NUESTRO de Sekou: un puente etnomusical entre Cuba y Venezuela

“Eterno cimarrón de los que siguen alzados,
Ancestros por lo nuestros mi raíz yo no he olvidado,
Llevo cicatriz, mi cabello enredado, en el cumbe plantado,
Con machete afilado.
Cuidado con los mayores, tambores preparados,
Tatuado con la herencia es la esencia que me han dado.”
-Cimarroneando, NUESTRO; Sekou

Arte final NUESTRO - Portada lo

NUESTRO, el nuevo disco del rapero y cantautor cubano Yosmel “Sekou” Sarrías Nápoles, nos brinda mucho más que una maqueta musical novedosa con instrumentales eclécticos y vocales ingeniosos. NUESTRO no es suyo, es clarividentemente nuestro, elevando a Sekou de un portavoz musical del rap a un profeta sonoro del colectivo social.

Decir que NUESTRO es un disco lo minimiza. NUESTRO es mucho más, es un proyecto cooperativo y un puente cultural entre Cuba y Venezuela. Las composiciones musicales son un estilo refrescante del reconocido productor KPUBASYCO de VNL Records, destacado por su trabajo con el icónico rapero venezolano Canserbero. Las colaboraciones son amplias, incluyendo a RMS y Kotufa, scratches por DJ Rize 1200, y la colaboración de Solosoul en varias de las instrumentaciones. La agrupación de estos genios del rap en español no es en vano, y aun cuando podría sobresalirse uno del otro, se balancean para crear una entrega que coloca a Sekou de eje, pero no de protagonista.

Compuesto por doce canciones cuyas temáticas recorren la crítica social, la afro-descendencia, la comunidad, la protesta, la diversión y la devoción, NUESTRO es un disco que enmarca el amor en todos sus sentidos. Amor hacia la música, la mujer, la ascendencia, los ancestros, el barrio, la cultura, pero quizás aun mas importante, el amor hacia uno mismo. La canción titular “Nuestro” y el tema “Mi patria eres tú” demuestran la dulzura íntima de Sekou y nos invitan a su jardín celestial, mientras que sencillos como “Mitin de repudio” o “Diente e’ perro” son himnos de una enemistad colectiva, punzante y agresivos, pero igual de a cobijadores y transcendentales.

Ciertos temas en particular “Papalote,” “Bembé” o “Mitin de repudio” llevan un sonido áspero que diversifican el viaje auditivo del disco. Papalote, nos presenta la narrativa de escases que vivió Sekou en su crianza, pero con una crítica constructiva y la vista amplia hacia el triunfo humano a pesar de las dificultades. Su instrumental, bañado en el vacio estático que nos recuerda al antiguo vinil, nos demuestra que hasta los glitches de KPUBASYCO, forman parte de su métrica. Bembe es música “de esquina,” un tema de diversión y alegría “con el un, dos; con el un, dos, tres – ¡azúcar! – las manos donde yo las vea.” Su energía llama de pie a los barrios y los residenciales en sintonía. El instrumental brilla con las armonizaciones delicadas de Liana Malva, que estilizan y brindan niveles de complejidad a lo que llamamos ‘música de barrio.’

Entre la crítica social y la celebración comunal hay temas de renacimiento y limpieza espiritual como nos presentan “Creando” y “Pase de revista,” la segunda con las declaraciones lucidas de Victoria Santa Cruz. La canción más explícitamente critica es “La luz verde” que nos alimenta de hip-hop conciencia. Aparecen, a través del disco, salpicados refranes reencarnados de Sekou que para quienes hemos seguido su trayectoria de dos décadas nos invoca su legado musical. Pero a la vez, son formulas lingüísticas que se identifican con quienes los escuchen por primera vez.

Entre los sencillos que tienen vida propia esta “Cimarroneando,” tema que lanza el disco con el clásico canto-style-reggae-rap de Sekou que capitaliza sus silabas truqueadas. Abre y cierra la canción con las proclamaciones afro-orgullosas e inspiradoras de Victoria Santa Cruz que fermentan un sentimiento de perseverancia. El tema titular del disco se vislumbra con el flow y delivery astuto de KPUBASYCO que empata con el canto de Sekou para robarnos toda la atención. Pero el himno del álbum es “Mitin de repudio,” una pista feroz y ruidosa que desliza una guerra verbal de Sekou que nos pone a cabecear, “¡pa’ que se forme, lo que se vaya a formar!”

