Diaz-Canel: Cultural Development, Not Art Commodification

"We have to defend cultural development and artistic creation from banalities that some try to impose from the outside,” said Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

During the closing ceremony of the 1st National Conference of the Culture Workers’ Union, the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel called for clarity to distinguish between creativity and the commodification of art, as he claims sectors of society are aiming for the latter.

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“We have to defend cultural development and artistic creation from banalities, vulgarities and paradigms that some try to impose from the outside,” said Diaz-Canel.“ And that can be achieved from dialogue, debate, discourse.”

The president said there is people trying to do everything possible to keep government away from culture, especially those opposing the revolution, when discussing issues. He warned there’s a growing tendency of speaking about ‘art consumption; trying to turn art into a commodity and putting personal enrichment before the development of authenticity.

“#CubaIsCulture. For an emancipatory platform in defense of our history, our culture and our identity against the attempts to impose the capitalist and neoliberal restauration on us. #Cuba #WereCuba”

Diaz-Canel warned about the risks of culture homogenization through rupture of the people’s historic memory, the negation of its history and identity, by perverse and alienating content. He called for an artistic emancipatory platform to defend Cuba’s identity and highlighted the Revolution’s cultural policy, emanating from Fidel’s discussions with artists and intellectuals, and its achievements such as the literacy campaigns, artistic teaching systems, events and arts’ development.

“History has shown us that the only answer to face that circumstance is unity, and cultural debate must first defend unity and I think we can achieve that,” he concluded.

The Cuban president also reminded the public about the harm that the U.S. blockade, the most comprehensive of any country in modern history, has done to the island, calling it "the greatest obstacle for development in Cuba."

The conference started on Thursday with the aim to discuss the cultural environment of the island as well as internal matters. A new 11-member National Committee was announced and Nereyda Lopez Labrada was ratified as the union’s secretary general.

Lopez Labrada said the country’s cultural policy has always been the unity between culture and liberty, and highlighted their responsibility in building Cuba’s future.

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Casa de la Guayabera in Cuba Reopens its Doors, after Restoration

The Casa de la Guayabera, which shelters today the largest collection of the Cuban national garment, reopened its doors, after the restoration of its building, considered a jewel of the neoclassical style in the fourth town founded in Cuba.

In statements to Prensa Latina, the director of that institution, Carlo Figueroa, highlighted among the most significant changes made in the facility, the extension of the room where a sample of the 250 guayaberas of the collection is exhibited temporarily.

Now that space was merged with La Alforza workshop, that is to say, that in this part of the museum, in search of a dynamic exhibition, that the visitor can see how a guayabera is made in situ and learn about the history of the Spirituana shirt.

In addition, the sanitary services were repaired, all the exterior walls were restored, with more gargoyles to make drainage possible, roofs were waterproofed and all areas of the building, known as Quinta de Santa Elena and located in the oldest part of the city, were resurfaced.

This will lead to other changes, such as retaking spaces dedicated to bolero or rock and the creation of the Sala Lourdes Caro, in tribute to that singer and composer born in Sancti Spiritus.

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Neil Diamond Retires From Touring After Parkinson’s Diagnosis

A statement from the singer team disclosed that Diamond will continue with "his writing, recording, and development of new projects.”

Renowned singer-songwriter Neil Diamond has announced he will no longer be touring.

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“It is with great reluctance and disappointment that I announce my retirement from concert touring. I have been so honored to bring my shows to the public for the past 50 years,” Diamond said.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, who turns 77 on Wednesday, is stepping away from the spotlight following his recent Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

”My sincerest apologies to everyone who purchased tickets and were planning to come to the upcoming shows,” the performer added. Diamond canceled the upcoming Australian and New Zealand legs of his 50th Anniversary tour. Diamond had started a tour April of last year, which included more than 50 dates across North America and Europe. The last gig was in Oct.

The statement disclosed that the disease has “made it difficult to travel and perform on a large scale basis but will allow Mr. Diamond to continue his writing, recording, and development of new projects.”

