U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 04/26/2019

Dear friends,

Greetings from Havana! Following last week’s announcement of more travel restrictions and more sanctions against Cuba, CDA staff is in Cuba, on the ground, assessing reactions, and doing so alongside a delegation of policymakers. We aim to show these congressional actors the realities that Cuban people face today and the impact of U.S. policy.

Because we firmly believe that normalizing relations with Cuba is in the U.S. national interest and offers the best opportunity for Cubans to write the next chapter in their own country’s future. Forging constructive U.S.-Cuba relations will also have a beneficial and lasting impact on both U.S. and Cuban societies.

During these challenging times, we commit to working harder and smarter than ever to advance engagement with Cuba. We will not allow the current political climate to hold back our efforts. On the contrary, we will continue pushing forward to increase our educational and advocacy activities, to bring influential U.S. actors to Cuba to learn about the impact our policies on the island, and to celebrate the many ties between our two peoples.

We are sincerely grateful for your ongoing support, knowing that without you we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. Amidst the current crackdown on the Cuban people, we ask that you stick with us in our everyday efforts to bring about positive change to U.S-Cuba relations. Join us now on the front lines of educating, advocating, and organizing.

CDA is THRILLED to announce the headliner for our Spring Celebration, Monday, May 20, in Washington, DC. We will celebrate U.S.-Cuba ties with an intimate performance by Latin Grammy-winning Cuban singer, pianist, and composer Aymée Nuviola. Message info@democracyinamericas.org for sponsorship opportunities.

This week, in Cuba news… we are sharing a limited news brief of recommended readings, films, music, and more on all things Cuba. Enjoy!

With love, from Havana.


Is Cuba Hoping to Emulate China With Its New Constitution?, Luis Carlos Battista & Ricardo Barrios, World Politics Review

Former CDA Rivers Fellow, Luis Carlos Battista, and Inter-American Dialogue’s Ricardo Barrios discuss the similarities between Cuba’s recently adopted constitution and China’s 1982 constitution. They argue that the Cuban government is influenced by Chinese precedent, and is hoping that the new constitution will bring about similar change and opportunities to Cuba. Battista and Barrios assert the Cuban government must realize that “the state does not need to control everything.”

Cuba orders further cuts to power generation: newspaper, Marc Frank, Reuters

Reuters reports on the Cuban government’s decision to reduce electricity generation as yet another sign of the country’s current economic downturn. Ciego de Avila’s provincial Communist Party newspaper, Invasor, reported that local generation would be cut 10 percent to save fuel as part of a nation-wide reduction ordered on April 18. According to Reuters, more than 95 percent of the country’s electricity is generated by oil-fired plants, with oil that Cuba already struggles to import due to Venezuela’s collapse in production and U.S. sanctions imposed on companies carrying Venezuelan fuel to Cuba.

It’s Official: the Monroe Doctrine Is Back. And as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose Is to Serve the Neoliberal Order., Peter Bolton, Council on Hemispheric Affairs

Peter Bolton discusses the Trump administration’s latest attempt to revive the unpopular Monroe Doctrine by leading an aggressive policy against Cuba. Bolton argues that the Monroe Doctrine has “evolved to become intricately linked with the imposition and maintenance of the global neoliberal order,” which he says shines a light on the most fundamental factor that has motivated U.S. hostility against Cuba since 1959, private property. Bolton assures that the hostility has never been predicated on human rights concerns, instead “threatening US economic interests is the one thing that Washington never forgives.”

Cuba Versus Estados Unidos: El Pueblo Cubano Siempre Pierde,  Mónica Baró Sánchez, el Toque

Mónica Baró Sánchez expresses understanding for the pain and anger of many Cuba-Americans who lost their properties and were forced to flee in the aftermath of the 1959 Revolution, however, she argues that the Trump administration’s newly imposed restrictions on Cuba are not really motivated to repair any damage but rather seek to “take advantage of the existing damage, of the pain of the people, of their very understandable resentments, to try to fulfill purposes that are not noble at all.”


WATCH: Guava Island, Amazon Prime

Donald Glover’s new film “Guava Island” co-starred by Rihanna and filmed in Cuba takes viewers on a journey that reveals music’s power to influence social change. Cuba’s backdrop and key scenes featuring Afro-Cuban drumming allow Cuban’s own history with artistic repression to ground Glover’s parallel story.

WATCH: The Pedrito Martinez Group, NPR Tiny Desk

This particular performance at the Tiny Desk is highlighted by a stunning, unaccompanied conga solo that dazzled both neophytes and long-time fans of Afro-Cuban music.

