New Hotels in Havana

Several media reports and messages from the Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR) summarize the development of hotels in the Cuban capital, as a distinctive sign of the boom of the tourism industry.

A report from MINTUR refers to the new five-star-plus Hotel Paseo del Prado, and the list of new establishments that will be inaugurated soon in Havana. It will be the first SO/ hotel of the French chain Accor and its inauguration is scheduled for this year. The building will have a tower that resembles a ship's bow.

The SO/ hotels are exciting establishments that are highly-coveted by modern and audacious travelers, according to documents from the French group.

Originally created as an exclusive brand of Sofitel, SO/ is located in exclusive destinations such as Mauritius, Bangkok, Saint Petersburg and Singapore.

The SO/ hotels are places to stay and be seen, as guests are excited by social experiences that capture the vivacity and atmosphere of the place.

SO/ belongs to Accor Hotels, a leading travel and lifestyle group that invites tourists to feel welcomed in 4,500 hotels, resorts and residencies all over the world, as well as 10,000 of the best private houses on the planet.

The ten-story, 5,000-square-meter SO/ Havana Paseo del Prado will offer 250 rooms, including 36 suites.

A few months before turning 500 (November 16), Havana is strongly betting on international tourism.

Havana authorities plan to inaugurate a dozen hotels to increase the total number of rooms to more than 12,500, over 50 percent of which will be in four-and five-star establishments.

In May 2019, the hotels Palacio Cueto, in Old Havana, and Vedado Azul, in El Vedado, were inaugurated.

Plans include the remodeling of the hotels Deauville, Lincoln, Sevilla and Neptuno-Triton, and the reanimation of extrahotel services that include restaurants, marinas, nightclubs and golf courses.

  • Published in Cuba

CITY OF HAVANA RESTORING OLDEST JEWISH CEMETERY IN CUBA

The oldest Jewish cemetery in Cuba is undergoing rehabilitation.

The Havana burial ground is being restored as part of an initiative by the city historian’s office ahead of the 500th anniversary of the Cuban capital’s founding, which will be marked in November, The Associated Press reported.

In addition to the cemetery, located in the Guanabacoa neighborhood on Havana’s east side, the city is repaving streets, cleaning monuments and restoring historic sites.

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The cemetery has deteriorated over many years, as the Jewish community was unable to raise the $200,000 needed to refurbish the entire ground.

Jews in the United States have contributed to the upkeep of some burial plots, according to the report, citing David Prinstein, vice president of the Hebrew Board of Cuba.

There are about 1,100 grave sites in the cemetery, according to the report. Fifty have been repaired and 150 more are scheduled for repairs before the end of the year.

The room used for tahara, the ritual washing of the body according to Jewish burial rites, also has been refurbished.

  • Published in Cuba

Havana 500: A Woman in the Mirror of the City

Every day the painter, complete artist which is Ileana Mulet looks more like Havana, that dreamt city painted from deep eyes not at all blind, of love; those eyes searching for beauty, givers of beauty.

—What Havana have you painted?

—Maestro Harold Gramatge, prominent Cuban musician regrettably deceased, at one of my exhibitions, he wrote:

«Mulet led by the hand by angels and demons slowly finds dreamt images that she captures in wide spaces, where she mocks dimensions to put together, superimposing them, solid stones, walls, streets, stairways, towers, windows, arches, bell towers and, sometimes, human and animal shapes, opening spaces as if heaven’s infinite dimension was brought down to earth».

«That complex intricacy takes possession of my creative process and takes me to travel its passions and turn them into creation».

—The presence of the city is very clear in plastic arts, but you are a versatile artist. How much of the city is there in the poetry?

—Everything gets mingled as if it were a Creole mojito, and poems are written that never cease to mention the immensity of Colonial Havana.

