Cuba Reiterates Interest in Boosting links with European Union

Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, ratified today the interest in boosting cooperation and dialogue with the European Union (EU).

In his Twitter social network account, the diplomat insisted that relations between the greater of the Antilles and the 28-country bloc have developed favorably, on the bases of mutual respect.

'We build spaces of dialogue and cooperation. We privileged the common points above those that difference us to develop stable and long-term links', he stressed.

Rodriguez recalled that last year, Cuba and the EU held the first sessions of the Joint Council and the meetings to approach issues in the area of human rights and unilateral coercive measures.

At the end of 2016, the island and the European bloc signed an agreement of political dialogue and cooperation, that represented the official end to the common position on Cuba, an initiative applied since 1996 by the EU which conditioned the approach to the greater of the Antilles to human rights issues, rejected by the Caribbean country, considering it a position of subordination to the U.S. aggressiveness and its economic blockade.

  • Published in Cuba

Carlos Acosta to Become Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet

The Royal Ballet of Birmingham (United Kingdom) has elected Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta as its new director, according to a press release from Acosta Dance, a company founded by the artist.

Acosta, who will assume the appointment from January 2020, said about his new responsibility that 'it is a great honor and privilege to have been appointed to lead this company.

I am a great admirer of its heritage and of what David Bintley (current director) has done to establish it as one of the world's leading classical ballet companies, he added.

My ambition is to build on its classical traditions, expand its repertoire and reach out to new and more diverse audiences, to define what it is to be a world-leading classical ballet company in the 21st century' , he said.

The choreographer also stressed that in parallel to this opportunity, he will continue his work with Acosta Dance and the Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation, as this appointment will allow him to improve and develop the opportunities he can offer to both initiatives.

For this selection, a group of international experts chose the director in an open competition, after the British Bintley announced his retirement next July, at season's end.

David Normington, the company´s chair highlighted the Birminghan Royal Ballet´s great moment and described Acosta as the 'greatest best male dancer of his generation'.

I know he will bring us his legendary art, his energy and his charisma and allow us to connect with new audience, especially in Birmingham,' he said.

Acosta, 45, was trained at the Cuban National School of Ballet, where he graduated with honors in 1991 and, three years later, became top dancer for the Cuban National Ballet.

According to specialized critics, he has become one of the greatest dancers in the world, thanks to his physical qualities and talent which have led him to join the list of important companies in the world, such as Italy, the United States and the United Kingdom.

He made his debut as an actor last year in Yuli, by Spain's Iciar Bollain, a film where he plays himself and which has earned him the nomination for Best Newcomer at the 2019 Goya Awards.

  • Published in Culture

Therapeutic clowns: Much more than the desire to heal

Sparking a good laugh and shaking off sadness is the greatest desire of therapeutic clowns, people of great human sensitivity who build relationships of complicity and affection with long-stay hospital patients, as MSc Aniet Venereo Pérez-Castro, otherwise known as the clown Celeste, explained to Granma International.

She defined therapeutic clowns as people who don the representative red nose and provide moments of amusement and relaxation for those suffering from chronic conditions.

Professionals from different specialties such as doctors, rehabilitators, psychologists, artists and others volunteer their time and talent in this effort to provide patients with necessary hope, which can contribute to their rapid recovery. They also visit nursing homes, psychiatric hospitals, psycho-pedagogical centers, and institutions for adults with chronic diseases.

In the first interaction with the patient, a relationship of acceptance and security must be developed. In some cases, children may be afraid of clowns, or patients may be apathetic, in which case the artist does not impose participation. Often, on observing interaction with others in the same ward, these initially reluctant patients become curious and join in the activities.

“Cuba has a clown academy, located in the eastern province of Las Tunas, where graduates are trained in the art form, and the inclusion of a therapeutic module has already been proposed. We formed after the Canadian, Joan Barrington, director of Therapeutic Clowns International, visited us in 2012, taught a course, and trained several instructors. Subsequently, they have been responsible for multiplying this knowledge throughout the country, supported by the Cuban Ministry of Public Health,” the national coordinator of Cuba’s therapeutic clowns group explained.

                    Photo: Nuria Barbosa

On Barrington’s second trip to the island, an improvement course was opened, in which circus artists were included. “This training served to take the methodology of the international therapeutic clowns foundation and adapt it to our traditions. We also linked it with popular education techniques and created our own courses and workshops,” Venereo added.

The starting point for learning is visual contact, which is why clowns are trained to interact through the observation of others. They work with the absurd and the ridiculous, and anyone assuming this role should seek to create a character based on their own personal experiences.

The training process for therapeutic clowns begins with a basic workshop including discussions on communication and acting techniques, and costumes are created. Although it is impossible to measure the results of this project in figures, the improvement in patients’ mood, acceptance of treatments, and adaptation to hospitalization, especially among children, is palpable.