Es innegable la impecable nitidez de grabación por Mauricio Gómez (de Habeatat Studio) en DPG Producciones y una detallada masterización de sonido por Ignacio Umérez y Leandro “KPUBASYCO” Añez en Tiuna Records. NUESTRO nos demuestra la convicción y madurez de Sekou, quien renació artísticamente el año pasado con su gran obra Ashé. Ambos discos nos narran la diáspora de Sekou entre su país natal de Cuba y su hogar actual de Venezuela. Uno de los detalles más intrigantes del disco son las voces de los pintores Oswaldo Vigas y Wilfredo Lam, uno venezolano, el otro cubano, ambos alumnos de Picasso. La portada del disco exhibe una fusión visual de sus pinturas a cargo de Leandro “KPUBASYCO” Añez. Esta combinación de códigos auditivos y visuales entre el presente y el pasado ennoblece el puente NUESTRO que han creado Sekou, KPUBASYCO y la productora artística y ejecutiva, Clara “Apolonia” Guilarte, entre Cuba y Venezuela.

 

Créditos:
Producción ejecutiva y concepto: Yosmel “Sekou” Sarrías Nápoles, Leandro Añez y Clara “Apolonia” Guilarte.
Producción musical Kpubasyco (VNL Records).
Producción artística: Clara “Apolonia” Guilarte (La Cuadra/El Consulado Creativo).
Diagramación y diseño de portada: Leandro Añez.
Concepto artístico de portada: Clara “Apolonia” Guilarte, Leandro Añez y Sekou.
Gracias a Victoria Santa Cruz+ por las voces en los temas I y VIII, Wilfredo Lam+ en el tema XII, Oswaldo Vigas+ en los temas VI y IX, Liana Malva en el tema IV, RMS en el tema VII. A Solosoul en los temas IV, VI, VII y IX y DJ Rize 1200 en los temas IX y X.
Agradecimientos especiales a Carlos Grippa, Victorina Cedeño+, Aldo+ y Tito Guilarte+, El Fila+, Saner+, La Cuadra, Pablo Pérez Baptista y DPG Producciones, Helena Acosta.
Grabado en Caracas, Venezuela por Mauricio Gómez/Habeatat Studio en DPG Producciones, Las Palmas.
Mezclado y masterizado por Ignacio Umérez y Leandro Añez en Tiuna Records, El Valle.

STOP: USAID and the Politics of Art in Cuba

Derived from recent reports from the Associated Press, there seems to be a lot of confusion about whether one specific Cuban rap group received funding or equipment from USAID. To me that seems irrelevant. I think the sensationalism is clouding a major point here: that these programs, run by USAID targeting vulnerable populations in CUBA aimed at creating political transition on the island are unethical, subversive, manipulative, and illegal!

Since many of you have asked, here is a summary of what the Associated Press has reported:
Documents from Creative Associates (CREA) acquired by the Associated Press (AP) demonstrate how the U.S. based organization directed their financing and personnel towards Cuba’s hip-hop protagonists between 2007-2012. CREA is a pass-through organization established under the Reagan Administration for USAID projects centered on youth, media and education. Because funding that originates in the U.S. State Department is illegal in Cuba (Ley #88; 1999), CREA is viewed on the island as USAID’s not so “humanitarian” side. Most Cuban rappers involved did not know the origin of the funding, but, when money or high-end equipment “falls from the sky” in Havana, it is usually coming from the US State Dept. or US INT, especially if its aimed at projects that are critical of the Castro Administration. Youth groups and vulnerable populations have been a specific target of USAID projects in Cuba for a decade since the Bush Administration published the “Commission for a Free Cuba Report” aimed at accelerating political transition on the island in favor of US interests. The first report was written under U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2004, a second more aggressive approach was proposed by Condoleezza Rice in 2006.

The AP report uncovers names of individuals who received equipment and/or funding from the USAID program. One individual in particular, a VJ that was a part of the hip-hop movement, who was directly working with and getting paid by CREA, and a foreigner from Serbia who was micro-leading the program under the cover of EXIT FEST (also known for this operation as SALIDA). The real wicked individuals however, were in the USAID/CREA offices (Utset, Saltos, etc.) whose directorship consisted of strategizing teams on how to manipulate rappers, pop artists, musicians, and cultural figures.

