We hope you and yours are safe and healthy. This week marks the anniversary of the flag raising ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. Five years ago, then Secretary of State John Kerry presided over a ceremony to mark the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
We invite you all to listen to the second episode of the newly launched 90 Miles Podcast. This week’s episode is hosted by CDA friend Collin Laverty and features an interview with Marta Deus, co-founder of the Havana delivery service Mandao and analysis by Amb. Jeffrey DeLaurentis. Check it out here!
Be sure to check out Alien Cuba’s new line of t-shirts called “Solo es cuestión de amor” (it’s only a matter of love) celebrating LGBTQ+ pride. Profits from t-shirt sales will be used to support 11M Cuba, an online community which focuses on the rights, public policies, social initiatives, and challenges of the LGBTQ+ community in Cuba.
We’ll be taking a break from our news blast for the next couple of weeks and will resume on September 4 to deliver the latest Cuba news and analysis to your inbox.
For the past few weeks we have been featuring Cuban and Cuban-American economists and engagement advocates in our news blast. This week we interviewed Adriana Heredia Sánchez, a Cuban economist and professor at the University of Havana. Adriana is also an entrepreneur and is co-founder and CEO of Havana-based business Beyond Roots.
Before this week’s news, an interview with Adriana Heredia Sánchez
CDA: How would you describe your business, Beyond Roots? What inspired you to create Beyond Roots?
Adriana: Beyond Roots is an enterprise focused on promoting Afro-Cuban culture from different perspectives. We work in three main ways: organizing educational experiences where visitors are immersed in Afro-Cuban culture, managing the first and only Afro-style store in Cuba which sells everything from hair care products to accessories to clothing items, and organizing educational events promoting love and respect for Afro-Cuban traditions.
We founded Beyond Roots in 2016 in a context marked by the increase in the arrival of tourists to the island, mainly from the United States. We identified that people who came from the U.S. were interested in learning about the culture of the country they visit, as well as achieving a true connection with its people. This motivated us to do something different. We are from a community where Afro-Cuban traditions are deeply rooted, and we decided to show the world the importance of these traditions for us and how they are an indissoluble part of Cuban identity. This is how the idea of starting to offer experiences on Afro-Cuban culture with the support of our community of neighbors arose. What began as the dream of two people, today has become the commitment of 35.
CDA: How do you partner with other Afro-Cuban/Black businesses and organizations in Cuba/around the world? How would you like to expand Beyond Roots in the future?
Adriana: Our development as a business has been largely driven by the alliances we have managed to establish. From the beginning, many American travel agencies which wanted to show their clients Cuba’s connection to African culture as an Afro-diasporic country began to be interested in our work and decided to choose Beyond Roots as their partner in Cuba for this purpose. Our value proposition was just what they were looking for. In Cuba, we have had a similar experience. Since the store opened we began to weave together a whole network that connects a growing number of projects, businesses, and organizations that also advocate to defend and highlight the African heritage on the island.
In the future, we hope to expand our field of action to the entire island, not only in relation to tourist experiences but also expanding the store. However, the current situation the world is going through has led to an abrupt reduction in tourism, as well as the interruption of supply chains, and Cuba has not been oblivious to this reality which is further exacerbated by the intensification of U.S. sanctions against the island. This has forced us to completely rethink our business model which is highly dependent on American tourism. That is why we are working on the launch of an online sales platform of our Afro t-shirts in order to maintain the connection with the community that follows and supports us from the United States. If they can’t come to us, then we’ll go to them.
To continue reading the full interview with Adriana Heredia Sánchez, visit the “In Cuba” section.
Cuba experienced an increase in COVID-19 cases this week, with 558 positive COVID-19 cases at the time of publication. Yesterday, Cuba recorded one death, bringing its total deaths since March to 89. For a graph of case numbers since March, see here. For a detailed breakdown of all COVID-19 data, visit this website.
This week, in Cuba news…
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