Diamond expressed “thanks goes out to my loyal and devoted audiences around the world. You will always have my appreciation for your support and encouragement. This ride has been ‘so good, so good, so good’ thanks to you.”

Last Dec., Diamond told Rolling Stone that he was honored to be performing in arenas for this long. "It's been very heartening to me. I've been doing this 50 years and to have an audience that's out there and anxious and enthusiastic is exciting," Diamond said.

"As a matter of fact, when I started having hit records you think your career might be one or two or three records. And that's it. You were finished when one bombed. That's all the chance you got. Next!"

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Día de los Muertos-Inspired Film Tops US Box Office on Debut

“These are really solid numbers, particularly given how volatile the box office has been this year,” comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

“Coco” tops the U.S. box office on debut, raking in $71.2 million over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

RELATED: Highest Grossing Animated Film 'Coco' Star Dedicates It to Latino Children

The film – which centers on Mexico’s Día de los Muertos celebration – became the highest grossing film in the Latin American country's history ($53.4 million to date), when it opened four weeks ago.

“These are really solid numbers, particularly given how volatile the box office has been this year,” comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

"Pixar not only focused on telling a good story, they focused on making the film as culturally relevant as possible. I think that's one of the things that make the film feel authentic for all audiences, and particularly Hispanic audiences, although this is a story that resonates with everyone," says Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis.

“Coco” is the fourth-best Thanksgiving opening of all time, trailing only “Toy Story 2”, “Frozen” and “Moana.”

“It’s another win for the Pixar brand,” Dergarabedian added.

The animated feature managed to beat out second-weeker and DC Comics heavyweight, Justice League, which fell 57% from its opening week.

“Coco” also debuted in China and is currently tracking to become Pixar’s biggest hit in a country, making $18.2 million so far, after a 25 percent boost from Friday to Saturday receipts.

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Fidel’s Favorite Book and Why You Should Read It

The Cuban revolutionary had an eclectic reading taste. But what was his favorite book?

While Fidel Castro is best recognized as a revolutionary political leader, the former Cuban president had another serious passion — reading.

IN DEPTH: Fidel: A Revolutionary Life

Following the failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1952, Fidel was sent to a prison north of Santiago. It was here that the leader of the Cuban Revolution immersed himself in books, avidly reading all genres — from philosophy to history and the great literary masterpieces.

This period proved formative in finessing his political ideology and outlook on the modern Cuban state.

Trapped in a gloomy cell, Fidel found inspiration in the works of Freud, Kant, Shakespeare, Munthe, Maugham and Dostoyevsky. But while the Comandante accredits many authors for expanding his political education, there was another book that deeply moved Fidel — “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” by Ernest Hemingway.

The novel is told through the perspective of Robert Jordan, a young U.S. guerrilla in the Spanish Civil War. Fighting for the Republicans against the fascists, Jordan meets Spanish fighter Maria and together they plan an attack against an enemy transport route.

It is a story of resistance, solidarity and the struggle for justice — themes that resounded with Fidel Castro and would later inspire the Cuban Revolution.

The title is taken from the John Donne poem “No Man Is an Island,” which also speaks to human camaraderie.

In the poem, Donne writes, “any man's death diminishes me, / because I am involved in mankind.”

RELATED: Cuba Bids Farewell to Fidel: Live Updates

These sentiments are echoed throughout “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”

In the book, a character asks “For what are we born if not to aid one another?” and later states, “I am thee and thou art me and all of one is the other.”

As well as appealing to Fidel Castro’s humanism, he also saw in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” lessons on how to stage guerrilla warfare.

Speaking in a 1975 interview with U.S. writers Kirby Jones and Frank Mankiewicz, Fidel revealed that “Of U.S. authors, Hemingway is one of my favorites."

“I read ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ when I was a student … Hemingway spoke about the rear-guard of a guerrilla group fighting against a conventional army … The novel was one of the works that helped me devise strategies to fight against Batista’s army.”