I recommend reading the original documents posted on the AP site (http://apne.ws/1B2vAys). In fact, I even get a little shout out on the docs. On page 36, a report from the field back to USAID/CREA states that I, Melisa Riviere, “that ambitious and clever girl” whose “enemy is in Washington” was a “security threat” to their project and advises their team to be “very cautious in dealing with her.” To note, I have always been outspokenly opposed to these subversive, unethical and illegal programs by USAID in Cuba, as well as clearly against the US embargo. The documents are tyrannical and sickening to read, but certainly make a case that popular culture is often driven by a powerful few in a government office, in this case, paid for by the American people.

Lastly, and very important to note, I gave the AP an interview speaking specifically about USAID’s programs and their methods of operation, not speaking about any specific rap groups in Cuba. This fact has been conveniently misconstrued, pitting me against rappers (divide and conquer?). I have to wonder who is financing the media confusion? Any comments that appear in the press about a specific Cuban rap group have been cut-and-pasted from interviews I gave in 2009-2010. Since 2010, other than my focus on Son Dos Alas and my denouncement of USAID programs that target music and art, I have not made public statements about specific Cuban rap groups. I have been writing and publishing about these programs for four years now and my focus is on denouncing USAID programs that knowingly conducting illegal projects in Cuba which intentionally harm organic movements and good people.

To read a recent publication about USAID subversive projects on the island within the context of my doctoral research on Cuban (and Puerto Rican) rap, please see the ‘STOP’ section of “Between > (Play) and |<< (Rewind): the Making of Son Dos Alas” in OSU’s Latin American Studies journal Alter/Nativas.

PARAR: USAID y la Política del Arte en Cuba

Debido a la reciente publicación por La Associated Press, hay mucha confusión en las redes sobre si un grupo específico del rap cubano aceptó fondos de la USAID. No creo que este detalle sea realmente relevante. El sensacionalismo esta nublando un punto crítico: que estos programas, realizados por la USAID en Cuba con intenciones de crear transición política, los cuales explotan a poblaciones vulnerables sin su conocimiento, son subversivos, manipulativos, e ilegales!

Ya que muchos me han escrito preguntando qué es lo que significa el reporte del Associated Press, aquí va un resumen:

Documentos de Creative Associates (CREA) adquiridos por la Associated Press (AP) demuestran la forma en que la organización dirigió su financiación y empleados hacia protagonistas del hip-hop en Cuba desde el 2007-2012. CREA es una organización estadounidense establecida bajo la Administración de Reagan para pasar dinero gubernamental, en Cuba viene siendo la cara no tan “humanitaria” de a USAID. La mayoría de los raperos cubanos involucrados no conocían el origen de los fondos, pero cuando dinero o equipo profesional “cae del cielo” en La Habana, por lo general viene del Departamento de Estado de Estados Unidos o US INT, especialmente si es para apoyar proyectos críticos hacia la Administración de Castro. Grupos juveniles y poblaciones vulnerables han sido un blanco especifico de la USAID en Cuba desde hace ya una década cuando la Administración de Bush publicó el informe estadounidense de la “Comisión sobre una Cuba Libre” dirigido a acelerar la transición política en la isla a favor de los intereses de EE.UU. El primer informe fue escrito bajo el Secretario de Estado Colin Powell en el 2004, y un segundo enfoque aun más agresivo, fue propuesto por Condoleezza Rice en el 2006.

El informe de la AP publica nombres de personas que recibieron equipos o financiamiento de este programa de la USAID. En particular nombra a un VJ que era una parte del movimiento hip-hop quien aparentemente trabajaba directamente con y recibía sueldo de CREA, además elabora el papel protagónico de un extranjero serbio que era el micro-líder del programa bajo la cobertura de EXIT FEST (también conocido como “SALIDA”). Pero los individuos realmente malvados estaban en las oficinas de CREA/USAID (Utset, Saltos, etc.) creando estrategias y formando equipos de personas para manipular a raperos, artistas pop, músicos y personalidades culturales.

