Cojimar: Full of Stories (+ Photos)

Journalist and photographer Ernesto Lahens Soto exhibits a selection of his photos at the Art Gallery Mariano Rodriguez, in Villa Panamericana, Havana.

Ernesto Lahens Soto does not portray a stylized Cojimar, an unknown village and idyllic construction: what we see is everything we are able to witness on daily basis if we decide to look for stories.

And this is not a common skill. Or perhaps we all have it. The truth is that there are stories everywhere and Cojimar treasures some of the most interesting of the island.

Without fanfare, emphasis, and quite naturally, the photographer shows us those close, but unimaginable approaches.

There are inspiring series, which need no words to complement them.

The exhibition is documentary. But you can feel the fine lyricism: when a fisherman throws his line into the sea, there is poetry in there; sometimes hard, sometimes violently…usually unnoticed.

Ernesto has the gift to reproduce it.

Clearly, the photographer loves this village. He feels identified with the men and women living there. The character of a city is not determined by its magnificent view, but its people.

Cojimar treasures a lot of secrets. It is not hard to find them out. Suffice to ask our neighbor.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz/CubaSi Translation Staff

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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.  

The Biennial that Comes

On April 12th begins the greatest visual arts appointment in Cuba, the great platform for artists and projects from several countries, the chance that thousands of Cubans and visitors review the different creative tendencies: until May 12th will take place the XIII Biennial of Havana.

There are several debates at hand (and some are very heated up) on the Biennial of Havana: the suitability of its name (keeping in mind that is no longer occurring every two years); its structure and main idea (to what extent does the dispersion of centers affect the conceptual coherence of the appointment?); its relationship with the market (as in Cuba there isn’t a large art fair, many see the Biennial as an opportunity to make business)…

In what almost everybody seems to agree is in the need that the Biennial must be reinvented. Obviously, the circumstances of the key moment aren’t by far the ones now. How to organize such demanding meeting that dialogue with the present without betraying the lifelong essences? That is the million dollar question… and there are a lot of people trying to answer it.

But among discussions, the thirteenth edition of the greatest summoning of the visual arts in Cuba - and probably of the Caribbean - is just around the corner. And the challenge declared of organizers is to make the best Biennial possible in a particularly complicated context, of strong tensions in the national and international panorama.

It’s clear that the event cannot settled with just being a showcase: it has to assume an active role before society that welcomes it and promotes it. Art, as it’s known, it can and should move ideas that many times go beyond its own boundaries.


It’s not casual that for this Biennial young artists have a clear protagonism: many of the collective projects bring together creators under 35 years old that will open the thematic, stylistic and conceptual spectrum in consonance with the challenges of the time.

It may seem risky to bet for works that have not probably reached their full definition yet; but the budgets of the Biennial have always guaranteed spaces for experimentation and laboratory. Anyway, the encounter also promotes an open debate on the strength and the opportunity of the event.

The aim is that the theoretical complement (sessions with the presence of outstanding art critics, researchers, and historians, Cubans and foreigners) don’t gloat in the ethereal and general visions, but rather touch very specific topics and that offer alternative or illuminate possible roads for the analysis of the creative processes and its results.

This edition’s slogan is, "The construction of the possible", has raised mistrust in some creators (art should actually bet precisely to build the impossible, they say); but organizers want to highlight in the very act of "building"; that is, art as an integrating project, but never definitive that comes true and that impacts on the daily lives of citizens.

And that is one of the features of the Biennial of Havana: it goes beyond the conventional spaces for the exhibition (museums and galleries) and tries to win footholds on the society.


No wonder the most popular and commented proposals from previous events were those put on People’s path (mainly people who doesn't usually attend exhibitions) expressions of contemporary art.

This year will return to the famous Malecon Avenue the project "Behind the Wall" that will comprise about 6 kilometers with the proposals of Cuban and foreigners artists. The creations, most of them will stimulate the interaction with passersby.

The Biennial is included in the program for the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of Havana’s foundation and as a special homage to the city will propose in Línea Street a “Cultural Corridor” that will outline the relative reformation of public spaces - sidewalks, streets, signs, groves and theaters, bookstores, cafes and restaurants - to establish a sort of open-sky gallery.

The characteristics of that initiative will soon be disclosed.