As the world prepares to pay their final respects to Fidel Saturday, the words of the Cuban leader’s favorite book appear more pertinent than ever:

“If we win here we will win everywhere. The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.”

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An 'Underworld' Discovered Beneath Mexico's Teotihuacan Ruins

The tunnel reinforces researchers' belief that the theme of life and death was constant throughout the Teotihuacan culture.

The National Institute of Anthropology announced its discovery of a tunnel beneath Mexico’s Teotihuacan Temple.

RELATED: ‘Mummified Humanoid’ Found in Peru Raises ‘Alien’ Claims

The INAH stated Tuesday that by using a computerized topographical instrument they discovered a tunnel 10 meters below the pyramid's front plaza.

The group of archaeologists who have been searching since last year for the ancient serpentine passageways deep beneath the pyramid, call it an “emulation of the underworld.”

"We are seeing that underneath the great monuments of the archaeological zone there are previous buildings. We have seen it under the pyramids of the Sun and the Feathered Serpent, why not under the Pyramid of the Moon?" lead archaeologist Veronica Ortega stated.

For years, researchers have found traces of burials and offerings within sacred spaces in the Pyramid of the Moon, which are absent from the other structures such as the Sun and the Feathered Serpent.

“Those of the Pyramid of the Moon have an enormous advantage for our study of symbolism and the function of the ritual spaces: for the first time in the history of Teotihuacan archeology complexes of burials and offerings are detected at the height of a construction of great proportions,” archaeologists Saburo Sugiyama and Leonardo Lopez Lujan wrote.

Anthropologists hope that the discovery of the tunnel may shed some light on the incredible builders who are responsible for some of Latin America’s archaeological treasures such as the pyramids of the Sun, the Moon, Quetzalcoatl, and the Feathered Serpent.

“They are, as always, unknowns, mysteries that archaeologists, detectives of space-time, are slowly revealing,” the pair of researches continued to say.

Up until now, life among the ancient Tenochtitlan tribe who occupied the land between 100 BC to AD 750 was shrouded in mystery. A community of over 100,000 people vanished without a trace, with researches left to speculate at the reasoning for the abandonment of their famous structures. Their customs, rulers, and beliefs all lost completely.

"Almost the entire population of the valley - some 70 kilometers north of present-day Mexico City - lived there in the big city. It was organized like a grid. Most of the population lived in houses well enough built to call them palaces," Hungarian archaeologist Ester Pasztory wrote in a book on the Teotihuacan people. Pasztory has dedicated years studying the subject.

The tunnels running beneath the other pyramids reinforce researchers’ belief that the theme of life and death was constant throughout the Teotihuacan culture.

“The fact that the tunnel was sealed by the Teotihuacans themselves would give them the opportunity to find new evidence of ritual organization, but also sociopolitical, so it will be necessary to make comparisons between this possible conduit and those that run under the Pyramid of the Sun and the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, in search of a better understanding of the meaning of the city," Ortega explained.

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Designer’s Melancholic, Dazzling Collection Fights Brexit Hate

“I feel like the whole world is turning so fucking right wing ... I think that as … people who work in the creative industry, we all need to … really fight back," said the designer.

Ashish Gupta’s shows are usually a phantasmagorical display of sartorialism, with sequined splendor and kaleidoscopic color. But his platform at London Fashion Week this season was a tad more somber.

RELATED: Louboutin Designs Uniforms for Cuba's Olympic Athletes

With a collection titled “Bollywood Bloodbath,” the British-Indian designer wanted to bring attention to post-Brexit xenophobia, highlighting the resplendence of multiculturalism through his clothes and diverse cast of models.

"I wanted to celebrate Indian culture in England," Gupta told Refinery29. "I was absolutely horrified by Brexit. It broke my heart. And I wanted to make a statement about that. (I wanted to) celebrate this culture, which is so beautiful, and such an integral part of life in this country."

"After 20 years of living in this country, I felt like 'Oh, am I actually unwelcome here?' I just felt really awful about it," he told i-D backstage

The show commenced with the performance of a blind sitar player whose stirring live performance built to a crescendo as a male model emerged in a glittering golden dress, a python draped over his shoulders.