This movement has advanced significantly, and today Cuba has over 200 therapeutic clowns working in different health institutions across 11 provinces. The First Cuban Congress of Therapeutic Clowns: Art and Health was held in October 2018, as a space to share experiences with other professionals from around the world. The event, linking science and art to develop strategies for the future, saw the presence of 116 delegates, of whom 90 were Cubans. There were 25 presentations, 12 workshops, two keynote addresses, and 8 poster presentations. Three areas were debated during the Congress: science, culture, and social work.

Agreements were reached to support the creation of mid-level specialist accreditation in this field, with courses to be taught in the School of Health Technology. The decision was based on experiences in health institutions, as therapeutic clowns often assumed the tasks of social workers in terms of palliative care, accompanying families during difficult moments.

Reyna de La Paz Campos Falcón, who plays the character of Mantequilla, noted the value of the happiness clowns provide. “We teach our colleagues in training that the essence of this type of activity is found from within, externalized in the act of interacting with the patient. We work very closely with children to dispel all the fears that arise faced with a clown. For me it has been a very rewarding experience, which helped me overcome difficult situations faced in my own life,” she explained.

Training courses cover clowning techniques, which include acting, pantomime, balancing acts, magic, puppeteering, color variety, and balloon modeling. A fundamental aspect is the identification with each patient’s condition, as rather than working from a script, these clowns prepare their performances in response to patients’ needs. Their duration is also dependent on the patient and whether they are enjoying the act or not.

“We visit oncology, heart disease, and hematology wards. Rapport must be established in the first visual contact with the patient, necessary to undertake the activity. By letting the patient decide the artistic act, for a moment they enjoy a pause in medical routines. This rapport also creates ties with their relatives. Many hospitalized children live in other provinces and come from dysfunctional families. We see single mothers who leave other children at home in order to care for one child, so more than the clown therapy, we become involved like social workers, hence the need for a well-trained clown,” Campos emphasized.

This view was shared by Canadian, Melissa Halland: “I am a therapeutic clown because I understand that being in the hospital is a difficult time for any human being. In many cases, healing the body entails pain. I believe that the mind and emotions are important to recovering from an illness. This actor or actress is an individual who helps to cure, because he or she provokes joy and feelings of love among human beings.” Halland plays the character of Fifi, working with the sick in the cities of Montreal and Quebec.

She told Granma International that Canada has a network of therapeutic clowns in each city, integrated with different humanitarian associations, who provide their art free of charge in health institutions, but are financed by non-governmental organizations and by solidarity contributions, to cover travel and other expenses.

She noted that attending the Congress in Cuba was a wonderful experience, and that, “It touched my heart. I have seen the interest shown by the Ministries of Health, Education, and Culture to support this activity, something that is lacking in Canada.”

Meanwhile, Iliana Levy, from Colombia, visited Cuba for the first time to attend the Congress. A graduate in Literature and Linguistics, she has been clowning for over ten years, and is focused on the social work of a therapeutic clown in hospitals and other unconventional settings.

“The experience of the Congress has been a dream come true. I am very grateful to the therapeutic clowns organization of Cuba, who have made us feel at home. I feel that we share joy and vitality. They offered me the opportunity to interact with Cuban patients, and it turned out to be an extraordinary experience,” expressed Levy, otherwise known as the clown Gladys Banana.

Cuban Karelia León Despaigne reported that her seven-year-old son, Yasier, was very sad on learning he would be admitted to the William Soler Pediatric Hospital, where he underwent complex heart surgery for interatrial communication. “Our children need that encouragement offered by the therapeutic clowns; they came with their balloons and extravagant costumes. They even gave out red noses to make others feel like clowns too,” she noted.

These artists share the dream that in the future hospitals will be cultural/health centers where, along with medical treatments and care, patients will be able to come into contact with art, to create and follow their dreams.

Insumisas: A Contemporary Film with Period Costume

Fernando Pérez and Laura Cazador didn't want to give a history lesson; it’s a film with period costume, which attempts to establish a conversation with today's day.

The movie “is alive on itself, spectators complete it” and if it raises debate and reflection, its directors are satisfied. That intention of combining historical search with a contemporary speech was the first challenge, says the experienced director of Cuban cinema Fernando Pérez:

“That was the first huge challenge. Because the Enriqueta’s case has many approaches, in theater you may find The Traps of Brene, there are several cinema scripts that never came to be, the novel of Antonio Benítez Rojo and there’s a fundamental research that of Julio Cesar González Pagés that really knows all the humane and divine about this character. What we were interested in was not only the real story, but rather how to fill and express all those moments left out in history, those most intimate and, mainly starting from the idea that we wanted to give the character a contemporary image and we didn't just want to stay in the gender transgression, but also in those other transgressions which are political, social, always defending the individuality in a character that was ahead of its time. The pieces of the real Enriqueta and that of our movie, but the one in the movie is the one we were interested in showing to the spectator.”