The vanguard of creation in the country will have presence in the main headquarters of the Biennial. The curatorial list, for example, includes nine National Awards for Plastic Arts in Cuba: Manuel Mendive, Roberto Fabelo, René Francisco Rodríguez, José Manuel Fors, José Villa Soberón, Pedro de Oraá, Pedro Pablo Oliva, Eduardo Ponjuán and José A. Toirac…

But the list of participant artists includes 300 artists, individual and collective projects from 52 countries.

Those who doubt the level of summoning of the Biennial should keep in mind these data.

The main headquarters - if we mean cultural centers -, will be the Center of Contemporary Art Wifredo Lam, the National Museum of Fine Arts, the Great Theater of Havana Alicia Alonso, the University of Arts (ISA), the Chullima Workshop, the Gallery Factoria Havana, the Center for Development of Visual Arts…

There will be side exhibitions at The National Academy of Fine Arts San Alejandro, Casa de las Americas, the Experimental Graphic and Serigraph Printing Workshops René Portocarrero… and also, the exhibition circuit will be enlarged with interventions at squares and streets, and at the workshops of several artists.

Plenty of art all over the city. And beyond, because for the first time events within the Biennial will arrive to four domestic provinces: Matanzas, Pinar del Rio, Cienfuegos, and Camagüey.

The organizers of the event insist that the XIII Biennial will showcase the thoughts and evolution of contemporary artistry, presented from the interaction among creators, curators, experts and institutions. It’s about, somehow, promoting the sustainable development of the entire society, without neglecting the purposeful character of the art work…

Anyways, the question is to convince people about the need of art that should never be assumed as a luxury or a whim.

Man doesn’t live by bread alone.

Cuban President Recognizes Art as a Means to Forge Respect

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel highlighted the power of art and culture to forge relationships of respect when exchanging with artists who participated in recent events in Peru and the United States.

According to the president, during the People's Summit held last April in Peru it was demonstrated that there is a force capable of uniting Cubans: the identity; and it is time to defend it because in the world some try to fracture it in order to manipulate the history.

Artistic directors such as Elito Revé and Pepe Ordaz told how they performed in Lima, in the context of the celebration of the Summit, to defend their people there through music.

The Cuban president said that the presentations in Peru and the Festival Artes de Cuba that takes place since May 8 at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, prove that art is an irreplaceable space for communication between peoples. In the meeting with artists, held on Wednesday at the cultural center La Plaza, Diaz-Canel considered that the events put to the test the effectiveness of the Cuban system of artistic education and valued the role of art as a bridge builder, his contribution to mutual respect and peace, despite the differences.

The dancer, director, and choreographer Irene Rodríguez celebrated the excellent reception of the American public that awarded the artists with extensive standing ovations, while the singer and composer Zule Guerra highlighted the shared spirituality, good energy and great joy around the festival.

To her surprise, many people sang with them Feeling themes and Latin American Boleros.

The best way for the American people to know who Cubans are is to enjoy our art, said Lele Rosales, singer of the iconic orchestra Los Van Van.

The prejudices fell to the floor, the musicians believed that they were going to play in a very serious event, and when they saw people standing ready to move to the beat of the rhythm, the show overflowed with joy, because Cubans are like that, the artist said.

The members of the Miguel Faílde Orchestra assured that at the Kennedy Center Danzón was danced and they praised a group of casineros (dancers of the casino-style) existing in Washington and composed of people from different countries.

The event combines the different arts and visual arts was represented by works of Roberto Diago, Manuel Mendive, and Roberto Fabelo, contemporary dance by the company Malpaso, the theater by plays directed by Carlos Díaz and Carlos Celdrán, among other artists and events.

Artes of Cuba festival in the US capital will conclude on June 3 with presentations from the National Ballet of the Caribbean country, led by the legendary Alicia Alonso.

  • Published in Culture

Heading for the Kennedy Center: Reyna and Real, Cuban Hip-Hop

Followers come in waves: Reyna Hernández Sandoval and Yadira Pintado Lazcano, artistically known as La Reyna and La Real, integrate the Cuban delegation to participate in the festival Arts of Cuba.

It’s not actually easy for a woman to make her way in the world of hip-hop. But Reyna Hernández Sandoval and Yadira Pintado Lazcano, La Reyna and La Real are doing it with sheer talent.

The group is officially born in year 2013. Ever since has been winning popularity for their lyrics (of strong social content, stories on the life of many women), and for the singularity of their musical and scenic display.

In an environment where men usually prevail, La Reyna and La Real have made their mark, they are respected and admired... and their music has gone beyond the supposed "nests" of rap.

