CubaNews notes from Havana May 8, 2003

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Thu May 8 11:01:14 MDT 2003

CubaNews notes from Havana, May 8, 2003
by Walter Lippmann, Moderator

Thanks to those of you who are writing in with
questions and comments. I read them with
care and appreciation. I want to respond to
as many of them as I can, and would be most
grateful if you'd let me know if I may use your
letters and names publicly. Many of you have
expressed appreciation for what's going out
when I write in the first person of what I'm
seeing here on the island. I am glad to do
that as well.

It's naturally quite a lot more interesting than
regurgitating wire-services articles and then
making critical comments about them. That's
important work to do, which this list is and
will continue to do. But first person comments
are quite different. I hope that others of you
who come to Cuba, or who have been, will
write up your own comments and impressions.

As usual, waking up her on the Cuban capital
I'm greeted by the sound of roosters in the
vicinity, starting as early as 5 AM or earlier.
The children are now settled into their classes
across the street, not making the racket they
sometimes do when just getting in in the early

Support is piling up for the Mexican-initiated
Call to the Conscience of the World, which is
also the topic of continuing debate. Another
attack on the call, this time by the Boston
Globe's Jeff Jacoby has just come out today.
He doesn't add much to what the Wall Street
Journal had in its editorial Tuesday beyond
adding Yoko Ono to his enemies list re: Cuba.

There are some more notes about Cuba and
SARS which you'll find of interest. I remember
how scandalized the world was (and, yes, it
bothered me, too at the time) when Cuba at
first began to quarantine people who tested
postive for HIV and AIDS in the late 1980s.

Once the island found out more about AIDS
the mandatory quarantine policy was dropped
and today Cuba has the lowest HIV-AIDS
rate on the planet. Definitely something to
think about. While HIV-AIDS in Cuba isn't the
main focus of the article, Jon Hillson's essay
on the movie BEFORE NIGHT FALLS takes
a nuanced look at the island's response to
HIV-AIDS which is worth looking at:

Several more Cubans have managed to get to
the shores of the United States in recent days
and we've got reports on these from the Miami
and South Florida media. They are receiving
something less than the adulatory reception
which has been typical in the past.

Some are in custody and the authorities are
talking about prosecuting some of them for
threats made against the Coast Guard which
picked them up. These articles demonstrate
quite well, when you compare them with the
way such individuals have been welcomed in
Florida in the past, with confirmation of what
the Cuban government has said repeatedly:
Washington's policies of welcoming illegal
Cuban immigrants encourages them to keep
coming to the United States.

There's a major feature in today's Wall Street
Journal about torturers and human rights
abusers in the United States who came to the
US from other countries. Oddly, none of those
who came to the United States from Cuba,
such as the terrorist Orlando Bosch or those
who have been responsible for terror attacks
against others in the Cuban community whom
they disliked are mentioned in the article.

The storm of criticism Cuba has received over
the trials and executions has, naturally evoked
controversy internationally. The Revolution in
Cuba has always done that and this latest
round is not different. The mainstream US
media has never been sympathetic to Cuba
(with a few honorable exceptions over the
years), and isn't sympathetic now. It's always
good advice to read what comes with more
than a grain of salt. I recommend careful and
close reading of everything written, including
my own writings. I hardly have answers to all
the questions asked, though I do have access
to lots of information.

Today we've received one of the most detailed
Cuban responses to the criticism leveled at the
island's authorities for the actions they felt they
were compelled to take. It's written by historian
Jesus Arboleya, whose work I've taken and
shared frequently. I recommend that you take
the time to read it carefully. I'll be sending it in
e-mail, but you can see the original article at
Radio Progreso's website:

These are complex and not simply-resolved
issues, as we saw when we red Saul Landau's
commentary last week. Those used to reading
the US media or seeing TV in the us are very
strongly trained to expect lighting answers to
questions. This approach won't fly and you'll
really need to take the time to study what the
Cubans are saying, and to draw your own
implications and conclusion to these issues.

Cuba's approach to criticism from people on
the political left is rather different from that
coming from people who are NOT on the left.
It's a much more nuanced approach as we've
seen when the Cuban media highlights the
fact that individuals like Eduardo Galeano,
Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Micheal
Albert, who signed that statement by the
Campaign for Peace and Democracy and
later signed the Call to the Conscience of
the World. Yesterday's Granma daily, for
example, featured a photograph of Howard
Zinn illustrating his support for the Call.

Yesterday I visited Callejon de Hamel, the full
block in Central Havana where artist Salvador
Gonzales has painted and installed various
works in tribute to Afro-Cuban culture. My
photos of the remarkable area have never
been any good, and I haven't scanned some
of the nice greeting cards they sell to post to
the internet. Instead, here are links to the
artist's own site, and a series of photos of the
area on Afro-Cuba website to you'll get a tiny
idea of the place. Some of the areas painted
go up as high as three or for STORIES, so it
is something one simply cannot appreciate
fully on a computer screen of any size. Like
so many other things about Cuba, they are
best appreciated by coming to the island to
see them for yourself. Salvador Gonzales
has his own site, and Afrocubaweb also has
images of the art on Callejon Hamel.

After receiving some very nice correspondence
from Ben Venegas of the Chicano Relics gallery,
I agreed to share some of my photographs of the
island with him for display on his site. He has a
host of other work there, some for sale, some for
viewing only. Here is the image I first selected:

"LAURA VIEJA" a photograph from Calle Infanta.

This woman is in her eighties and is a regular
fixture on Calle Infanta. When I take pictures of
people like this, I try, as much as possible, to
locate the subjects and give them their photos.
Last year I took the image you see and earlier
this year I found her and gave her an enlargement
of the image (8.5x11). As it so happens, I saw her
on Calle Infanta just yesterday. She's in her 80s,
but she did remember me. I asked her permission
to let me take another photo, this time smiling, and
she agreed to so that. I'm often on that street so
will try to get that image and share it soon. It's a
treat to see my work appreciated and shared by
others, so I've decided to share more work with
this gallery. It's also nice to have them to the
web-design work and to place it among other
images of interest to the viewer/reader.

Here's the gallery owner's note to me:
From: chicanorelics at
To: walterlx at
Sent: Wednesday, May 07, 2003 6:45 PM
Subject: Laura vieja

Hello Walter,  You can view La Laura Vieja on and go to the
directory of gallery wings titled Galeria
Tezcatlipoca...Gallery of photography.. you
might have to hit the refresh button going in
and once in.  Your photo and I hope a couple
more coming is the second one in the new
gallery space.  Around 10 more photographers
are posting their work latter this week.

They are from ELA caja negra studio.
You will notice the link next to your photo
to your web site.. It's great.  Alot of people
are going to see chicano relics and your
work in the future.

Ben Venegas

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