Indeed, the young Swiss filmmaker who co-directed, assures that the story lived by Enrique or Enriqueta Faber in the XIX Century has a lot to tell to the men and women of these times:

“I believe that the topic of transgression that Fernando has just mentioned, not only of gender, politics, moral, geographical, has a lot to say today, because sometimes for an individual within a society reaches the moment that the established codes, the established order can limit him, it can even suffocate him. That still happens today, women, but also men, human beings who are forced to break regulations in order to co-exist with what they think, with their values, for example, Swiss women, a very developed country, they only earned their right to vote in 1972, very recently, still today in Switzerland, most women, for the same job position of a man, earn less, that is, there are still things to change.

“Another transgression is that of African migrants who don't have food or water at best and in the worst case scenario there are wars and their lives in real danger, they have to transgress laws, they have to cross the ocean, although laws forbid it and here we are not talking about living hand in hand with their ideals, with their conscience, but of simply saving their lives. Likewise there are a lot of people in Europe who, against the criminalizing politics of the United States are welcoming, against the law, migrants in their houses, that is forbidden, they have to transgress law to be able to be coherent with themselves, to feel well, to be able to look at their faces in the mirror. Transgression always comes with a price and its risks, but there are human beings who cannot simply follow the rules and laws and to live well with that.”

Insumisas won the collateral award that, for the first time gave the Campaign Join a Life without Violence, about this award Fernando Pérez said:

“I think this has been a very important award, because it was that in fact what motivated us, because Enriqueta Faber’s transgressions in history, although many of those prejudices have already been overcome, some of them persist and we wanted the spectator to meditate on that. It happened now, I believe there has been a synchronism between the movie and our reality, for example, now we knew that in the Constitution Draft to be voted in February, article 68 that it was supposed to open the possibility and recognition of equitable marriage has not been approved, a clear sign that there are still lack of understanding about the diversity that represents the individual freedom, the established morals always tends to standardize and we all don’t dress the same, it’s not that all doors are closed, because the family code will also be analyzed, this is a step ahead and the existence of the movie now and falling in the middle of this context, we find it very stimulating and it satisfies us that a movie like this, with a historical theme has that contemporary resonance and that spectators can also meditate about this reality.”

The film will be run this year at the International Festival of Human Rights in Geneva. And Cubans will be able to watch it in the 60th anniversary of ICAIC, on March 23-24 after all premiere cinemas will run it.

A two-voice film

The diversity lies in the very origin of this film, we just have to see that is directed by an experienced Cuban filmmaker and a young Swiss filmmaker. From the production Insumisas is a bet for diversity and respect.

For Laura Cazador, “it was a huge privilege to be able to work with Fernando for the whole experience he has, for his outstanding career and therefore the bulk of information I could learn, how much I learned by his side, for me was a really important privilege. On the other hand, at a more personal level, it was a very beautiful experience we already knew each for many years, we had already even shared cinema experiences, we already had that complicity, working together was nice, because since the writing of the script that we shared at four hands, to the final edition, the soundtrack design, we did all the processes together, side by side, and for me it was very enriching, a very fluid experience.

“Maybe because we are so near and yet so very different in age, the nationality, me with very little experience, him a lot of it, that is, there were several things distant from each other, however we had a very special harmony when working. Of course sometimes different viewpoints, but always with great respect, with a lot of humor also and a lot of professionalism. I am very grateful that it happened…”

On the other hand, Fernando Pérez says that it was “equally enriching the experience and he could add that really this movie could not have done without Laura, because the movie comes from her, when I began working with her the plot was quite advanced, the original idea, I know her since she was a little girl. I know her sensibility and we had also worked together in several alternative projects, but there was also a feminine look in this movie that was essential: it’s a movie of women and although I have worked with female stars, contradictory feminine characters, etc., here was a particularity that only Laura could, to my eyes, improve it.

“Her work with the main actresses was fundamental, the characters of Enriqueta and Juana past that particularity, I defend greatly author cinema, but I also believe that cinema can be shared and I wanted to demonstrate it too… whenever the same idea is the starting point, of course, we share the same horizons, the same objectives and then during the process, we had doubts and sometimes different views, but they were always solved from that same path that guided us. And I think that, far beyond Laura’s feminine look she also contributed with what I always call the young look. I have many years of experience, but each movie is different and I don’t like to keep only what I know, but with what I will discover and for that reason I like working with young people…. “

  • Published in Now

Joya's Concert Opens International Jazz Plaza Festival in Cuba

Havana, Jan 14 (Prensa Latina) The 34th International Festival Jazz Plaza 2019 begins on Monday with a concert by contrabassist Gaston Joya at 6:30 p.m. local time, at Teatro Nacional de Cuba's Covarrubias hall.

