U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 05/24/2019

Dear friends,

CDA’s Spring Celebration, held in Washington, DC this week, was an absolute blast! The event wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our generous sponsors. We gathered to celebrate the individuals, organizations, companies, and policymakers who, in spite of a tough policy environment, continue to work tirelessly to promote U.S. engagement with Cuba. The evening featured an intimate and captivating performance by Aymée Nuviola, who just released her new album A Journey Through Cuban Music, recorded in Cuba with other greats like Chucho Valdés, Mayito Rivera and Septeto Santiaguero.

As we wrap up a week full of Cuba-related events in DC (CDA Spring Celebration, the Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Cuba Business Summit, 100th anniversary of the Cuban Embassy in DC, and a CDA, Oxfam, and WOLA-hosted discussion on Capitol Hill about Cuba’s civil society), today we bring to you a limited news brief with recommended readings and upcoming events on all things Cuba.

This week, in Cuba news…


CET: New Survey on Cuba’s Private Sector and U.S. Travel

Thursday, Cuba Educational Travel released a new survey of the private sector in Cuba, which found that the economic success of Cuban entrepreneurs is strongly tied to US travel to the island. Cuba’s private sector actors almost unanimously responded that an increase in US travel to the island represents more profit for their businesses and measures to curtail US travel would harm their entrepreneurial ventures.

Why Trump’s Cuba Policy is So Wrong, Arturo Lopez Levy, NACLA

In NACLA, Arturo Lopez Levy argues that the Trump administration’s recent crackdown on Cuba will be detrimental and counterproductive to the island’s future.

U.S. restrictions on Cuba travel will hurt entrepreneurs, expert says (Watch), Hatzel Vela, WPLG Local 10

Michael Zuccato, of Cuba Travel Services, said Trump administration sanctions and Cuba restrictions will significantly hurt the travel industry. He said he is most concerned about the impact the new policy will have on entrepreneurship in Cuba.

Democratic presidential candidates can’t afford to ignore Cuba, Venezuela issues. Not in Miami, Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald

Santiago argues that it’s not that Hispanics in Florida don’t care about education, the environment, climate change, the Mueller report, immigration, social justice – you name it. But what happens in their native lands affects them, particularly to those in Miami. They care in double the dose: for themselves and for the people left behind, making U.S. foreign policy a local concern. According to Santiago, Republicans have mastered to perfection the art of appearing to hold all the answers on Latin America, and she advises Democratic presidential candidates “to push the work they do, the stances they take that favor Hispanics, at every opportunity,” otherwise their silence will allow the Republicans to “take up all that oxygen in the room.”

MLB teams’ involvement with Cuban players under Justice Department scrutiny, Will Hobson, Teri Thompson & Christian Red, The Washington Post

A Justice Department investigation into Major League Baseball’s operations in Latin America and the trafficking of Cuban players has expanded in recent months, with former league and team officials among those contacted by FBI agents and called to testify before a grand jury.

At the Havana Biennial, Artists Test the Limits on Free Expression, Richard E. Feinberg, Americas Quarterly

Feinberg discusses the art displays in the recently-concluded Havana Biennial with an eye toward the art’s reflections on the current moment – political, societal, and economic – in Cuba.

Cuba’s worsening food shortages (Watch), Patrick Oppmann, CNN

CNN’s Oppmann reports that, as the US increases sanctions, and the economy of Cuba’s ally Venezuela implodes, Cubans are feeling the pain.

Cuba tries to revive its once-great railway network, Christopher Gillete, AP News

Cuba’s railway system is undergoing a major overhaul, with the government pushing a program to revamp the aging network. On Monday, Cuba’s Ministry of Transportation took possession of 80 new Chinese-made passenger cars, part of a promised consignment of 250 rail cars and locomotives the island will receive by year’s end.

China Invests In Renewable Energy In Cuba, Steve Hanley, CleanTechnica

Cuba began investing in renewable energy in 2014 and is ramping up its efforts in a push to make renewables its principal source of electricity by 2030. China is one of the leading investors in Cuba’s renewable energy program.

This influential Cuban bartender wants to preserve the elegant tradition of the island’s cantineros, M. Carrie Allan, The Washington Post

If you drop the word “cantinero” into a translator, you’ll get “bartender,” but bartending can encompass a lot of different styles and activities, and the translation doesn’t capture the elegance of the Cuban tradition. It’s that style that Julio Cabrera has long been training bartenders in, and it’s that culture that he’s aiming to preserve at Cafe La Trova on Calle Ocho in Miami, his project with chef Michelle Bernstein.

Massive Digitization Effort Is The Latest Plot Twist For Cuban Radio Soap Operas (Listen), Gwen Thompkins, NPR

After the 1959 Revolution, Cuban emigrés in Miami began making original Spanish-language radio soap operas — better known as radionovelas — that reportedly ran on more than 200 stations worldwide. The Latin American Library at Tulane University is now digitizing a large collection of those 1960s-era programs and encouraging academic study of Cold War soaps.

The Havana Biennale, a 500-Year-Old City Turned into an Open-Air Gallery, Miguel Ernesto, Pan American World

Havana became an open-air gallery during the XII edition of the Biennale, the most important visual arts event celebrated in the country, featuring artists from 52 countries whose creations took over public spaces across the Cuban capital.

Cuba’s cigar industry finds a massive market in China, CGTN America

Hand-rolled cigars are one of Cuba’s leading exports, and the island nation has recently witnessed record sales for their premium product as demand from China grew by 55 percent.


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.

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND…CUBAN STYLE!, May 25- May 27, Cubanisimo Vineyards, Salem, OR

For those in Salem, Oregon, join Cubanisimo Vineyards for Memorial Day Weekend…CUBAN STYLE! They will be having live music, tapas from Firepit Kitchen, wine, salsa lessons, raffles, and more from 12-6pm all three days! Music Schedule (1-4pm each day).

Del Sol Band, June 2, Sandra Jordan’s Barn, Healdsburg, CA

For this performance the Del Sol Band has added a Cuban Percussionist, Carlitos Medrano; and Chuck Sher of Sher Music and KRCB host of Jazz Connections, to their beloved regulars: Charity Goodin, Brad McKeague and Doug Morton. Their afternoon will feature music from Buena Vista Social Club Song List reviving the music of pre-revolutionary Cuba.

Eric Grossman, Violin Richard Steinbach, Piano American/Cuban Episodes, June 7, Weill Recital Hall, New York, NY

Violinist Eric Grossman and pianist Richard Steinbach present a concert of contemporary American and Cuban music. This performance features works by American composer Lowell Liebermann (b. 1961) and Cuban composer Jorge López Marín (b. 1949), and the program has recently been premiered in Havana, Cuba. Tickets range from $40 to $150.

Bobby Ramirez CUBANJAM, June 12, Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center, Miami, FL

CUBAOCHO Museum & Performing Art Center presents traditional music of Cuba hosted by Bobby Ramirez CUBANJAM band performing Mambo, Cha Cha Cha, Boloro, Rumba, Danzon, Charanga, Son Montuno, Guajira, Guaracha, Afro-Cuban celebrating the music of: Celia Cruz, Beny More, Arsenio Rodriguez, Jose Fajardo, Desi Arnaz, Perez Prado, Ernesto Lecuona, Ignacio Cervantes, Manuell Saumell, Miguel Matamoro, and other legends of traditional Cuban music. Musicians can join and jam with the band. Free admission!

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