Recomiendo la lectura de los documentos originales publicados en el sitio AP (http://apne.ws/1B2vAys). De hecho, hasta tengo un pequeño reconocimiento. En la página 36, un informe del serbio a USAID / CREA afirma que yo, Melisa Riviere, “una ambiciosa e inteligente mujer”, cuya “enemigo está en Washington” fue una “amenaza a la seguridad” de su proyecto y asesora a su equipo que deben de ser “muy prudentes en el trato con ella.” Debería comentar que siempre me he opuesto abiertamente a estos programas subversivos e ilegales por USAID en Cuba, así como claramente siempre he tenido una posición en contra del embargo estadounidense. Los documentos son tiránicos y repugnantes para leer, pero sin duda hacen un caso que la cultura popular es a menudo dirigida por unas pocas personas poderosas en una oficina gubernamental, en este caso, financiados por el pueblo estadounidense.

Por último, y muy importante de tener en cuenta, es que yo le cedí a la AP una entrevista hablando específicamente acerca de los programas de la USAID y su método de operación, en ningún momento comentando sobre grupos específicos en Cuba. Hecho que ha sido convenientemente mal interpretado, posicionándome en contra de ciertos raperos (¿dividir y conquistar?). Cualquier comentario que aparezca en la prensa sobre un grupo específico de rap cubano fue tomado corta-y-pega de entrevistas otorgadas en el 2009-2010. Desde el 2010, fuera de mí enfoque sobre Son Dos Alas y los programas de la USAID con respeto a la música y el arte, no he hecho comentarios públicos sobre grupos de rap cubano. ¿Me pregunto quién estará financiando la confusión mediática? Yo he estado escribiendo y publicando información sobre estos programas por cuatro años, y mi atención se ha concentrado en la denuncia de estos programas que hacen daño a movimientos orgánicos y gente buena.

Para leer una reciente publicación sobre cómo funcionan estos programas dentro del contexto de mi investigación doctoral sobre el rap cubano (y puertorriqueño) consulten la sección de ‘Parar’ de “Entre | << (rebobinar) y > (reproducir): la realización de Son Dos Alas” en la jornada de Estudios Latinoamericanos de OSU titulada Alter/Nativas.

Melisa Riviere a.k.a Emetrece recibe premio Lucas cubano! // Melisa Riviere a.k.a Emetrece receives Cuban LUCAS award!

meli and LUCAS

El sábado 29 de noviembre en el Teatro Karl Marx de la ciudad de La Habana recibí el premio LUCAS que se me otorgo en el 2010 por el videoclip de “Los Pelos” que realice con el grupo de rap cubano Obsesión. Para mi es un honor ser la primer estadounidense de recibir un premio LUCAS. Este premio significa para mi que se puede unir a nuestros pueblos (Cuba-US) a través de la música y que se reconoce el pensamiento critico de la mujer detrás del lente. Los videoclips y canciones que yo he realizado en Cuba durante los últimos 15 años se han hecho con muy pocos recursos, pero con mucho amor por Cuba y por su movimiento de hip-hop! Gracias LUCAS!!!

Para ver el anuncio original de este premio en el 2010 seguir este enlace.

———-

On Saturday, November 29, at the Karl Marx Theatre of La Habana, Cuba, I received the prestigious Cuban LUCAS award won in 2010 for the music video I filmed and directed of “Los Pelos” by rap duo Obsesión. It is a great honor for me to be the first U.S. citizen to receive a LUCAS award. This award signifies to me that our communities (US-Cuba) can be united through music and that LUCAS recognizes the critical thinking of women behind the lens. The music videos and songs I produced in Cuba over the last 15 years have been done with very few economic resources, but with lots of love for Cuba and its hip-hop movement! THANK YOU LUCAS!

To see the original post when this award was won in 2010 please follow this link.

 

Building Bridges: Music and Cultural Diplomacy between the United States and Cuba

Ordway Cultural Conversation

Presented by the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts and hosted by Intermedia Arts

The Ordway’s musical performances by Nachito Herrera and the Creole Choir of Cuba serve as catalysts for learning about music and cultural diplomacy between the United States and Cuba. Artists from the U.S. and Cuba have collaborated on many musical genres from son and salsa to jazz, rock, folk and rap. Although the U.S. embargo against Cuba severed, it did not suspend musical collaborations between nations, and many artists found unique ways to transcend political boundaries.

Engage in a lecture, panel discussion and audience conversation contextualizing the “Raíces y Sueños: the Artistry of Cuba” series in the larger national and international landscape of US-Cuba relations and bringing to the forefront how music has served to build bridges between two nations that have not had diplomatic relations for over half a century.

