The Race for School Supplies / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

A girl getting her supplies ready for the new school year. (14ymedio)

A girl getting her supplies ready for the new school year. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 12 August 2015 — The long line snakes outside the bookstore under the scorching August sun. Most are women with children. “They’re selling the thick notebooks,” announces an elderly lady to someone asking who is last on line*. The race is on to buy school supplies, such as backpacks and lunchboxes. However, some have better starts than others.

Daniela visited the aquarium, went to the beach, and ran around in the park near her house during her summer vacation. But now, as the days of rest are running out, her mother has embarked on a marathon run from store to store trying to find everything from colored pencils to a water bottle. Daniela wants to start the first day of school with “nice and pretty things,” which will hardly be cheap.

With 6,827 elementary and 1,766 middle schools throughout the country, the authorities of the Cuban Ministry of Education are giving assurances that school supplies will be guaranteed for the more than 1,500,000 students starting the 2015-2016 school year. Still, students and parents complain about the poor quality of the supplies, and the limited quantities distributed. Continue reading

“I want more movies and fewer laws” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The filmmaker Miguel Coyula shooting. (Personal file MC)

The filmmaker Miguel Coyula shooting. (Personal file MC)

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 31 July 2015 — Shy, but with a quick wit and a direct expression, the filmmaker Miguel Coyula (b. Havana 1977) opens the door the room where he works and lets 14ymedio into this creative space in a Vedado apartment. The director of Memories of Underdevelopment is craftsman of the cinema: he films, directs, edits, does the special effects and music, all the while organizing the entire production of the film.

Over coffee, he talks about the obstacles to making films in Cuba and his new project Corazón Azul (Blue Heart), a story set in an alternative reality after an explosion in genetic engineering. In this fictional future, the Cuban government launches the literal creation of its old dream: the New Man.

Luz Escobar: You are immerse in the shooting of your new film, Blue Heart, how far along is the project?

Miguel Coyula: I start shooting the film little by little and, if I can, in chronological order. Every month I am adding one more minute and can see how it grows. If you want to teach the actors, who in the end are working almost for free, and this is a great incentive to see the development of the characters, to see how everything is turning out. Continue reading

Ecuador, The Route to El Dorado / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The route of migration for Cubans. (Reportero24)

The route of migration for Cubans. (Reportero24)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 July 2015 – Four years Ecuador has been the route of Cubans who want to reach the United States. For many it was the first step towards the El Dorado of the North. In recent weeks, a fear has been growing that the South American nation might toughen the requirements for access to its territory. Entire families could stay on the island with their bags packed and and dreams broken.

Luis, 27, is the youngest of two brothers. In mid-2014 he put together the money for a ticket to Quito and left. Single, with no job, no bank account or property, no consulate would have granted a visa, considering him as a “potential immigrant”. However, Ecuador does not require a visa for Cubans, nor even ask for a letter of invitation.

The Ecuadorian Constitution adopted in 2008 proclaimed “the principle of universal citizenship, free movement of all inhabitants of the planet and the progressive end of foreign status.” President Rafael Correa said at the time that he was determined to “dismantle the invention of the twentieth century which were passports and visas”. And there the Cubans went en masse. Continue reading

“I feel like a war reporter” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca. (14ymedio)

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 20 June 2015 — A couple of weeks ago, the neighbors crowded onto the ground floor of a twelve-story building near Tulipan Street. “He committed suicide … They say he hanged himself with his own belt,” ran the rumor among them, while pointing to the apartment marked with number 1. The police presence in the area and patrols around the site confirmed that something had happened.

Some men in civilian clothes who were a part of the operation detailed it for the curious, “He was the nephew of Vladimiro Roca.” The information would take hours to be refuted, and many still don’t understand that the false suicide hid a raid to keep Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca from going out to do his work as an independent journalist. The bad taste with which the political police handled the matter, lying about the death of a man, competes in this case with the abuse of his rights. Continue reading

Pavel Giroud finally finishes filming “The Companion” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The poster for the film “The Companion” by Pavel Giroud. (FACEBOOK)

The poster for the film “The Companion” by Pavel Giroud. (FACEBOOK)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 5 May 2015 — Cuban filmmaker Pavel Giroud announced Tuesday through his Facebook profile the completion of the long process of his film El acompañante (The Companion), after finishing the assembly stage and sound mixing in the Clap Studies of Medellin, Columbia.

This film project has received awards on multiple occasions in its preproduction phase. One of the most important recognitions was the best project award at San Sebastian’s Europe-Latin America Co-production Forum, as well as the SGAE Julio Alejandro Screenplay Award, awarded at the Malaga Film Festival. Continue reading

Rescuing bread / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Among the many businesses that have flourished since the recent relaxations for self-employment, there are not many bakeries. (14ymedio)

Among the many businesses that have flourished since the recent relaxations for self-employment, there are not many bakeries. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 April 2015 — Eliot’s Bakery dawned this Friday with the kneading blade broken and a line of people waiting to buy a baguette or a bagel. Eliot’s brother hurried over to fix the broken blade, because, “You can’t have a day with no sales, the loss is tremendous,” says the concerned baker.

