 20 more years and that future generations can appreciate Mella’s face as real as possible.”

Cubasi Translation Staff / Amilkal Labañino Valdés

Gretel’s New Challenge

Jaimanitas is a Havana community that has many things: at convenience, it goes from a humble fishermen’s village to a residential tourist area. A beach. A river that gives it its name. A history about the aboriginals who inhabited it. A polyclinic and two schools. Workers.

Military. Christians. A corner for religious offerings. An artist who turns houses into works of art. A player from Industriales (baseball team). A growing influx of people from the east. A movie that is closed, venue of the 75th concert by Silvio Rodriguez throughout the neighborhoods. A memory of Fidel made a biohealthy gym. And from now on, Jaimanitas also has a 24-year-old delegate.

Gretel Fuentes Nieto is my age. We studied together at the little school of the neighborhood. We live relatively close. We travel through different roads that converge, maybe, in the attachment to the suburb that has seen us grow up.

This Sunday, during the election runoff, she was elected by 1,172 citizens (54,5 percent of the total votes). And I will have to get used to the fact that she will represent me for a period.

I acknowledge that I didn’t know whether I was benefiting her with my vote or not. To what extent is it positive for a young lawyer to venture into the world of politics? Will she have enough maturity to confront the situations of such a dissimilar community? Especially, will she have the perseverance to insist again and again, to make people’s voice heard in institutions that often turn a deaf ear?

But there was something clear that helped me decide, and although she was not my first option, I wrote an x next to her first name in the runoff. Gretel claims that being a delegate is an honor for her. And since I am a deep supporter of Marti, there comes to my mind the phrase that “homeland is an altar, not a pedestal”, and I figure out that she knows (because she has seen it throughout her 24 years) the responsibility that her decision entails. Then I feel that, in the face of such courage, I should admire her.

Without falling into the foolishness to assert that everything depends on her, she is, undoubtedly, who in first place has the power to mediate between citizens and the authorities linked to the community. Then it’s based on her capacity to handle daily solutions, on how she is able to cope with continuous tasks, on the empathy and complicity she manages to achieve among electors; the effectiveness of her period as a constituency delegate.

Having a young person willing to represent us substantially speaks about the political and historical awareness of a generation that was born deprived, among many other things, of the past prior to the Revolution and its early years of euphoria. Even so, that generation starts to lighten the burden carried by the previous ones, empowering themselves and being protagonists of the staggered process that characterizes an irreversibly socialist society.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

Cuba increases actions to control AIDS epidemic

Cuba develops multiples actions to face AIDS epidemic, geared at reducing the new infections, late diagnosis and deaths caused by that disease, as well as to improve the quality of life of people living with the disease.

In conversation with the CAN, Dr. Maria Isela Lantero Abreu, head of the Department of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STI) /HIV /AIDS, of the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), explained that by 2020 the 90-90-90 Goals of the region hope to expand testing and treatment services.

“This is a commitment made by UN member countries, related to having diagnosed by that year 90 percent of the people living with HIV in the population”, she asserted.

“Likewise, it foresees that equal percentage is guaranteed the continuous antiretroviral treatment and that 90 percent of those receiving that procedure manage to suppress the viral load, as late diagnoses are reduced”, she added.

“These goals are essential aimed at achieving the commitment to eliminate HIV epidemic as a global health problem by 2030”, the MINSAP expert remarked.

“With a view to achieving that goal, Cuba strengthens prevention actions and although the results are still preliminary today, 81 percent of those people are under treatment”, she stated.

The country has diagnosed about 28,000 people with that disease since the onset of the epidemic in 1986, and currently some 23,000 are living with that condition.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), since the appearance of the first cases, the disease has killed over 34 million people globally and at present some 37 million people are living with HIV.

“In 2005, Cuba became the first country in the world to validate the elimination of the mother-to-child HIV and congenital syphilis, certification that remains nowadays”, the specialist announced.

“By 2018, the basic strategies continue to be the promotion of condom use, prevention, the work among sectors and with key groups, the training of promoters, and training”, specified the official, who participates at the 6th International Seminar on HIV/AIDS infection in Cuba.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba Ratifies Commitment to Defending Human Rights in Geneva

Cuba's representatives before the United Nations in Geneva reaffirmed today the country's commitment to defending human rights for all, as a fundamental principle of the Cuban Revolution.

'Cuba will continue to fight against all forms of injustice in the world and to achieve true dignification and welfare for human beings,' the mission said in a statement on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day.

According to the text, 'more than five decades of socialist revolution have allowed achieving full and universal enjoyment of all human rights for its people, so there are many reasons to celebrate this day with joy.'

The press release recalled that Cuba is internationally recognized for the progress made in strengthening its free healthcare and education systems, which are accessible to all, the struggle for gender equality and the protection of the environment, among others issues.

'The solidarity and unconditional work of Cuban healthcare collaborators have saved lives or restored the vision to hundreds of thousands of people in the world,' the communiqué said.

'All this has been achieved despite the genocidal policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, which represents not only a violation of international law, but a flagrant, mass and systematic human rights violation of Cubans,' the text pointed out.

The statement noted that the country has a long history of cooperation with all human rights mechanisms in the international arena that are applied on universal and non-discriminatory basis.

As a member State of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Cuba plays an active role that has materialized in the presentation of resolutions to defend the fundamental basic rights, demonstrating its strong commitment to the implementation of a fairer and equitable human rights system, the text said.

  • Published in Cuba
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