Chatting Files: Potaje’s Air Adventures

Emilio Solórzano, Potaje, managed to give new attractiveness to skies in the western of Cuba.

Emilio Solórzano’s story, a.k.a. Potaje got to me through a nephew of Soloni, one of the most faithful followers of anecdotes of Havana who, in turn, had to deal with this character in an article published in El Mundo in August 1964.

Indeed this daring pilot entered the history of flying with a good reason: when Cubans seemed prey to the frustration caused by Gerardo Machado’s regime. He managed to add some action to the Cuban western skies piloting an aircraft that was falling to pieces and caused vertigos in the crowd, always looking for something new and weird events. Besides when generating adrenaline… nobody can beat him!

In the first three decades of last century, there were important events in the national life: in society there was a rebirth of the civic conscience with personalities like Rubén Martínez Villena and Julio Antonio Mella, one of the founders of the First Communist Party of Cuba; in economy sugar sales dive from crisis to crisis and the country is filled with "skinny cows"; politically it starts the Revolution of 1933, primordial for the country’s history.

Besides, around those years were frequent the chronicles of several air prowesses, among them the flight of the Plus Ultra, one of the greatest raids of the Spanish and world aviation. Starred by Ramón Franco, Julio Ruiz de Alda and Juan Manuel Durán (Pablo Rada takes the role of mechanic), pilots who early in 1926 joined the town Palos de la Frontera with Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, where they land successfully their hydroplane in Las Palmas of Gran Canaria, Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Montevideo.

The media show returns the following year with Charles Lindbergh who crosses the Ocean Atlantic in a non-stop fly between New York and Paris flying his monoplane, Spirit of St Louis. Luckily for the bravest souls, the North American pilot lands in Havana in 1928 in an official visit that many still remember, although the aviator shows in his presentations and interviews to be colder than ice.

Running along with the times the domestic newspaper El País, decides to buy an old Waco aircraft, uncovered, in order to take to Santa Clara, in the Cuban center, the newspaper matrix, to print the version belonging to the eastern provinces there and be ahead of the Herald of Cuba, its fiercest rival. For this reason, the newspaper incorporates an aircraft to its logo that went well with the Gothic letters on the name of the newspaper. After several inquiries, they hired as pilot the hyperbolic Potaje, Galician race driver for cars and motorcycles and deluxe auto salesman. Bad timing!

As expected, Potaje and his aircraft became popular at once: every afternoon the plane departs from a centrally located airstrip in Havana and crosses three provinces heading for the village of Martha Abreu, in a voyage filled with boasts and jokes: over Colon neighborhood he whirls and soars in his plane to say hello to his many friends, and in Jovellanos he often executed a looping the loop, trying to win the heart of a girl.

Soloni highlights in his article that the aircraft episode and the printing is not profitable; in consequence, El País gives up the idea after attempting the impossible. Of course the airplane will never fade of its distinguishing characteristic and the voice of the city spoke a new and funny name in its gallery of "heroes": Potaje. What else can be asked for?

  • Published in Now

El Público Theater Company to Revive Petra von Kant

The company to revive “Las amargas lágrimas de Petra von Kant” (The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant) in Cuba and United States next year.

This was one of the most successful shows of El Público theater company in the past decade: Carlos Díaz’s staging from the text by German Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1945-1982) garnered unanimous approval from both critics and audiences.

“The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant” brought together on the stage of Havana’s Trianon Theater important actors from Cuban theater, headed by Fernando Hechavarría, who mesmerized the audience for his performance of the singular character.

It was a comedy with black stitchings, a smart and ironic reflection over certain “social” relationships… beyond hilarious moments (there were many), El Público made the audience think.

Well, it has already been confirmed: the Cuban theater company will revive the play next year, because it will be its proposal for the season that is being organized by the important John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, located in Washington, United States.

It’s not a coincidence, this year El Público theater company successfully staged there one of its latest plays: “Antigonón, un contingente épico” (Antigonon, an epic contingent).

In order to warm up the engines, one of the halls of Trianón Theater housed a dramatized reading of the text, which brought together actors from the first staging and others who will accompany them in the new adventure.

