American better off improving relations with Cuba

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Nov 18, by Lauren Gette-King – letter to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Recently, Cuba has found its way back into the spotlight – and not for the better. Accounts of U.S. diplomats experiencing health issues after their time in Cuba have arisen and the U.S. government has yet to offer proof of Cuban responsibility.

The U.S. Department of State, however, has reduced the number of diplomats at the U.S. embassy in Cuba and issued a travel advisory. Furthermore, no other country has issued any travel warning or advisory, including the Canadian government. This scenario has put a large amount of pressure on fragile U.S.–Cuba relations and hopefully won’t jeopardize the progress of many people-to-people relations that have been established since former President Obama began the normalization process in 2014.

We urge a swift conclusion to the ongoing investigation and feel that it is important to remind our friends in the Gallatin Valley of the hospitality and diligence of the Cuban people. People-to-people relationships are the backbone of the normalization process that culminated in December 2014 and are still the driving force of progressive change in U.S.–Cuba relations. It is important to realize that citizens of both countries are affected by this historically poor relationship. Here in Montana, there are many opportunities ranging from economic to educational collaboration in areas such as agribusiness, health care, and eco-tourism.

Lauren Gette-King

Bozeman

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Houston Music Highlight – Imágenes de Cuba

Apollo Chamber Players perform a piece inspired by, and recorded in, Cuba – from their new CD

Nov 17, by Catherine Lu, Houston Public Media/University of Houston

HPM’s “Houston Music Highlight” Series features performances with local connections – whether spotlighting music by Houston composers, commercial recordings by Houston musicians, or performances by local or visiting artists recorded at Houston Public Media.

In January 2017, Houston string quartet, Apollo Chamber Players, became the first American chamber music ensemble to perform and record in Cuba. Coordinated by Parma Recordings and the Ministry of Culture of Cuba, Apollo’s eight-day tripallowed them the opportunity to present a public concert and outreach programs, appear on Cuba TV, collaborate with acclaimed Cuban musicians, and record at Abdala Studios in Havana.

“It was an honor to take part in this cross-cultural collaboration, and we are pleased to include our Havana studio recording of Imágenes de Cuba on [our new album] Ancestral Voices,” said violinist, Artistic Director, and Co-Founder Matthew Detrick.

Ancestral Voices is Apollo’s third CD, released on November 10th, which features Imágenes de Cuba (Images of Cuba) – a work they commissioned as part of their 20X2020 Project from Houston composer Arthur Gottschalk, who was inspired by his frequent visits to Cuba over the past ten years.

Here is Apollo’s recording of the third movement (Timba), an exploration of salsa and pachanga dances, featuring Cuban percussion virtuoso Adel González.

Apollo Chamber Players’ new CD is Ancestral Voices, with music by Gilad Cohen, Arthur Gottschalk, Malek Jandali, and Javier Farias. The four works are 20X2020 commissions, collectively inspired by Jewish, Andean, Cuban, and Syrian folk music. Apollo is currently celebrating its 10th anniversary season.

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US Former MLB Players on School Baseball Clinics in Cuba

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White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, from Cuba, gives a baseball clinic to Cuban children

Havana, Nov 17 (Prensa Latina) The Cuban Baseball Federation and the Association of Retired Baseball Players of the United States will develop improvement clinics for athletes of the school category at three stadiums on the island.

The exchanges started at Havana’s 50th Anniversary Park and will continue on Saturday and Sunday at the Palmar de Junco, in Matanzas, and the Captain San Luis Stadium, in Pinar del Río, respectively.

The US baseball entity is represented by former pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, winner of a World Series with the Kansas City Royals, who will share with Cuban sports glory athletes in each of the provinces.

The organizers of these meetings agreed that they enrich a relationship based on respect and approach from a sport that is a passion in both countries.

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Haydée Milanés Joins With Lila Downs to Enrich New Album Amor

Havana, Nov 17 (Prensa Latina) Cuban singer Haydée Milanés published a version of the popular song La vida no vale nada (Life is worth nothing), on digital music platforms, performed by her and the renowned Mexican folklorist Lila Downs.

The song is available on major digital distribution platforms such as Spotify, Deezer, Itunes, among other supports.

In this way, the young singer adds value to the Deluxe edition of the album Amor (Love), where she plays 11 songs of the authorship of her father, Pablo Milanés, along with him, one of the founders of the so-called Nueva Trova Cubana, and without a doubt one of the great composers of Latin America.