I think our “wonder” city is viewed by us creators, as describes it the journalist and art critic, María del Mar López Cabrales:

«Havana is a city full of life that gives the sensation, at least to the traveler, that it works; it’s a place that can have blackouts, water cuts, collapsing of walls in buildings, destruction by hurricanes, but where people are in the streets, walk, go to stores, buys, sells, offers services to other pedestrians and, mainly, constantly communicates. Havana is a city that never sleeps. A place easy to take the pace, a space where there’s still an intense cultural life: Theater shows every weekend, the incomparable National Ballet with Alicia Alonso as leader in each presentation, concerts of the best Jazz music in different pubs like La Zorra y el Cuervo, the Jazz Café or El Gato Tuerto, bookstores, presentations of books and acts of new troubadours almost every day, shooting of new movies or film cycles dedicated to different directors or different genres, exhibitions of painting. Havana is a place full of life, where is difficult to get bored or remain dauntless because at every turn there’s something that catches the eye and makes you be alert».

—In your life, in your personality, as adoptive daughter what has Havana left in you?

—The city welcomed me when I was little; coming from afar; confused among its bustling inhabitants at the beginning it was not easy for me to walk. Then, slowly I have lifted a castle of hopes that my unusual and lyrical work, rewarded.

«Today I dream of mounting in a big wheel, one of those that helped free the slaves in La Demajagua; I open the eyes and reality returns cracks that inhabit in the complexity of artists; then shapes surface and wonderful real colors ».

US Disregards Negative Impact of New Measures on Cuban People

The U.S. administration has tried this Tuesday to justify the new travel restrictions to Cuba with the argument that they are measures against the government, despite the warnings of their negative effects on the people.

Republican President Donald Trump, who has considerably increased hostility against Cuba, announced Tuesday that he will prohibit citizens of this country from going to Cuba under prior authorization known as people-to-people educational group trips.

In addition, according to a statement from the State Department, 'will no longer allow visits to Cuba through passenger and recreational boats, including cruise ships and yachts, and private and corporate aircraft.

With these controversial steps, the federal agency said it seeks to prevent U.S. travelers from 'enriching Cuba's military, security and intelligence services.

In its statement, the State Department once again linked the measures against Cuba with the solidarity it maintains towards Venezuela and the constitutional government of Nicolas Maduro, which Washington insists on disregarding despite having been re-elected in May 2018 with 68 percent of the vote.

Trump's administration will continue a failed 60-year policy that harms the Cuban people and denies Americans their freedom,' Engage Cuba coalition President James Williams wrote on Twitter after the new limitations spread.

When National Security Advisor John Bolton announced on April 17 that new restrictions would apply to non-family travel, different groups and legislators also referred to the impact on Cubans.

The announcement of the administration of new hard-line restrictions causes pain to families and affects the growing Cuban private sector, said then Florida Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor.

  • Published in Cuba

Cubans compete in global race for health

Cuban police officer Jorge Luis Suarez has chased and captured a fair few criminals in his 26 years on the force. But it's his participation in the country's marathons that really showcases his enviable running skills and physical condition.

A police captain on the verge of turning 48, Suarez is a four-time winner of the Marabana, Cuba's top international marathon.

On Sunday, he competed in Run 24:1, a global race organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to celebrate the upcoming Global Running Day - held annually on the first Wednesday in June - and champion healthy habits.

The race spans the globe, featuring one-mile runs in 24 cities across different time zones in a 24-hour period.

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This year's edition covered 16 different time zones, starting in Fiji and continuing through Beijing, Delhi, Gaza, Copenhagen, Sao Paulo, Santiago, Bogota, Mexico City, Havana and Atlanta, among other cities.

Olympic and world champions were among the several hundred people gathered at the starting line along Havana's emblematic Paseo del Prado promenade, in the city's historic downtown area.

"This is Cuba's total support for this effort by the IAAF - to move, to walk for quality of life and, above all, for people's health," two-time Olympic champion Alberto Juantorena told Xinhua.

Juantorena, who won the 400- and 800-meter races at the 1976 Montreal Games, organized the local leg of 24:1 as president of the Cuban Athletics Federation.

More than a race, the event encourages running or walking one mile, equal to 1,609 meters, to help promote an active lifestyle, according to high jump world record holder and Olympic silver medalist Javier Sotomayor, who served as captain of the event.

"Cuba was chosen as a venue for the second time, mostly because of the results and massive participation we had last year," said Sotomayor.