Cultural Conversation led by Dr. Melisa Rivière alongside panelists Gloria Rivera, Cuban singer/songwriter; Yrak Saenz a.k.a. Vitalicio, Pioneer Cuban rapper; and Doug Little, composer and performer of Cuban music.

Ordway’s Cultural Conversation
Building Bridges: Music and Cultural Diplomacy between the United States and Cuba
Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Avenue South
Thursday, October 30; 6-8PM

*FREE, open to the public.
*The program will be presented in both English and Spanish.

Call Jenea Rewertz-Targui, Arts Learning Manager at or email jrewertztargui@ordway.org to reserve your space.
http://www.ordway.org/education/community/

RAICES Y SUENOS

ORDWAY KNOWLEDGE SESSION: Cuban Hip-Hop with Yrak Saenz a.k.a Vitalicio

HDR_Generalyrak saenz aka vitalicio

ORDWAY KNOWLEDGE SESSION: Cuban Hip-Hop with Yrak Saenz a.k.a Vitalicio
Presented by the Ordway Center for the Performing
Arts in collaboration with Emetrece Productions and hosted by Four Season’s Dance Studio

Yrak Saenz, also known as Vitalicio, has been performing and recording rap music in Cuba for over two decades as an originator of the Havana hip-hop scene. From his trajectory in the band Garage H that fused rock with rap in the mid 1990’s, to his 15 year portfolio alongside Edgar Gonzalez in the duo Doble Filo, today Yrak is considered one of the most well known Cuban rappers of all time.

JOIN US FOR A DISCUSSION, INTERVIEW, AND RAP DEMONSTRATION
As part of “Raíces y Sueños: the Artistry of Cuba” series, we will explore Yrak’s biographical story intertwined and contextualized within the history of Cuban rap.
The program will be presented in both English and Spanish
Four Season’s Dance Studio, 1637 Hennepin Ave S, Minneapolis, MN
Sunday, October 26, 2014, 3-5PM
FREE open to the public; all ages welcome
Pre-registration required

Call Natalie Kennedy Schuck, Raíces y Sueños Community Engagement Coordinator at 651.282.3015 or email: nkennedy@ordway.org to reserve your space.

RAICES Y SUENOS

Report back from the field…SPAN Study Abroad 2014: Puerto Rico and Cuba

Student Project for Amity among Nations (SPAN) 2014: Puerto Rico and Cuba
FSSP 5960 (spring; 4 credits) and FSSP 5970W (summer; four credits, writing intensive)
Institute for Global Studies, University of Minnesota
Faculty: Dr. August Nimtz and Dr. Melisa Rivière

Spring 2014
The Puerto Rico and Cuba SPAN study abroad course was designed around the theme of U.S.-Caribbean relations and was open to students from statewide universities and colleges. Eight students enrolled, seven were from the University of Minnesota and one from Macalester College. Students received eight upper division credits, four of which were writing intensive.

span crew prior to departure

Students took an introductory semester course in the spring with Dr. August Nimtz and Dr. Melisa Rivière in which they learned about Cuba’s and Puerto Rico’s history and culture. As preparation, students received a library reference tour from Rafael Tarrago, the Latin American Studies librarian at the University of Minnesota’s Wilson Library. The onsite and digital tour enabled students to prepare their research prospectuses with the resources available on campus. In the first semester students received weekly and biweekly lectures, conducted literary reviews, created annotated bibliographies, wrote research prospectuses, and designed their individual research models. During this introductory course students learned about research methods and ethics and they authored their interview consent forms and/or surveys as applicable to their research projects.

The SPAN crew and their research topics:
Natalie Carlson (Political Science/Junior) – Homelessness in Puerto Rico compared to state housing programs in Cuba.
Daisy Hidalgo (Political Science/Junior) – The roles of women in political resistance movements and Cuba’s revolutionary war.
Nicholas Jensen (History/Senior) – The roles and effects of the U.S. Navy bases in Puerto Rico and Cuba.
Lee Anne Mills (Art History/Senior) – Health tourism, the internationalization of Cuban healthcare, and the roles of Cuban doctors abroad.
Emily Myers (Anthropology/Senior) – The practice of Santeria religion and how it can heal social and racial injustices by honoring African heritage.
Lena Pransky (Macalester College/Latin American Studies/Junior) – The effects of the Green Revolution and the differing results of use, or lack of, genetically modified seeds in Puerto Rico’s and Cuba’s agriculture.
Moses Wallace (History/Senior) – The influences of Cuba’s military intervention in Angola and the anti-apartheid movements in South Africa.
Ava Wichmann (Global Studies/Senior) – The shared spaces of mysticism, alternative medicine, and western practices in healing and public health.