A few hours ago, Downs achieved the fifth Latin Grammy of her career by winning the award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album with Salón, lágrimas y deseo (Salon, tears, and desire).

With the intention of making a tribute to the father, Milanés decided to add extra tracks in Amor, a duet with different artists from Cuba and Mexico, among them the diva of the Buena Vista Social Club, Omara Portuondo, with whom she recorded La soledad (Loneliness) and Yolanda, also available in the main digital distribution platforms.

Along with the Mexican Julieta Venegas, the young vocalist played one of the popular themes of her father: Si ella me faltara alguna vez If she were ever missing; with the Cuban Pancho Céspedes she gave new energy to El primer amor (The first love); and added in another piece the guitarist and Mexican singer Rosalía León.

Haydeé Milanés is preparing a concert in Cuba this year, for December 20, at the Mella Theater in Havana, where she would like to share a stage with guests to further promote the phonogram whose title sums up her relationship with her father: Amor.

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Cuba: Havana Exhibits 498 Years of Archaeological History

IN PICTURES: Nov 17 (Telesur) Cubans celebrated the 498th anniversary of La Villa de San Cristobal in Havana with an archaeological fair in the same place where the capital of the island was established.

Almost five centuries after its foundation, in 1519, they created a space to show the public the heritage built in one of the oldest capitals of the continent.

Almost five centuries after its foundation, in 1519, they created a space to show the public the heritage built in one of the oldest capitals of the continent. Photo:Havana Radio

The historian of the city, Eusebio Leal, said that Havana played an important role in the history of navigation, culture and the great dispute in the Caribbean for world distribution.

The historian of the city, Eusebio Leal, said that Havana played an important role in the history of navigation, culture and the great dispute in the Caribbean for world distribution. Photo:Havana Radio

According to the belief, hundreds of people gather around the tree to give it three laps, throw some coins at their roots and make a wish.

According to the belief, hundreds of people gather around the tree to give it three laps, throw some coins at their roots and make a wish. Photo:Havana Radio

It is recognized for its beauty, dynamism and traditions that have been preserved through the years, thanks to the efforts of the Office of the City Historian (OHC) and the Ministry of Tourism.

It is recognized for its beauty, dynamism and traditions that have been preserved through the years, thanks to the efforts of the Office of the City Historian (OHC) and the Ministry of Tourism. Photo:Havana Radio

The Villa de San Cristóbal de La Habana was named after the patron saint who was entrusted with his protection, which is why it is celebrated every November 16th.

The Villa de San Cristóbal de La Habana was named after the patron saint who was entrusted with his protection, which is why it is celebrated every November 16th. Photo:Havana Radio

One of the points of the park is El Templete, a Greco-Roman temple where the first mass and town hall were held in the territory.

One of the points of the park is El Templete, a Greco-Roman temple where the first mass and town hall were held in the territory. Photo:Havana Radio

From dawn, Cubans gather next to the tree of ceiba near the temple, in the same place where generations ago the first one of the city was seeded.

From dawn, Cubans gather next to the tree of ceiba near the temple, in the same place where generations ago the first one of the city was seeded. Photo:Gabriel Guerra Bianchini

To date, several works have been inaugurated for the enjoyment of Havana residents and Cubans, such as the Youth Center, trained with elements to enjoy art, film, radio, dance studio and a modern library.

To date, several works have been inaugurated for the enjoyment of Havana residents and Cubans, such as the Youth Center, trained with elements to enjoy art, film, radio, dance studio and a modern library. Photo:Gabriel Guerra Bianchini

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) declared Havana a World Heritage Site in 1982 and in 2014 it was selected as one of the seven wonders of the world.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) declared Havana a World Heritage Site in 1982 and in 2014 it was selected as one of the seven wonders of the world. Photo:EFE

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Professor reflects on adventures investigating Cuba

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Brown | Daily Texan Staff

Nov 17 by Acacia Coronado, The Daily Texan/University of Texas at Austin

Amid remnants of the Cuban revolution, history professor Jonathan Brown climbed the island’s Sierra Maestra, 10 kilometers off the beaten path of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and Raul Castro, the soles of his shoes flapping. He walked behind communist tour guide Manolo toward a military-protected, high-security guerilla headquarters.

This was just one of the many adventures Brown embarked upon while researching the revolutionary war in Cuba and its worldwide impact for his recent book, “Cuba’s Revolutionary World.” After more than a decade of research, the release of Brown’s book in April finally allowed him to present his research and reflections to his colleagues at UT.