The most recent sample is their inclusion in the Cuban delegation to participate in the great season Arts of Cuba: from the island to the world which in May will have the famous John F. Kennedy Center for the Scenic Arts, in Washington, United States.

"This is so far the highest point in our career – assures La Reyna – the fact that they thought of us fills us with pride, because that means we are doing things right."

La Real agrees: "Imagine, to sing the United States the place where rap was born. That is like selling ice to an Eskimo. But we will perform a well-identified Cuban hip-hop, with all the grace of Cuban women."

On May 17th, in two shows (7:00 and 9:00 p.m.), the two singers will rap at the Cuban Club, in the gallery of Terrace Theater of the Kennedy Center.

“We will see what we do there – says Reyna -, what I can guarantee is that we are really willing to go and show what we women can do in rap."

La Real affirms that they will do their best: "Nobody doubts it: we are going strong!

Cubasi Translation Staff / Amilkal Labañino Valdés

Carlos Díaz: "Theater has to be Taken Care of, Although is Non-Profitable"

On celebrating on March 27th the world theater day we offer our readers this interview with the Cuban Carlos Díaz, director of El Publico Theater and National Prize for Theater.

Cuba has had great examples in this artistic expression. Which of the many ways of making people feel have you learned more as a creator?

"Each time has its unique artistic expression, its sweet side and its bitter ones. I officially appear in this world in the 90’s, when little theater was done. It was already the endless economic crisis and it reigned the concept how long will it last, but I believe I did the best of my career back then, like La niñita querida (The Dear Little Girl), a staging of Virgilio Piñera with which I won the admiration of many people.

"I thank that success and the later one to Roberto Blanco and his company Irrumpe. I had the chance to be his assistant after I graduated of Theater and Drama at ISA. I did everything there: costume design, scenography; to make rehearsal plans and production… I Learned what should be done and what not. I am very grateful because they gave me the training to dive into theater."

You have been one of the loved ones and, at the same time criticized for the audacity of your plays. Do you believe the Cuban theater of this time needs that audacity?

"I believe that audacity is there and it’s necessary to practice it. If we don't go through there it’s like we had problems to breathe. When, regarding art, you push your boundaries, how much one can say and if the receiver is happy watching your proposal.

“There are people who come to theater and, before asking who is the author or actors, they ask if there is nude in the play. It’s the same as going to Coppelia Ice-cream parlor and ask for almond and they reply: No."

Which do you think is the way to walk by this art and its main characters in what follows?

"It’s your time to struggle young people, the youths, for technology. It’s important that every day there are more social networks, more computers; bridges to reach the moon and go camping people spend holidays in Mars… But theater is too hard to eliminate, despite its old age and craft.

“You must be next to Chekhov when he says that it’s necessary to work every day."

That old theater could be in crisis some may think. What is going on that people don’t fill theater rooms anymore?

"Theater must be taken care of. It’s a luxury to work in it, it belongs to chosen ones. It feels like one is in Mount Vesuvius, although you don’t earn a penny. You feel very happy.

"Not all rooms have problems with the public. Each company should take care of what they do to keep their audience and filling their room, not just during the Festival season.

"Today people rather stay facing a cell phone screen or a computer. But that is impossible with theater: you cannot take home the entire staff so that they make the representation of a play.

"We were recently in New York, at the event "Bajo el radar" (Under the radar), with Antigonón, an epic troupe, and a friend, Armando Correa, current editor for People magazine in Spanish, he gave to four of our young actors tickets to Broadway to watch The French Girl, starred by Uma Thurman. Having such talented actress on stage, right in front of you, it’s a luxury you only find in theater; otherwise, you must seek a movie where she stars in El Paquete (The package).

"On the other hand, having a theater like ours is a privilege, because in the developed world it’s more complicated the existence of so many groups, it takes many resources. Our economy is not fit to sustain this utopia for too long, but let’s enjoy it while it lasts."

I was talking about technology. Do you consider it, next to the new media (Internet), enemy of the theater?

"No, nothing as new and young that struggles for the image can be an enemy. Enemy is the intention of allotting money to achieve something unhealthy, but the social networks help a lot. There is already a generation that could not live without Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… and we must also get to them.

"I am a director who loves visuality. I believe more in the power of an image than in a text. A sentence can lie, an image cannot. That’s why I use audiovisual elements, for example, in Antigonón… The mixture of artistic specialties becomes new languages in the practice of what you do."

