Category Archives: Cuban Culture

Juan Formell and Cuba’s essence

Juan Formell and Cuba’s essence
On the 79th anniversary of the birth of a man marked by his love for the homeland, we remember Juan Formell

Author: Guille Vilar |
august 10, 2021 09:08:38

The unforgettable Juan Formell during the Concert Without Borders.

Photo: Juvenal Balán
“The homeland is the homeland; a truism, which is not so. The homeland is something for which a person is capable of dying and also something that lies in a simple taste or a great combat. It can be found in guava paste and in the battle of Las Guásimas. The homeland is something minimum and maximum. In the good sense of the word, it is a mystery, a faith. Something that reaches one by way of a mysterious circumstance.” With this reflection by Cintio Vitier, we approach the 79th anniversary of the birth of a man deeply marked by love for the homeland: Juan Formell.(August 2,1942 – May 1, 2014)

Let us turn our attention, for a moment, to the enormous legacy of his work, to listen to the heartbeat of a soul that found redemption in love for the people to which he belongs.

On all the occasions on which he was granted an award, either the title of Doctor Honoris Causa from the Cuban Advanced Institute of Art or the Grammy for Musical Excellence, Formell could not conceive of accepting the prize for himself alone, since he fully enjoyed sharing honors with all the musicians who, after 1959, proved that the genre of son never left Cuba, but has evolved with the times.

Although, with Formell, we have finally won this dispute, he never lost touch with the evolution of the issue on different fronts.

Let us remember when the Grammy-winning album “Van Van is here” was shelved by foreign music magnates, as if to ensure its disappearance from the U.S. scene. He knew perfectly well that behind the petty gesture was the hand of the enemy. Formell was not naïve.

Another thing that Cuba will never forget is when, during the Peace Without Borders concert, organized by Juanes, an impassioned Juan Formell made an unforgettable statement: “Enough with the abuse! No matter who may not like it, the concert for peace has taken place.”

The words emerged as an acknowledgement of the event’s success despite threats and manipulation of information coming from outside the island.

Another example illustrates Formell as a man permanently identified with the root essentials defined by Cintio Vitier in the concept of homeland. In the song he co-authored with Israel Rojas of the duo Buena Fe, called “Dicha grande.”

This is how it begins: “I have in front of me my land, my people, my childhood, my truth, my pain, my roots, my reason, my essences: the whole Cuba of my loves.”

The song is a reinterpretation of the joy expressed by Marti at the moment he landed at Playita de Cajobabo, along with Máximo Gómez. Here both creators enjoy a euphoria that Van Van is in charge of communicating with immeasurable joy, as if to make the neighbors across the street, the usual cranks, understand, once and for all, that we will never stop loving Cuba, whatever the price life may demand of us.

The perfect blend of culture and commerce , the Art on La Rampa Fair is currently taking place,

The perfect blend of culture and commerce
Just like every summer, the Art on La Rampa Fair is currently taking place, a venue hosting cultural activities and commercial offers of high quality arts and crafts, popular with Havana residents and visitors alike
Author: Mireya Castañeda |
july 8, 2016 13:07:00





The newly designed central hall is now more spacious. Photo: Mireya Castañeda
Just like every summer, the Art on La Rampa Fair is currently taking place, a venue hosting cultural activities and commercial offers of high quality arts and crafts, popular with Havana residents and visitors alike.
Mercy Correa, director of the Cuban Cultural Goods Fund crafts department, co-sponsoring the event alongside the Asociación Hermanos Saíz, was right when she noted that the new design of the Pabellón Cuba site provides greater visibility, above all in the central hall, where from July 1 through September 18, the 52 different sales stands – which will be changing every month – are located.
The 17th edition of the event was inaugurated with the exposition Fidel, soldado de las ideas, by photo-journalists Liborio Noval and Ismael Francisco; its title taken from the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution’s March 11, 2011 speech, during which he stated: “I am and will continue to be, just as I promised; a solider of ideas for as long as I can think and breathe.”
The exposition, a tribute to Fidel on his 90th birthday, includes 19 photographs tracing practically the entire revolutionary period.