This self-employed worker has opened a unique business in Havana’s Timba neighborhood, offering a great variety of baked goods. Every day that he manages to overcome the high prices of raw material and the infrastructure problems, he counts as an accomplishment. Continue reading

An Afternoon for Danilo (El Sexto) / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Danilo’s (El Sexto’s) works displayed on the walls of La Paja Records studio (Luz Escobar)

Danilo’s (El Sexto’s) works displayed on the walls of La Paja Recold studio (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 29 March 2015 – As part of the campaign to demand freedom for the artist Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto,” several artistic activities took place this Saturday at la Paja Recold, the studio of the band Porno para Ricardo.

On the walls of the place were works by the graffiti artist who has been incarcerated since last December 25. El Sexto was arrested shortly before carrying out a performance that consisted of releasing in a public square two pigs with the names of “Fidel and Raul.” The crime that has been charged against him is contempt.

Several friends from all over the world and human rights organizations have demanded his immediate release. Yesterday’s activities joined those demands for his freedom. Among the most important moments of the afternoon was the performance by Tania Bruguera of The Whisper of Tatlin which opened the studio’s microphones to the fifty attendees of the encounter to ask for – in a minute each – Danilo Maldonado’s liberty. Continue reading

Who is behind the mirror? / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

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14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 19 March 2015 – On Wednesday, with great fanfare, the digital site “Reflections” was launched as part of the Cuban Youth Computer and Electronics Club’s Cuba Va (Cuba Goes) project. On its homepage you can read that this is the first Cuban blogging platform, although DesdeCuba.com, a blog portal, was launched eight years ago and, despite being blocked on the Cuban server, offers content generated in Cuba, where the majority of its authors live.

According to Kirenia Fagundo Garcia, who serves as senior specialist on Reflections, “there are no restrictions on the topics discussed on the blogs and users interested in the service,” on this platform. Each blog has only 250 megabytes allocated to post texts, photos, videos and sound, although Fagundo has made clear that it is planned to increase the initial capacity.

Despite the commitment to freedom announced by the portal, “the only condition is that the bloggers divulge the truth about Cuba, without offenses, disrespect or denigration.” Continue reading

Nancy Pelosi excited by the work of her delegation to Cuba / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

US Congressional Delegation holding a press conference in Havana (Luz Escobar)

US Congressional Delegation holding a press conference in Havana (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 19 February 2015 — On Thursday afternoon, the Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi led a press conference in which she provided a summary of her visit to Cuba, in addition to answering questions from foreign journalists and independent press. The meeting was held on the outside of the residence of Lynn Roche, Head of the Public Affairs Section of the US Interests Section in Havana (ISIS).

During the conference, Pelosi was accompanied by Congressmen Eliot Engel (NY), Jim McGovern (Massachusetts), Rosa DeLauro (Connecticut), Collin Peterson (Minnesota), Nydia Velázquez (New York), Anna Eshoo (California), Steve Israel (New York) and David Cicilline (Rhode Island). Prior to the meeting with journalists, the delegation had met with Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino the highest authority of the Catholic Church in Cuba, as well as holding “a meeting with members of civil society Continue reading

“The canonization of historical figures continues” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

'Control of History' (1st part) by Saavedra. (Luz Escobar)

‘Control of History’ (1st part) by Saavedra. (Photo by Luz Escobar) Assignment: “Draw Che.” Grade received from teacher: 50 points out of 50.

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 10 January 2015 – Outside the Galiano gallery in Central Havana yesterday, dozens of people gathered to enter the Añejo 27 [Aged 27] exposition. Some passersby were puzzled by the reasons for the tumult, perhaps thinking that eggs or pork had come to the ration stores. However, it’s “just art,” one disappointed girl told another who grimaced on hearing it.

The doors open and in the salon are hanging works from almost thirty years ago. “A liqueur from the past” with a strange taste of the present. The author of these drawings, collages and oils is Lázaro Saavedra, an artist with a stroke of the ironic and few words. Even so, 14ymedio managed to talk with him amid some images that characterize his work and his artistic generation.

Question: Graphic art and humor are in mourning this week because of the events at the weekly Charlie Hebdo. What did you think when you heard about this tragedy?

Answer: Rather than thinking, in the face of news like that what one feels is a very emotional reaction. Continue reading

Several activists and Reinaldo Escobar, editor-in-chief of ’14ymedio’, arrested / 14ymedio

The police car in front of the apartment of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sanchez. (14ymedio)

The police car in front of the apartment of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sanchez. (14ymedio)

The director of this newspaper, Yoani Sánchez, is under house arrest

14ymedio, Havana, 30 December 2014 – Contacted by phone at her home, the director of 14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, explained the circumstances of the arrest of her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, and of several other people this Tuesday in Havana. She is under house arrest. Patrol car No. 507 is stationed in front of the building where she lives, while four plainclothes offices are controlling the building entrances. Continue reading