Summer 2014
The group departed for San Juan, Puerto Rico on June 15.

Puerto Rico

(June 15 – July 12)

The adevture began in Puerto Rico...

Lodging:
Students stayed in Plaza Universitaria, the University of Puerto Rico dorms, which are centrally located in Río Piedras, the city center of San Juan. Plaza Universitaria is located in a mural filled district next to the university campus and surrounded by cultural centers, libraries, restaurants, coffee shops, book stores, the urban metro subway and the bus lines that run throughout San Juan and to other major cities on the island. The dorms are located three blocks from the main square of Río Piedras called the Plaza de la Convalecencia, a historic site of the Iglesia del Pilar, a 300 year old colonial church. At the heart of Río Piedras lies José de Diego Avenue, a one-kilometer pedestrian street with stores and shops. The Río Piedras Plaza del Mercado (marketplace), a few blocks from the dorms, is the largest of its kind on the island and features shops that offer fresh fruits, vegetables, butchers, botanicas (traditional religious crafts), and small food stands. Plaza Universitaria, and the entire UPR campus, is equipped with wifi, on-site security, and trolley transportation.

Plaza Universitaria

Plaza Universitaria

Institutional affiliation:

ics logo

Instituto de Estudios del Caribe / Institute of Caribbean Studies, University of Puerto Rico

The Institute of Caribbean Studies was founded in 1958 as a colloquium series hosted by the Colleges of Social Sciences and Humanities. Today, it is a world renowned institute housed within the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Píedras campus. The mission of the Institute of Caribbean Studies is to conduct, support, and contribute to the research and pedagogy of the Caribbean region. It also has a peer-reviewed print publication titled Caribbean Studies. SPAN students were welcomed to the Institute by its director, Dr. Humberto Garcia Muñiz.

During the four weeks in Puerto Rico students engaged in:

  • An academic and agricultural tour of the University of Puerto Rico with Dr. Dale Mathews and Nadya Menendez of the Institute of Caribbean Studies.
  • A tour of the UPR Lázaro Library system with librarian Dra. Sylvia Fernandez.
  • A conference with Rafael Acevedo-Cruz and fellow graduate students from the History Department who gave us a tour and month long access to the archives of the University of Puerto Rico’s History Research Center.
  • A visit to the Center for Advanced Studies of San Juan and the Caribbean with a walking tour of Old San Juan led by historian Dr. Antonio Gaztambide.
  • A guided tour of the Anthropology Musuem exhibit “Traditions in Transition” (Tradiciones en Transición).
  • A private showing of the recent film release “El Antillano” about Puerto Rican nationalist leader Ramón Emeterio Betances. The film showing was followed by a group discussion with the film director Tito Roman.
  • A lecture and three-day excursion to Vieques with Professor Annie Fabian.
Torre UPR

SPAN crew in front of the historic UPR tower

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SPAN crew with UPR graduate students at the History Research Center

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On a walking tour of Old San Juan with historian Dr. Antonio Gaztambide

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SPAN crew at the Anthropology Museum

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SPAN crew with Tito Roman, director of the film documentary “El Antillano”

Three-day excursion to the island of Vieques
We traveled to Vieques by ferry from the city of Fajardo with Prof. Annie Fabien, Nadya Menendez, and Nancy Arocho of the Institute of Caribbean Studies. In Vieques we stayed at the SeaGate Hotel, a farm hostel with horses, dogs, cats, and roosters. On the first day we took a walking tour of the town of Isabel II and enjoyed a traditional Puerto Rican meal of rice, beans, yucca, and meat stuffed plantains called mofongo. That evening we took a nighttime kayaking tour of the Bioluminescent Bay with local guide Jorge Transporte. Our second day of the excursion, we joined an ongoing conference with University of Massachusetts-Boston students and faculty at the Vieques Fort (El Fuerte Conde de Mirasol) about current research projects on the island. Then we toured the Memorial Museum of Vieques (Museo de la memoria histórica de Vieques), Radio Vieques headquarters, and received a historical/political lecture about the U.S. Navy presence on the island by lawyer and activist Roberto Rabin. Later that afternoon, we circumnavigated the island visiting a few local sites, the southern township of Esperanza, the famous four-hundred year-old Ceiba tree, ruins of a colonial sugar factory, a native Taino archaeological rock mound where El Hombre de Puerto Ferro burial ground was discovered, and visited the former arsenals and bombing ranges of the U.S. Navy. On our third and last day in Vieques, the SPAN crew enjoyed a relaxing day at Pata Prieta Beach, where we took advantage of the white sand beach and the amazing snorkeling.