The 13-year road to Brown’s finished project began with one student’s inquiry at the University of British Columbia, where Brown was teaching at the time.

“They said, ‘Why don’t we have any good books?’” Brown said. “I said the last good book we had for this class went out of print. And the young student said, ‘Why don’t you write one?’ ”

Brown said he began his research with the Benson Latin American Collection and the LBJ Presidential Library, which he used to gather information for the first few chapters of his book.

“I discovered the CIA was funding, but not directing, a group of Cuban exiles who became commandos of the Caribbean,” Brown said. “They were given tons of money in order to buy military equipment and guns.”

He continued his research with the Nixon, Kennedy and Eisenhower presidential libraries and eventually traveled to Cuba on multiple occasions to research documents there. Brown said he liked visiting the places he was writing about and conducting field research.

“I felt adventurous,” Brown said. “Cuba is so different from the rest of Latin America. Havana, for example: (Its) cityscape has not changed since 1959.”

Brown’s wife, Lynore, traveled with him on most of his research, making stops with him in libraries across the globe, from Europe to Cuba. She said the most interesting part of the experience was the opportunity to hold pieces of history once written by world leaders and attempt to understand their thought process.

“We were very fortunate, because we went to Trinidad and we were the first Americans since Castro (took power) to ever go into this library in Trinidad,” Lynore Brown said. “They were so good to us, and we found all kinds of information.

”Over the course of a decade and a half, Lynore and Jonathan Brown gathered information as he wrote each chapter. Lynore Brown said they experienced life in Cuba as locals and were welcomed with open arms by the population.

“We had the best food when we were invited to people’s homes, and reason is, they went and bought shrimp or chicken on the black market,” Lynore Brown said. “Sometimes, it was their whole monthly salary.”

When he finished collecting his research, Jonathan Brown said he had enough information for two books, one on South America and one on Cuba. But his editor at Harvard University Press advised that it would be best to combine his work into one book.

Ethnomusicology professor Robin Moore said it is important to have a book like this in the classroom today to show students perspectives on U.S. and Cuba relations that might reveal more than they would otherwise learn from U.S. media and government.

“It is important to think about that moment of revolution, (which) provides a window into different kinds of attitudes and experiences that provide a unique perspective on the United States and what it was doing,” Moore said.

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Cuban businesswomen seek Rubio meeting as U.S. policy bites

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Niuris Higueras (C), one of Havana’s most successful restaurateurs in Havana, sits with U.S. clients at her restaurant in Cuba, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

By Marc Frank

HAVANA, Nov 17 (Reuters) – An association of Cuban businesswomen has asked to meet with Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida to explain the impact on the country’s nascent private sector of rolling back a detente in U.S. relations.

Rubio, a Cuban-American politician who advocates a “no contact” policy with the Communist-run island, has advised President Donald Trump on Cuba policy and welcomed his reversal of the Obama administration’s efforts at a rapprochement.

“The current situation has us very worried and we would like to share our personal histories and perspective from Cuba,” the association, which represents women who own small businesses, said in a letter to Rubio last month.

The entrepreneurs took advantage of an economic opening under President Raul Castro to build businesses, which they said took off as more Americans visited Cuba from 2015 in the wake of the detente. Now, they say those businesses are imploding.

They would like Rubio, who was born in the United States and has never been to Cuba, to visit the Caribbean island and witness the impact of U.S. policy.

“We want to invite him or part of his team to come and learn about Cuba, the Cubans here and our businesses,” said Niuris Higueras, owner of the Atelier restaurant in Havana, where she said business is down 60 percent from a year ago.

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Nidialys Acosta from NostalgiCar, a company that rents out vintage American automobiles, gestures during an interview at her office in Havana, Cuba, November 15, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

The association said Rubio’s office had not responded to their letters but they would continue to seek a meeting.

His office did not respond to requests for comment.

Rubio welcomed Trump’s announcement in June that he would reverse former President Barack Obama’s policies in Cuba until democracy was restored but he said this month that new restrictions on business and travel did not go far enough.

The entrepreneurs say they speak for much of Cuba’s private sector, which employs 600,000 of the island’s 11 million people.

“We began to have a lot of cancellations after President Trump in June made his statement ending Obama’s policy,” said Nidialys Acosta, who runs a business renting vintage U.S. automobiles, Nastalgicar. “People said they were scared and uncertain.”