Olympic champion in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Dayron Robles expressed Cuba's belief that "sport is health and that is a principle."

"Running has become an ideology and I think it is important, because it is a way to seek peace or tranquility after the stress of work," said Robles.

On Wednesday, the IAAF convened the ministries of sports and education, as well as all its member federations, to celebrate Global Running Day by organizing a one-mile race for children in elementary schools and local sports clubs.

Friday will see the closing event, with a symbolic race in the Principality of Monaco, with the participation of local sports authorities, along with IAAF council and staff members and several sporting figures.

In 2018, more than 120,000 people participated in the first edition of Run 24:1, starting at the Silverdale Elementary School in Auckland, New Zealand, and ending in Vancouver, on Canada's west coast.

  • Published in Sports

Cruise line Carnival seeks dismissal of U.S. lawsuits over Cuba docks

Cruise line Carnival Corp is asking a U.S. court to dismiss lawsuits that claim the company profited from confiscated Cuban property, the first such cases brought since the Trump administration made them possible this month.

Two U.S. citizens who claim to hold titles to the Havana and Santiago de Cuba ports that were nationalized by Cuba after Fidel Castro’s 1959 leftist revolution filed suits against Carnival in U.S. District Court in Florida in early May for docking there.

That came after the Trump administration announced a long dormant and controversial section of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act would take effect on May 2, allowing U.S. citizens to sue Cuban entities and foreign firms over confiscated Cuban property.

The law is part of a broader attempt by the United States to pressure Cuba over its support for Venezuela’s embattled government by taking aim at Havana’s beleaguered economy.

Cuba sought to reassure foreign investors at an event in Havana on Friday, saying only four lawsuits had been filed so far, despite the United States saying there could be hundreds of thousands. The European Union and Canada have said they will use blocking legislation to protect their companies.

“Helms-Burton has no application here,” according to a filing in the case by Carnival on Thursday. “First, by its own terms, trafficking under Helms-Burton does not include uses of property ‘incident to lawful travel to Cuba’.”

These cases could set a precedent, especially in the travel industry. Some lawyers like Carnival’s say the travel exemption should shield U.S. cruise lines and airlines doing business with Cuba under licenses granted by former President Barack Obama during the two countries’ brief 2014-2016 detente.

But U.S. courts could determine the travel they facilitate is tourism and violates the decades-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.

“The fulcrum for determining the outcome of all travel-related lawsuits will be whether there has been tourism,” said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc.

Carnival also disputed the ownership of the two U.S. citizens who are descendants of original owners. Their lawyers did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

Increased U.S. hostility, more than Helms-Burton, is affecting foreign companies operating in Cuba, said Xulio Fontecha, head of the Association of Spanish Businesses in Cuba (AEEC), at the event in Havana.

Banks in Panama and Costa Rica had closed the accounts of some customers in recent months and courier services were declining to send documents to Cuba, he said.

“The problem goes far beyond Title III, which we condemn of course,” he said, referring to the section of the Helms-Burton Act that permits the lawsuits.

Some Spanish companies also received a letter from a group in Florida warning them of potentially being complicit in violations of human and labour rights, he said.

The ambassador of the European Union, Alberto Navarro, said the bloc would continue to seek to expand business with Cuba, defying the U.S. hostility.

He encouraged Cuban reforms to make the island more attractive to foreign investors and offset disincentives created by the Trump administration policy.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba makes history with its first Little League champion, takes first step toward making World Series

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT-Cuba has its first Little League Baseball champion.

A team from Havana defeated Pinar-del-Rio, 18-1, to advance to the Caribbean regional tournament in Curacao July 13-20. This is the first year Cuba has had chartered Little Leagues.

Havana won out over 16 teams in the Cuban national tournament that was held following the conclusion of the regular season in that country.

Little League President and DEP Stephen D. Keener tweeted: “Congratulations to the Havana kids and coaches…history made today.

“First Cuban champions to earn a mid-July trip to Curacao for the Caribbean Regional tournament with dreams of Williamsport and the Little League World Series.”

The tournament was held now to give Little League time to make the needed preparations to get the Cubans to Curacao, spokesman Kevin Fountain said.

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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.  

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