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SPAN crew departing for Vieques with Prof. Annie Fabian, Nadya Menendez, and Nancy Arocho from the Institute of Caribbean Studies

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SPAN crew in Vieques overlooking the town of Isabel II

SPAN 2014 PR Vieques r.rabin

SPAN crew received a historic and political lecture about the U.S. Navy presence in Vieques from lawyer and activist Roberto Rabin

SPAN 2014 PR Vieques

Around the island of Vieques

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SPAN crew with their coconuts

 

The group departed Puerto Rico on July 13, spent the night in Miami, and took off to Havana on July 14.

Cuba
(July 14 – August 11)

Lodging:
Students stayed in university sponsored housing centrally located in the Vedado Hotel complex that includes a coffee shop, restaurant, pool, on-site security, a business center with internet accessibility, and a daily buffet breakfast. Vedado is the most modern neighborhood of Havana, developed in the first half of the 20th century. The main street outside the housing complex is Calle 23, also known as La Rampa which is full of coffee shops, book stores, restaurants, and music venues. Two blocks from the lodging to the north is the waterfront seawall known as the malecón. This is a popular place for social gatherings that many students enjoyed as a site for people watching in the evenings. Two blocks to the south of the hotel complex is the world renown cinema El Yara, known for showcasing films from the Cuban Institute for Cinematographic Art and Industry and New Latin American Cinema films.

vedado-Cuba

Vedado Hotel complex

Institutional affiliation

CEM logoCentro de Estudios Martianos / Center for Studies of Martí 

The Center for Studies of Martí was founded in 1977 to support research and teaching about the writings of national leader Jose Martí. The Center has a large research and instructional complex in the Vedado area of Havana. Equipped with classrooms, administrative offices, conference halls and internet, the Center for Studies of Martí is a world renowned educational facility that teaches about Cuban history and culture. The Center offers a library solely dedicated to archiving the original manuscripts, photographs and documents of and about Martí, a bookstore that acts as a center for the International Book Fair of Havana, a research institute, and an international relations department dedicated to academic and cultural exchanges. International relations representatives Vilma Mederos and Jorge Timoneda served as our primary liaisons and institutional hosts. SPAN students were welcomed to the Center by its director, Dra. Ana Sanchez Collazo.

Students received a diploma from the Center for Studies of Martí  for taking a four-week four credit course (64 class hours) titled “Cuba and its Culture” (Cuba y Su Cultura). The course consisted of conferences in the morning (9am-noon), a two-hour lunch break (noon – 2PM), and guided tours in the afternoons relevant to the morning’s lectures (2-6pm). Some of the locations visited included a walking tour of Old Havana (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Revolution Square, as well as guided tours of the José Martí Memorial, the Museum of the Revolution, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Guanabacoa Museum of Afro-Cuban Religion, the Organic Agricultural Nursery (an urban farm of Alamar), and the Art Factory (a gallery and cultural center). Students were also given a guided tour of the National José Martí Library with a one-year access pass to use the library references.

SPAN crew upon arrival to Havana

SPAN crew upon arrival to Havana

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SPAN crew at the Jose Marti Memorial

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Lena at her interview with Eng. Gonzalo Gonzalez Llenere, chief of production at the Organic Agricultural Nursery (Organoponico Vivero) of Alamar

SPAN crew at Revolution Square, between the monuments to Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos

SPAN crew at Revolution Square, between the monuments to Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos

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SPAN crew receives a dance lesson from Rubén Moro’s musical troupe

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SPAN crew with our CEM hosts Vilma Mederos and Jorge Timoneda

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SPAN crew at conference about the Cuban Five with Rene and Olga Gonzalez, and Mirta, the mother of Antonio Guerrero

Students engaged in conferences and individual interviews with:

  • Lic. Adelaida Ramos on the geography of Cuba.
  • Dr. Pedro Pablo Rodriguez on the works of José Martí.
  • Dra. Maria Caridad Pacheco on the history of Cuba.
  • Dr. Carlos Alzugaray and Lic. Alejandro Perdomo on the relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
  • Dra. Sonia Moro on the role of women in the Cuban revolution.
  • Lic Rubén Moro on rhythms of Cuban music including a musical demonstration and a dance class with Rubén’s musical troupe.
  • Dra. Yoandra Adelá on public health in Cuba after 1959.
  • Dra. Ofelia Pérez on religions in Cuba.
  • Dra. Iliana Reyes Alvarez of ServiMed center for health tourism.
  • Dra. Maritza Mainegra a medical doctor of alternative medicine at the military hospital of Alamar.
  • Eng. Gonzalo Gonzalez Llenere, chief of production at the Organic Agricultural Nursery (Organoponico Vivero) of Alamar.
  • Babalawo Luis and Babalawo Ricardo (religious priests of Santeria or Ocha-Ifa).
  • Dr. Esteban Morales on issues of race, racial identity and racism in Cuba.
  • Presentatation on the case of the Cuban Five with former political prisoner Rene González, his wife Olga González and Mirta Rodriguez Pérez, mother of prisoner Antonio Guerrero.

Two day-long excursions to Santa Maria and the province of Pinar del Rio
Students took a one-day excursion to Santa Maria Beach, located east of Havana, and another one-day excursion to the province of Pinar del Rio. At Santa Maria Beach students learned about Cuba’s beachside tourism industry at one of Havana’s most popular urban beaches. In Pinar del Rio we visited Cayo Jutia, a small coastal isle off of the main island of Cuba. There we enjoyed a relaxing beachside lunch consisting of traditional Cuban food of beans, rice, plantains and ropa vieja, a typical dish made of shredded beef. We then continued to the town of Viñales where we stopped at El Mural de la Prehistoria, a prehistoric mural, and toured a tobacco plantation.

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Cayo Jutia

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SPAN crew at a tobacco plantation in Viñales, Pinar del Rio

Transportation:
In Cuba we were transported by one of the Pastors for Peace buses with our own chauffer named Joto, the administrator of the Pastor’s for Peace transportation in Havana. Pastors for Peace is a U.S. based interreligious organization that was created in 1988 to deliver humanitarian aid to Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 1994 Pastors for Peace has recruited humanitarian aid for Cuba throughout the United States in school buses that have been painted by various artists. The buses cross the Mexican border and are shipped to Cuba full of supplies. Sixty of their buses are currently in Cuba.

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SPAN crew poses with our Pastors for Peace bus in front of the National Jose Martí Library

The group departed Havana for Miami on August 11, arriving back to Minneapolis on August 12.

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SPAN crew after clearing U.S. Customs and Immigration at the Miami International Airport.

SPAN students returned from their trip with a new perspective on U.S.-Caribbean relations. Puerto Rico has been a U.S. commonwealth since 1952, whereas Cuba and the United States have not had diplomatic relations since 1959. Their comparative experiences in Puerto Rico and Cuba has given them a unique understanding of two very unique Caribbean islands, one incorporated into, and the other isolated from, the United States. Visiting and immersing themselves into these differing cultures, customs, and histories allowed them to see their similarities as much as their peculiarities. Students made new life-long friends, established professional contacts that will serve their studies and careers, and conducted distinctive research that will now be the foundation of their fifty-page SPAN theses. The immersion experience was undoubtedly life changing and will directly influence not only their educational endeavors, but also their political participation and public diplomacy within the United States as global citizens.

For more information about the Puerto Rico and Cuba SPAN 2014 educational exchange program please contact Dr. August Nimtz, Dr. Melisa Rivière, or the Student Project for Amity among Nations.

Dr. August Nimtz
Department of Political Science
University of Minnesota
(e) animtz@umn.edu
(p) 612-624-1512

Dr. Melisa Rivière
Institute for Global Studies
University of Minnesota
(e) rivi0001@umn.edu
(p) 612-281-9970

Dr. Theofanis Stavrou
Evelyn Anderson
Susan Wiese
Minnesota SPAN Association
University of Minnesota
(e)mnspan@umn.edu
(p) 612- 626-1083

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