Julia de la Rosa, who runs a 10 room bed and breakfast, said rentals were down 20 percent in October and she expected a further decline as new U.S. regulations on individual travel kick in this month.

The new rules limit individual travel, make group visits more onerous and ban Americans from doing business with or patronizing 180 Cuban military-run businesses and their products.

“We are not asking for anything. Simply that they do not take from us the opportunity to keep working,” de la Rosa said.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; editing by Daniel Flynn and Rosalba O’Brien)

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D. R. Will Preside Over Meeting of Venezuelan Govt,Opposition

Santo Domingo, Nov 16 (Prensa Latina)The Dominican Republic will preside over a meeting with the Government and the opposition in Venezuela, along with countries accompanying the process represented by its foreign ministers, on December 1 and 2, the Presidency reported today.

According to a statement, the meeting will be held as a continuation of the exploratory meetings held in Santo Domingo in September after contacts in recent weeks.

The note also points out that on Thursday a preparatory meeting of the methodological and technical aspects will be held in this capital with representatives of the Venezuelan Government and opposition, the former Spanish President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and the Dominican Foreign Minister, Miguel Vargas.

‘We hope that the international community will support this process and that the sides have the best disposition, for the benefit of democracy and the people of Venezuela,’ the statement concludes.

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Havana is reborn more beautiful than ever

Havana is being refurbished through a program undertaken by the Historian’s Office to prepare for the city’s 500th anniversary in 2019. Photo: Juvenal Balán

The capital of all Cubans celebrates its 498 years

Nov 15 (Granma) Havana reaches its 498th birthday more beautiful than ever, according to City Historian Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, speaking during a press conference held in the city’s central historic district.

The city is being rejuvenated, Spengler added, as part of an intense cultural program and a “perpetual” series of construction projects, undertaken by his office, in an effort to preserve the ancient city and return its historic importance and influence.

One of the works recently concluded was the remodeling of the Templete, the site where the city was refounded in 1519, and where tradition dictates that, every November 16, residents circle the kapok tree there three times, if their wishes are to come true.

The 1852 Pórtico, demolished in 1929-1930 to widen the Avenida del Puerto has also been restored. The door to O’Reilly Street now has the original coat of arms of the always loyal city of Havana. The canons, on the ready to defend the villa, are in place, and at this time, artisans are finishing the ironwork, Spengler reported.

Also announced in time for the anniversary was the inauguration of a new youth center in the central historic district, equipped with the most modern elements, so that Havana’s young residents can enjoy the art of filmmaking and radio broadcasting, learn to dance, and visit the library.

Also set to open its doors is a new information center and San Cristóbal travel agency office within the City Historian’s headquarters, to promote the island’s patrimonial cities and cultural tourism.

To be inaugurated as well are new expositions within the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, showcasing underwater treasures recovered over the years, and completely renovated museum halls within the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, on the Plaza de Armas.

These new exhibits seek to recreate colonial Havana for visitors, according to Orlando Inclán, the City Historian Office architect.

“We want to make this area an important archaeological center and are projecting that the work will be completed by the 500th anniversary of the city’s founding, this coming 2019,” he said.

Thus Eusebio Leal Splengler’s insistence that the city is being reborn more beautiful than ever, to which he added, “Come what may, hurricanes, winds, prohibitions, sieges, we will always be able to come through, break the wall, and move forward.”

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Young Jazz Musicians Competition Begins in Havana

Havana, Nov 16 (Prensa Latina) The Young Jazz Band, directed by maestro Joaquin Betancourt, is the main star of the opening gala of the 20th edition of the Young Jazz Musicians Competition (Jojazz), to be held until November 19.

Young musicians such as Yanet Valdes, Yissi Garcia, Emir Santacruz, Yasek Manzano, and Alejandro Falcon, among other artists, all of them awarded in previous editions of the contest, will attend as guests in the concert.

The band directed by Betancourt is celebrating one decade of founding, and its leading role in the event is to promote the interpretation and jazz creation from the new generations.

Jojazz, with the participation of more than 140 musicians, especially conservatory students throughout the country, proposes for this edition a busy agenda of concerts and jam sessions, practical classes, and an improvisation meeting, which will take place in different Havana sites.

Organized by the National Center of Popular Music and the Cuban Institute of Music, the contest has become the best opportunity for young generations of musicians to show their performance and song writing skills.

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