With gender fluidity a core feature, a slew of models sporting "traditional" Indian fabrics cut in "Western" silhouettes came out one by one, wearing sequined tracksuits, double denim, slip dresses and saris.

RELATED: Navajo Nation Designer: Support Us, Not Racist Urban Outfitters

"There was a slightly heartbroken vibe about (the collection), with the reds, pinks, and muted golds and greens. They were celebratory colors, popped in with solemn palettes," the designer said about his collection. The melancholy of the show was also displayed through tears drawn on the models’ faces.

With an all-Black model cast during his Spring/Summer 2015 show, Gupta followed in that trajectory with his casting this year as well, which included the British model of Indian descent Neelam Gill, Sri-Lankan born Londoner Suren Seneviratne, Colombian model Ricardo Dominguez and the New-York-based queer artist of West Indian descent Richie Shazam.

Commenting on the predominance of white models in the industry, he said, "I suppose it’s an artistic decision, I’m not one to comment on other people’s aesthetic or casting decisions. It’s a choice everyone is free to take, but my view is that we live in such a diverse world that I don’t understand how the view of beauty can be so narrow. I think that fashion is meant to be aspirational. If you have all white girls on the runway, what does that say about people’s aspirations? I think that’s quite shocking."

"I know it's just fashion, but I think it's really important to not just have this narrow version of beauty," he added. "I think there's such a big battle to be fought right now because I feel like the whole world is turning so fucking right wing. It really frightens me, and I think that as artists, as journalists, people who work in the creative industry, we all need to gather force and really fight back against that".

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British Rapper Lowkey Dedicates Show to Chile's 9/11 Victims

The rapper told teleSUR he wanted to use his music to highlight the victims of Chile’s coup, not the ones fallen at the center of power in the U.S.

A global order that promotes elite narrative is why the victims of September 11, 2001 get most of the global recognition and coverage while the tens of thousands who lost their lives as a result of the U.S.-backed military coup in Chile in 1973 on that same date get sidelined and ignored, British-Iraqi rapper Lowkey told teleSUR in an interview Sunday.

OPINION: Chile's 1973 Coup and Barack Obama’s Selective Memory on 9/11

“I think the reason for the discrepancy in the depiction of the loss of life that took place on Sept. 11, 2001 in contrast to Sept. 11, 1973 is linked to the global order and elite narrative which props that up and maintains it,” Lowkey told teleSUR ahead of a performance in London where he highlighted the 1973 coup in Chile against socialist President Salvador Allende.

“So when we look at the example of Chile we have a democratically-elected president who was working for the nationalizing of the copper and for the protection of his country’s sovereignty and I think it is not often we see that story and the victims within that story are sidelined for the victims of the center of power.”

Lowkey is making a comeback after being absent from the public eye for the past five years. He will headline 13 performances across the U.K. where he will highlight social issues.

His performance Sunday was to “give our respect to the progressive movement that has carried on” since the 1973 coup in Chile, “which was based on the work that was done by Salvador Allende and his collaborators at the time.”

Lowkey said his music aims “to recognize these marginalized and sidelined parts of the story and those who were victims of the overall global order.”

But Lowkey’s respect for Chile goes beyond a professional nod as he sees Allende’s life and work as an example for all generations.

IN DEPTH: 9/11: A Tale of Two Attacks

"On a personal level, I find Salvador's life inspiring from the fact that this is someone who discovered the difficulties which everyday Chileans were facing through his work as a doctor,” the rapper said of the late president.

Watching over thousands of the poor and marginalized during his time as a physician, Allende “really saw the true destruction neoliberalism was reeking over society and wanted to build a democratic and revolutionary alternative to this order that was imposed upon the Chilean people.”

Music is the way to reclaim the history of the underdog and sidelined, Lowkey stressed, and it is artists’ duty “to continue to assert our identities and assert our independence as much as we can.”

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