High quality leather goods on sale. Photo: Mireya Castañeda
The oldest photo in the collection, taken by Liborio, is from 1960, while the most recent, by Ismael Francisco, is from Fidel’s last public appearance during the Seventh Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, on April 19, this year.
Liborio Noval (Havana, 1934-2012) was a founder of the newspaper Granma and is considered to be one of Cuba’s best photo-journalists. He received over 30 national and international awards throughout his lifetime, and his photos have been featured in dozens of collective exhibitions.
His photographic works appear in various books such as Instantáneas, published in 1999, which includes 77 images of Fidel taken over 40 years, as well as in Cien imágenes de la Revolución, 15 of which were taken by Liborio.
For his part, Ismael Francisco is one of the most outstanding contemporary Cuban photo-journalists and son of Ismael González also a photo-journalist at Granma. The deserving recipient of various awards, Francisco has worked for Granma, Prensa Latina, La Agencia Cubana de Noticias and currently Cubadebate.
In 2010 the exposition Ismael con Ismael was presented in the Casa de la Prensa. Trained in the rigorous world of press-photography, Ismael Francisco is also renowned for his technical skill, compositions and framing.
On Friday, July 1, it was all about the kids, with the Fair providing numerous offers for little ones, such as the presentation in the Salón de Mayo, of the DVD of the performance of Peter and the wolf by La Colmenita children’s theater company, followed by a rendition of La Cucarachita Martinaby the collective directed by Carlos Alberto Cremata, in the Pabellon’s main hall.f0012889





The exposition Fidel, soldado de las ideas, is displayed in the tunnel of the Pabellón Cuba. Of its 19 photos, pictured in the foreground is one taken by Liborio Noval in 1961, Fidel con boina. Photo: José Raúl Concepción/Cubadebate
Despite the fact that there are apparently fewer stands this year (with artisans alternating throughout the three-month fair), the high quality of products continues to be maintained, with offers ranging from footwear, textiles, jewelry, ceramics, and out-door furniture.
Like always, the summer event again has a cultural agenda, with a special program for children featuring clowns, music, and dance. 
Music is without a doubt one of the mainstays of the event, with jazz, trova and repentismo concerts by various musicians and performers, including popular figures such as Polito Ibáñez, Ernesto and David Blanco, Interactivo, Telmary and Adrián Berazaín.
Art on La Rampa is one of the city’s most visited events during the summer. The Fair has many merits including its central headquarters in the Pabellón Cuba, crafts, books, reproductions of art works, albums, and a program which in addition to musical events also features visual arts, film showings and talks, which combine to create a superb Cuban cultural Fair, just as organizers have planned.

A much more universal José Martí


Pedro de la Hoz / Photos: Juvenal Balán & Jorge Luis González (GRANMA INTERNACIONAL)

 Jose Marti Cuban Revolution

Jose Marti Cuban Revolution

A much more universal José Martí emerged from the 3rd International Conference for World Equilibrium, the closing session of which took place January 30 in Havana’s International Convention Center.

One of the most eloquent results of the conference, which brought together more than 800 delegates, is the José Martí World Solidarity Project Declaration and the commitment made by the Youth Forum, included on the event’s agenda.

The Declaration, signed by eminent intellectuals and read by Ignacio Ramonet, warns of the dangers of nuclear war, climate change and the social crisis produced by increasing inequalities within the dominant economic model. It identifies the growing strength of those proposing alternatives and fighting for peace and justice. To this end, Martí’s thinking has become a necessary reference and opens the way to a better world.

For their part, young people affirmed their commitment to promoting Martí’s ideas, fighting to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba and for the liberation of the Cuba Five serving unjust sentences in the heart of the empire.

In the closing session, attended by Council of State Vice President Esteban Lazo and Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, President of the National Assembly of People’s Power, various speakers confirmed the value of the conference and the continuing relevance of Martí’s ideas. At the same time, they addressed significant current issues such as the new movement in Latin America and the Caribbean, solidarity with the Bolivarian process in Venezuela and its leader Hugo Chávez, the adoption of successful strategies against global hegemony, and the need to promote environmental solutions and protect nature.


Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva advocated systematizing a doctrine of Latin American and Caribbean integration which would serve as an intellectual platform for the arduous tasks being undertaken in the region to fulfill Martí’s ideas.

His appeal was directed at participants in the 3rd International Conference for World Equilibrium, which closed with a dedication to the Cuban national hero on the 160th anniversary of his birth.

Full integration would contribute to changing the history of Latin America, Lula stated. “We must forge concrete unity among intellectuals, students, labor unions and social movements. We are constructing something that would have seemed impossible a number of years ago.”

Lula mounted the podium wearing a red guayabera shirt in honor of President Hugo Chávez, who is battling in Havana to recover his health, and expressed his happiness at having met a few hours earlier “with that great compañero Fidel,” and then with President Raúl Castro.

After asking for a minute’s silence in a tribute to the young victims of the tragedy in the university city of Santa Maria, the former President recalled the first time he spoke at the International Convention Center, in 1985, during an international meeting, led by Fidel, on external debt.

“Cuba has a very special significance. The moral authority constructed by this people in defense of dignity and sovereignty is even respected by those who do not sympathize with the Cuban Revolution,” he affirmed.

Referring to the five Cuban anti-terrorists unjustly sentenced in the United States, Lula recounted that, as President of Brazil, he interceded on behalf of the heroes on a visit to Washington during the George W. Bush administration.