The Cuban audience will be able to meet up with the show too, because it will also be staged at the theater hall on Linea Street.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

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Cuba to revive mining sector with new lead and zinc mine

A new lead and zinc mine in northwestern Cuba is on track to start production in October as part of the Caribbean island's attempt to revitalize its mining sector, said a representative from Emincar, the government-backed mining company overseeing the project.

While nickel exports are already one of Cuba's main foreign currency earners, the cash-strapped country has untapped potential in other mineral deposits, according to the US Geological Survey.

The $278 million Castellanos mine will produce 100,000 tons of zinc concentrate and 50,000 tons of lead concentrate annually, said executives at Emincar, the joint venture between Swiss-based commodities giant Trafigura and Cuban state firm Geominera.

"We are reviving the small and medium-size mining sector in Cuba from this investment," said Justo Hernández Pérez, Emincar's deputy general manager, during a visit from foreign journalists to the mine in the province of Pinar del Rio.

Many mines, including a gold mine at the site of the new Castellanos mine, were abandoned in the 1990s and 2000s in the wake of the fall of Cuba's then key ally - the former Soviet Union, and the collapse of the economy.

"We are now exploiting the deposit below oxide cap," said Emincar general manager Jose Vila, noting that it could prove profitable once more for gold mines there.

The Castellanos mine holds reserves for 11 years of exploitation, while the nearby Santa Lucia deposit has enough for another 10 years, Vila said. Emincar will go on to exploit that deposit, tweaking its factory accordingly, once the Castellanos mine is exhausted.

In its annual investment portfolio released late last year, Cuba published dozens of opportunities for foreign investors to explore, exploit and commercialize precious metals, base metals and other minerals of interest.

Cuba hopes foreign investment will boost its economy, which managed to climb out of a recession in the first half of 2017. The island is under severe strain due to lower exports and a drop in cheap oil shipments from ally Venezuela.

  • Published in Cuba

Mexican Activists Call for US to End Blockade Against Cuba

The solidarity group denounced Trump’s move to reverse a diplomatic opening between the two countries.

The Mexican Solidarity Movement with Cuba demanded the United States lift the blockade against socialist government Saturday, marching to the U.S. embassy in Mexico City.

RELATED:
Morales Expresses Solidarity with Cuba Against Trump's Policies

MMSC denounced U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to reverse a diplomatic opening between the two countries. The group’s leader Jesus Escamilla stated that Mexicans reject the U.S. blockade and demand Trump lift it and move to normalize relations with the Caribbean island.

Members of the movement also pushed for the U.S. government to return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, which has been occupied without the consent of the Cuban people since before the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

The U.S.’s attempts to tighten the economic, financial and commercial blockade against Cuba and its people is "a failed policy by more than a dozen U.S. administrations," Escamilla explained.

In a speech in Miami on June 16, Trump announced his cancellation of former president Barack Obama’s "completely one-sided deal with Cuba."

He added that U.S. sanctions would not be lifted until Cuba frees “political prisoners” and holds “free elections.”
Under the changes, Washington will tighten rules on individual U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba, who, if visiting the country for non-academic educational purposes, will again be required to only go with organized tour groups run by U.S. companies.

The new policy also bans most U.S. business deals with the military-runned Armed Forces Business Enterprises Group while still allowing airlines and cruise ships to continue services.

  • Published in Cuba

Diaz set to continue Cuba’s fine triple jumping tradition

Cuba has developed such a strong culture of triple jumping that the hop, skip and jump has almost become synonymous with the blue and white stripes of the Caribbean nation’s flag.

For all their success in the discipline, however, the long list of world-class jumpers they have produced has been unable to eclipse British athlete Jonathan Edwards’s world record.

It seems inevitable that they will eventually claim the mark, when they find a priceless jewel hidden among their many gems. Enter Jordan Diaz.

The young phenomenon, born in Havana, achieved such a magnificent feat at the IAAF World U18 Championships Nairobi 2017 that he stunned the entire global athletics fraternity, including himself.

Entering the competition with a personal best of 16.66m, he made a spectacular statement in the final with a third-round leap of 17.00m.