Scheduled until January 20, the event has prepared a wide variety of concerts and jazz performances in the cultural centers of Havana and Santiago de Cuba, the latter is the sub-venue for third time.

Another event for Monday is the performance of the Young Jazz Band by maestro Joaquin Betancourt, who will be accompanied by Argentine pianist Adrian Iaes at the Mella Theater in Havana.

Maestro Bobby Carcasses will give a concert on January 16 along with American multi-instrumentalist Roger Glenn, saxophonist Yosvany Terry and trombonist Dick Griffin at Teatro Nacional de Cuba's Avellaneda hall.

The shows 'Benny More un siglo después' (Benny More a century later) are expected, led by guitarist Hector Quintana, as well as the concerts by Arturo O'Farrill, Orlando Valle (Maraca) and the Aragon Orchestra.

A night of luxury is programmed for the closing ceremony in Havana, with pianist and composer Roberto Fonseca and his guests, among which the Bride of Feeling Omara Portuondo will perform.

  • Published in Culture

Cuba Publishes List of Voters for Referendum on Constitution

The lists of voters for the February 24 referendum on Cuba's new Constitution are being published Monday and Tuesday, sources of the National Electoral Commission (CEN) said. According to the authorities sworn on December 28 to organize, direct and validate the elections, each person can verify as January 16 the records, which should include more than eight million voters, that are being called to ratify the Constitution approved on December 22 by the People''s Power National Assembly.

Quoted by Granma newspaper, Colonel Mario Mendez, Chief of Identification, Immigration and Foreign Affairs Direction, said that the lists will be put in 'visible places near polling stations.'

Mendez urged voters to corroborate their personal data, and if necessary, proceed to correct them, modify them and update them in the procedure offices of each municipality.

According to the high officer of the Ministry of the Interior, these facilities -known in Cuba as Identity Card Offices- will be reinforced in the coming days to guarantee the electoral process.

More than eight million Cubans are eligible to the vote on February 24, a national date, which marks the restart in 1895 of the war against Spanish colonialism, to pronounce on the new Constitution, a text that ratifies Cuba's socialist nature and the leading role of the Communist Party in society.

The constitution reflects changes in the structure of the State, extends guarantees and human rights, promotes foreign investment, strengthens people's power from the grassroots (the municipalities) and recognizes several forms of property, including private property.

  • Published in Cuba

Bus Driver Responsible for Accident that Killed 7, Injured 33 in Cuba

Authorities of the Cuban eastern province of Guantanamo held the driver of the bus responsible for the accident that killed seven passengers, including four foreigners, and injured 33 last Thursday.

Following relevant investigation, experts from the Ministry of Interior concluded the driver violated transit laws, and was speeding along a wet road on a rainy day when he should have slowed down, and was not paying attention to traffic signals nor taking extreme caution.

On Thursday, January 10, at 16:10 local time in a place known as Loma de Herradura, some 980 kilometers east of Havana, the driver of a Yutong inter-provincial bus belonging to Viazul Transport Company, lost control of the vehicle that skidded off the road.

Three Cubans and four foreigners (two Argentineans, one French and a German) lost their lives. Besides, another 33 passengers got wounded.

  • Published in Cuba

More than 550 literary works compete for Casa de las Americas award in Cuba

Havana, January 12 (RHC)-- More than 550 works from various Latin American countries are contending for the 60th edition of the Literary Award Casa de las Americas, organized each year by this Cuban cultural institution.

According to a press conference, the texts are divided into the following sections: novels (167), poetry (224), social history essays (28), Brazilian literature (45), Latin studies in the United States (19) and literature for children (101).

The event is prestigious with a jury composed of renowned artists such as Argentinean narrator Victor Goldgel-Carballo, Chilean essayist Lina Meruane, Ecuadorian poet Raul Vallejo and Cuban filmmaker Eduardo del Llano.

According to the researcher Jorge Fornet, these artists show the event´s significance, with six decades in the cultural panorama of the region, continues to be loyal to the ideals of its formation but with a renewing spirit.

Just ten days before the event's opening, scheduled from January 21st to the 30th, the essayist referred to the new challenges of the competition to continue mobilizing the continent's great writers.  However, he said, it is still an event that brings together talented and recognized writers from the continent and excellent literary proposals.

During the event, books from the prize winners in 2018 will be presented and they will hold lecture addresses on core issues related to literature of the region.

Edited by Pavel Jacomino
  • Published in Culture
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