WATCH: A Translator, National Gallery of Art, April 27 at 2:30 pm

In A Translator (Un Traductor), Rodrigo and Sebastián Barriuso mix documentary elements with a fictional tale to catch a critical historical moment when Cuba’s economy was failing, unemployment was rife, and the country’s citizens were beginning to feel more insulated than ever.

LISTEN: ISIS in Sri Lanka, Cruelty to Cuba, Ukranian Elections, Pod Save the World

Cuba expert Marguerite Rose Jiménez joins Pod Save the World to discuss Trump’s cruel rollback of Cuba policy.

LISTEN: Meet Cuba’s Emerging Artist, Cimafunk, AS/ COA Latin America in Focus

From Pinar del Rio to Havana, Paris to New York, Cimafunk is taking his Afro-Cuban sound on the road. AS/COA Online’s Elizabeth Gonzalez sat down with the emerging musician and AS/COA Music Director Sebastián Zubieta to discuss the evolution of Cimafunk’s sound at home and abroad.

LISTEN: How Angélique Kidjo Brings Out The Africa Of Celia Cruz’s Catalog, NPR

Last week, vocalist Angélique Kidjo released Celia, a tribute to Cuban vocalist Celia Cruz that is every bit as good. Kidjo brings the African roots of Cruz’s music front and center in majestic Afrobeat grooves on every track.

PLAYLISTS: itunes’ Buena Vista Social Club: Influences, Essential Cuban Music, The New Cuba, and Spotify’s El Top 50 de Cuba and Cubatón.


A Cuba Compendium, April 13-27, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

This anthology of new and old cinematic interpretations includes a compelling variety of ideas, approaches, styles, and understandings concerning the great Caribbean landmass just off the southern coast of the United States. Inspiring everything from an exuberant love letter to a fictional foray to an essayistic tract, the enigmatic island nation of Cuba continues to fascinate artistic sensibilities both within and beyond its borders.

Havana Biennial 2019, April 12- May 12, 2019, Havana, Cuba

The 13th Havana Biennial, the largest visual arts event in Cuba, will be held from April 12 to May 12, 2019, with the commitment that the capital city of the island become a “cultural corridor.” More than 100 exhibitions from 852 artists, mostly Cuban, will be showcased in studios and public spaces across the city of Havana.

Cuban Visions Program 3:  Economics 101, May 5, Chicago, IL

Film screening of La Singular Historia de Juan sin Nada (The Unique Story of Unlucky Juan), a comprehensive, accessible examination of the particularities of the Cuban economy. Using a fictional worker named Juan as an example, the film shows how the economy affects the daily lives of ordinary citizens – and how badly it squeezes those who don’t have access to hard currency. Post-screening presentation: Cuban journalist and blogger (La Joven Cuba), Harold Cárdenas will discuss the current state of the Cuban economy and how it relates to Cuba’s new constitutional reforms.

Zilia Sánchez: Soy Isla (I Am an Island), until May 19, Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

The exhibition traces Sánchez’s artistic journey from her early days in Cuba to her extended visits to Europe and residence in New York, and finally her move to Puerto Rico, where she now lives and works. The exhibition title, I Am an Island,​ serves as a personal metaphor for Sanchez’s experience as an islander—connected to and disconnected from both the mainland and mainstream art currents.

Cuban American Youth Orchestra, Juntos en Armonía Tour, May 20-27, 2019, Havana, Cuba

CAYO embarks on its first full orchestra tour. Under the leadership of conductor James Ross, CAYO’s program will showcase the world premiere of a new composition by Guido López-Gavilán. Building on the success of pilot programs conducted over the past year, CAYO’s inaugural tour harnesses the power of cultural diplomacy to support Cuban musicians and promote harmony and understanding between the U.S. and its long-estranged neighbor.

One of Those Havana Nights, May 23 to 27, Teatro Bellas Artes and Teatro Mella, Havana, Cuba

Tim McGraw will be in Havana for the first time ever! The Grammy Award-winning superstar will perform two unique acoustic shows during the trip at Teatro Bellas Artes and at renowned Teatro Mella. Tim will be joined by some amazing Cuban artists, including Carlos Varela, Tradicionales de los 50, and the GRAMMY® Award-winning Cuban music legends Los Van Van.

Support CDA: Click here to support CDA’s work bringing you the Cuba Central News Brief each week and promoting a U.S. policy toward Cuba based on engagement and recognition of Cuba’s sovereignty. Make your 100% tax-deductible gift now!

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