“Unfortunately, it would seem that the Americans turn a deaf ear when the issue is about the problems of our beloved Latin America. I hope that in his second term, Obama will release the Five, end the blockade of Cuba and look more equitably and justly upon our region. Obama should have the same daring as his people had when voting for him.”

Lula shared some of his experiences as President over eight years, heading an administration which was able to reduce poverty, implement policies of inclusion and social mobility, give people land, and open new universities, policies now being extended by the Dilma Rousseff government.

In the last part of his speech, Lula called for a new political and economic order, the premises of which include the democratization of the United Nations and international financial organizations, and reiterated his confidence that the construction of a better world will become a reality sooner rather than later.

Positive contributions were made during the closing session by former Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom; Mikhail Ostrovski, Vice President of the Russian Civic Chamber; Jean Pierre Bel, President of the French Senate; and Ecuadoran Defense Minister María Fernanda Espinosa. Other speakers were Simon Deuseuil Desras, President of the Haitian Senate; former Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana and Senator María de los Angeles Higonet, both from Argentina; and the Culture Ministers of Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, Pedro Calzadilla and José Antonio Rodríguez, respectively. Havana City Historian Eusebio Leal closed the conference with a moving speech in which he recalled how, through the Moncada assault, Fidel restored the figure of Martí in order to illuminate the paths of resistance and dignity of the Cuban people after the triumph of January 1, 1959.

A much more universal José Martí

Vicente Feliú en vivo

In English

Un llamado para continuar nuestro trabajo en los Estados Unidos en apoyo a los 5 Cubanos

Queridos amigos solidarios con la causa de los 5 Cubanos,

Les enviamos un YouTube que acabamos de editar del trovador cubano Vicente Feliú en vivo, en el Teatro Brava de San Francisco, esperamos lo disfruten. Vicente Feliú junto al guitarrista Alejandro Valdés realizaron una gira en Washington DC, Nueva York y San Francisco utilizando la música como herramienta para llamar la atención sobre el encarcelamiento de los 5 Cubanos.


Esta fue solo una de la gran cantidad de acciones que se llevaron a cabo en todo el mundo desde el 12 de septiembre al 8 de octubre. Durante esos días, el apoyo internacional por el reclamo de la libertad inmediata a Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando y René se puso de manifiesto mostrando la indignación que sentimos todos al cumplirse 14 años del injusto arresto de los 5 Cubanos.

En EE.UU. donde los Cinco continúan siendo rehenes de más de medio siglo de una política fracasada, es urgente e imperativo continuar llegando a más y más sectores.

En un año electoral en EE.UU. lleno de obstáculos para nuestro trabajo de solidaridad con los 5 Cubanos, el Comité Internacional ha organizado constantes actividades donde se destacan las siguientes:

  • 5 Dias por los 5 en Washington DC, reunió a solidarios de diferentes países, incluyendo Canadá, Bélgica, Italia, Francia, Alemania y Honduras. Durante esos 5 días fueron colocados por toda la ciudad de Washington carteles “Obama Give me five”. Se exhibió en diferentes universidades el documental de Saúl Landau “Que Por Favor se Ponga de Pie el Verdadero Terrorista”. Logramos llegar al Capitolio, tocando las puertas y estableciendo contacto directo con las oficinas de 40 congresistas y senadores. Se organizaron eventos públicos que contaron con la participación de prestigiosas personalidades como Danny Glover, Dolores Huerta, Stephen Kimber, Cindy Sheehan, Wayne Smith, Saul Landau, Salim Lamrani y muchos otros. Las jornadas concluyeron con una importante manifestación frente a la Casa Blanca demandando a Obama la libertad de los Cinco.
  • Recientemente para conmemorar el 14 aniversario del injusto arresto de los Cinco organizamos un evento público en Washington DC que contó con la participación del líder independentista portorriqueño Rafael Cancel Miranda y Tom Hayden, editor de The Nation. Además organizamos una gira por los EE.UU. con Vicente Feliú, una de las voces más representativas de la Nueva Trova Cubana y Alejandro Valdés, reconocido guitarrista cubano.

Para continuar dando a conocer el caso de los Cinco, nuestro comité está trabajando en nuevas acciones. Hay dos ingredientes necesarios para el éxito de nuestros proyectos: los recursos humanos y los recursos monetarios. Contamos con un equipo de trabajo dinámico y comprometido, pero los recursos económicos que tenemos son insuficientes.

Sabemos que podemos apoyarnos en personas como ustedes que entienden la importancia de continuar el trabajo de solidaridad en apoyo a los Cinco dentro de los EE.UU. Vivimos tiempos difíciles para todos, pero una pequeña contribución de su parte puede hacer una gran diferencia en nuestro trabajo. Necesitamos su ayuda para continuar la campaña por la libertad de los Cinco.


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