That distance was all he had really targeted heading into the event, along with the gold medal, but he didn’t stop there.

With his next attempt he catapulted himself across the pit, sailing out to 17.30m and breaking the three-year-old world U18 best of 17.24m held by compatriot Lazaro Martinez.

The vibrant crowd at Kasarani Stadium erupted in shock and awe, and he was given the same sort of standing ovation which had been reserved for the top Kenyan athletes competing on home soil.

His winning margin offers an indication of just how good a jump it was, landing 1.38m farther than his nearest opponent, and he climbed to seventh place on the 2017 senior world list.

While his coach, Ricardo Ponce, had believed in his potential to crack the 17-metre mark, Diaz admits he wasn’t sure if he could achieve the feat.

“Ricardo kept telling me you can reach 17 metres, and I kept saying ‘no way, 17 metres is too far’,” Diaz says.

“Then once in Havana I got close (with his previous personal best) and I thought ‘well, I think I’m capable of doing it now’.”

After being scouted by the International School of Physical Education and Sport in Havana when he was just 12 years old, Diaz initially dabbled in various disciplines, winning the national high jump and long jump titles in his age group in his first year at the institution.

It wasn’t until last year that he channelled his focus into the triple jump event.

Training with two-time world silver medallist Pedro Pablo Pichardo – one of only five men to have jumped beyond 18 metres – the youngster has progressed in leaps and bounds in both literal and figurative terms, and his achievement in Nairobi has made all his hard work worthwhile. It has also given him the confidence that he can go a lot farther than he has already done.

“My aim was to break my countryman’s world youth best, and now that I’ve reached 17 metres I feel super happy,” he says.

“I never really thought I could do that and it proves nothing is impossible.”

Inspired by Taylor

Diaz’s first love outside athletics is hardly a surprise, considering his age, and his interest in music is evident by the headphones wrapped around his immaculate hairdo. He says the reggaeton genre is usually playing through the speakers.

But his real interest lies in the sport at which he excels, and his role model is double Olympic champion Christian Taylor of the United States.

His sudden rise to fame was evident in Taylor’s reaction to his performance in Nairobi.

“How cool is this? Congrats Jordan Diaz! I will never forget this name,” Taylor posted on social media, sharing the video of his world best leap.

Diaz admits that show of confidence was almost as pleasing as his incredible new global mark.

“When I saw it I was with my teammates and I got a little cocky because I was very happy that Christian Taylor mentioned me,” he says.

While Taylor and Pichardo are likely to retain their places at the pinnacle of the discipline for some time, Diaz looks set to carry the next generation.

Studying physical education, the youngster hopes to be a successful coach when he eventually retires from the sport.

For now, the athletics family around the world will be eager to see just how far he can stretch his long legs, though Diaz is keeping himself grounded and doesn’t want to think too far ahead.

“Nobody can tell the future, so we’ll see, but my main objective right now is to be at the World U20 Championships (in Tampere) next year, and who knows what I can jump there.”

The sky seems to be the limit, and he could ultimately take the men’s triple jump to another level.

At this very moment, amid all the hype around the lanky prodigy, it’s easy to forget that he is still just a kid, and he really just wants what all teenagers want: to have fun.

“I contacted all my friends and family after the final and they congratulated me,” he says, his serious expression transforming into a mischievous grin.

“They told me they can’t wait for me to get back so we can have a huge party.”

  • Published in Sports

Cuban elections: over 20 thousand polling stations ready

HAVANA, Cuba, Jul 21 (ACN) Cubans will cast their ballots in the coming general elections in some 24,360 polling stations placed in the over 12,515 districts of the country.

Secretary of the National Electoral Commission (CNE), Maria Esther Bacallao, reported that 8 percent of the stations will be in private houses, properly certified as having met the legal requirements of Cuban elections.

She said the CNE is working to create special electoral commissions for the second round of the elections in those districts where none of the candidates fails to obtain the mandatory 50 percent of the votes plus one to be called winner.

On the time remaining to the elections, the CNE is working on updating of the Voter´s Registry, with the publishing and verification of the voters´ lists.