Which are your expectations with El Publico Theater, especially when you are no longer directing it?

"I still have some projects left. I still have to do the Orlando, of Virginia Woolf, but El Publico will always exist. I will appear eventually and unleash hell if I don't like what is going on! "

Cubasi Translation Staff / Amilkal Labañino Valdés

Art of Memoirs and Homage (+ PHOTOS)

We approach the work of the artist from Matanzas Osmani Betancourt who has created an outdoors gallery by the riverside of San Juan River that endured the lash of hurricane Irma.

A few months ago, the young artist Osmani Betancourt Falcon (Versalles, Matanzas, 1973), best known as Lolo, came up with the idea of creating an outdoor gallery with three-dimensional pieces placed on the riverside of San Juan River, made by him and a group of local artists belonging to his Project San Juan. The sturdiness of the welcoming sculptural promenade endured, without a scratch the lashings of hurricane Irma, after it hit Matanzas.

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The admirable idea of one of the most remarkable Cuban sculptors, donned spirituality to a segment of Narváez Street, where Lolo has his workshop-gallery, established in an old and dusty building where a century ago lived the professor Alberto Tarascó Martínez (Catalonia, Spain 1891- Havana, 1952), creator of the first plastic arts and of painting schools registered in that city. The latter became the Province School for Plastic Arts named after him.

Back then Nárvaez Street was called Eleuterio Tello Lamar —it was later called Rio—. At the house marked with the number 27, after arriving to Cuba in year 1916, Tarascó established his school, of great importance in the development of plastic arts, at this school studied many of the painters from that territory with a work legitimated in the first half of last century.

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These features bestow historical relevance to the building, one of the first buildings of town and which Loló saved of staying as just a trash site, while he wanted to pay homage to the Catalan professor's legacy in that place located in the Golden Apple of Matanzas. Right next door, since March 3, 1941 became established the Province School of Art. Its students carries out practices in the space where the talented author shares with maestro Manuel Hernández —both have been awarded the province award for plastic arts — and young Dariel Lozano Pérez. They wish to rebuild the property and create spaces for exhibitions and conferences. At present is one of the most visited places in Matanzas by the national and international tourism.

Also known by its sculptures in brass and resins, the use of colors (oil paintings), canvases and other mixed techniques, Lolo’s work has also won him awards at international events like the Havana Biennial in which its penultimate edition presented his enigmatic work named La Comparsa, which monopolized the public's attention at La Cabaña Fortress; the same happened with his works presented at the International Event of Ceramic Art of Aveiro, Portugal; as well as in Exhibition of Cuban Art in Orleáns, France, and his exhibitions in four different galleries in Panama in 1997.

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In Lolo’s three-dimensional works the spectator sees a reflexive, eminently conceptual art, through which pleasure and thought are combined in a sort of exorcism from which pour forth many conclusions related with contemporary life. His plastic arts speeches establish dialogues that identify us, assess us. It’s because that reason that his work is found within the sculptural art of vanguard and not within the artistic craft, although as a “jam session” from his hands have been created several works awarded in important competitions, like the biennial of Ceramic Amelia Peláez and Art of Fire; the galleries Roberto Diago, and La Vasija, respectively.

Their creation is symbolic and enigmatic. Although La Comparsa marked an important sign within painting production of this teacher, generally his sculptures and installments remind us of the everyday life, what’s popular to show a style where bandanas, pans, bags and other articles present in our day-to-day life, become existentialist reference within the complex narrations woven with an impeccable and precise technique. Lolo shapes the clay, and puts it to work towards his aesthetic thinking, from which inconceivable characters and anecdotes are born establishing a mystic interconnection between the classic art of Renaissance and modernity.

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But Osmani—whose work we’d like to enjoy more often in the galleries of Havana—was not always known as Lolo, that nickname was given in his childhood, when he was in primary school in Jagüey Grande. That boy with artistic talent finally got graduated at Vocational School of Plastic Arts of Matanzas and then in the National School of Plastic Arts of Havana (1992), Sculptor and Designer. He quickly transcended with the singular name he is known today in Cuba and abroad. His work is stored at the National Museum of Ceramic; in the Workshop-House Pedro Pablo Oliva, and other several private and institutional collections of Cuba, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Panama, United States, Canada, Germany, Holland and France.

Amilkal Labañino Valdés / Cubasi Translation Staff

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