  • Published in Cuba

JAMPRO hosts inward trade mission from Cuba as Agency seeks to boost export to Caribbean region

Following its Caribbean Market Mission initiative to boost regional export, Jamaica’s trade and investment promotions agency, JAMPRO, is this week hosting a Cuban delegation representing 10 organisations for a week-long trade mission from July 17-to 21, 2017.

The trade mission, a result of JAMPRO’s Cuban market development programme, will have representatives from Cuban State Agencies such as the National Bank of Cuba, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, Ministry of Domestic Trade, the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba, and key enterprises like QUIMIMPORT (chemicals), CORALSA (food), QUIMIMPEX (exports and imports), CUBASOL S.A. and IMECO (construction).  CUBASOL S.A.  is an entrepreneurial group composed of important agencies and enterprises related to the Tourism industry.  Jamaican companies will get the opportunity to promote their products for export to Cuba through factory visits organized by JAMPRO, as well as meetings with the Cuban companies to initiate negotiations for the sale of locally manufactured products. The Cuban representatives will tour Jamaican companies, to understand the country’s capacity for manufacturing to meet the demand of the Cuban market, with a population of 11 Million.  The delegation will also meet with Jamaican government counterparts to discuss improving the exporting process to Cuba. The mission will end with the “Doing Business with Cuba” seminar hosted by JAMPRO to provide companies with the knowledge necessary to do business in the country. A highlight of the seminar is a presentation on the CARICOM-Cuba trade agreement.

Having targeted the Cuban market through our many missions there, especially to FIHAV, The Havana International Fair, and hospitality trade fair HostelCuba, we needed to take the next step to cement the relationships we had initiated and concretise the demand we had identified,” said Diane Edwards, President of JAMPRO.

Vice President of Export and Market Development at JAMPRO Robert Scott added that the inward trade visit represents a leap forward for Jamaican companies, and suggests that Jamaica is now on the radar of the Cuban buying authorities. VP Scott said, “Success in the Cuban market requires persistent interactions over several years to encourage relationship building and knowledge of what is needed in that market. This mission is a breakthrough as it means our companies now have the opportunity to build relationships with key Cuban business organisations and buyers in the Jamaican space. For those who are already in contact with Cuba, they can now showcase the professionalism of their operations and convince the delegation of their ability to supply consistently high quality. We are excited about the possibilities for this mission, and we are pleased to receive support from the Embassy of Cuba in Jamaica and our embassy in Cuba. They have proactively encouraged business and dialogue between Jamaica and Cuba.”

According to His Excellency Bernardo Guanche Hernández, Cuba’s Ambassador to Jamaica, the mission is part of a continuous effort to build trade between Jamaica and Cuba and encourage knowledge sharing between both countries. He explained, “Thanks to the efficient and gracious work by JAMPRO, the Cuban delegation will visit Jamaica to fulfil an extensive agenda. The visit is part of the efforts carried out by both countries to increase trade and businesses in concordance with the excellent level of bilateral relations between Cuba and Jamaica. 

This trade mission gives continuity to the visit by Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment of Cuba (MINCEX), Ileana Nunez Mordoche, in May 2016, as part of a tour to the Caribbean, signaling the commitment we have made to boost trade. I am pleased to say that we believe we’re making significant headway in this effort, and I look forward to the outcomes of the mission to Jamaica.

  • Published in Cuba

Bolivia's President Winds UP Working Visit to Cuba

Bolivia''s President Evo Morales wound up a state visit to Cuba after meeting First Vice President Miguel Diaz Canel, his last activity of his agenda in the island.

In the encounter, Morales was accompanied by his Foreign Minister Fernando Huanacuni, the Cuban Television prime news hour reported.

The Bolivian Head of State was seen off at Havana international airport Jose Marti by Diaz Canel personally. He's flying to Mendoza, Argentina, to attend a Mercosur gathering.

Morales arrived in Cuba on Wednesday evening from Managua, Nicaragua, where he attended celebrations for the 38th Anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution and took part at the 23rd Meeting of the Sao Paula Forum, in which he reaffirmed his solidarity with Cuba and Venezuela.

  • Published in Cuba
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