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U.S. and Cuba to Start Talks on Normalizing Relations

In an unexpected move, Alan Gross is being exchanged with the (remaining) Cuban Five and the US and Cuba plan to start talks on normalizing relations. [more inside]
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles on Dec 17, 2014 - 199 comments

Vasili Arkhipov: the man who saved the world in 1962

For 13 days in October 1962, the world held its breath while "the leaders of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Cuba gambled with millions of lives to garner advantages for one country over another." One day before President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev reached apparent agreement today on a formula to end the crisis over Cuba, the nuclear doomsday clock was seconds away from midnight. Vasili Arkhipov, the Brigade Chief of Staff on submarine B-59, was one of three people who needed to approve the launching of a nuclear missile. When the USS Beale began to drop depth charges on the B-59 to force it to surface, not realizing B-59 was armed with nuclear-tipped torpedoes. The B-59's Captain Valentin Savitsky and political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov thought this was signalling an all-out attack. Arkhipov disagreed, and in doing so prevented the sub from launching a nuclear missile that could have triggered mutually assured destruction. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Nov 5, 2014 - 16 comments

“They still think Sci-Fi is an adolescent fad”

This might explain why I have a special weakness for Cuban Sci-Fi in particular. Cuba is the only country in the Spanish-speaking word that has built itself—for better or worse—following a scientific model. My weakness, for the most part, has been nothing but a desire to find out if Cubans, during Fidel Castro’s half-century of control, have dreamed Sci-Fi dreams.
At BoingBoing, Ilan Stavans talks about his discovery of Cuban science fiction. In the comments, some pushback and links on the same subject as well as Spanish language science fiction in general.
posted by MartinWisse on Sep 22, 2014 - 4 comments

Havana Bikes

Bicycling took off in Cuba in the 1990s during a period of oil scarcity, and became an important means of business and daily travel. Since then motor vehicles have returned to prominence, and new bicycle parts are in short supply. A small network of mechanics trades used parts and applies their ingenuity to maintain Cuba's aging fleet.
posted by domnit on Sep 20, 2014 - 5 comments

Beyond "Scarface" and Cigars

How to Eat Like a Cuban
"It wasn't until I was adopted into an enormous Cuban-American family, thanks to my fiancé , that I learned how to spot the Cubans—and now that I can, I see them everywhere. In three years, my extremely white self has gone from not being able to pronounce dulce de leche (don’t match those ch sounds—that’s a basic move) to knowing that I like my arroz con pollo asopao (a soupier preparation that ends up almost risotto-like).

Some of the stereotypes are true: Cubans love to party, and they can eat. Backyard pig roasts are the traditional way to celebrate pretty much any special occasion—this is a country whose two greatest exports (if they could export them) are cigars and sugar.

Bottom line: If you find some real Cubans, it's in your best interest to make friends, fast. Here's what you need to know to keep up without looking like a chump."
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Jul 17, 2014 - 32 comments

Waiting for Exile

They didn’t have a permit to rent to a foreigner, but they didn’t have a permit to rent to a Cuban, either. A German wintered in the flat upstairs, and a Chilean political-​science student lived below without a problem. I was a yanqui, so the consequences of staying there could be more grave. But Elaine was willing to risk it if I was. Especially if I was staying for more than a few months. Renting was their family’s only source of income, and they needed to save if they ever wanted to move out of Cuba. (SLVQR)
posted by Rustic Etruscan on May 28, 2014 - 4 comments

a living hell has become hopeful under Raúl Castro [?]

For more than 30 years, New York based photographer Mariette Pathy Allen has been documenting transgender culture worldwide; in 2004 she won the Lambda Literary Award for her monograph The Gender Frontier. In her new publication (amazon), TransCuba, Allen focuses on the transgender community of Cuba, especially its growing visibility and acceptance in a country whose government is transitioning into a more relaxed model of communism under Raúl Castro's presidency. (trans 101)
posted by and they trembled before her fury on May 13, 2014 - 8 comments

The story of how Yasiel Puig made his way from Cuba to Los Angeles

Escape from Cuba: Yasiel Puig's Untold Journey to the Dodgers
For close to a year Puig had been trying to force an answer, to extract himself from Fidel Castro’s state-run sports machine, which paid him $17 a month, and sneak across the tropics to a mythical north, where even benchwarmers lived like kings. Two, three, four times, maybe more, he had risked everything and fled, only to be detained by the Cuban authorities or intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard—each failure making the next attempt more urgent. Finally, in June 2012, the 21-year-old outfielder left his home in Cienfuegos, on Cuba’s southern shore, and set off by car for the northern province of Matanzas, just 90 miles from Florida. He was traveling with three companions: a boxer, a pinup girl, and a Santeria priest, the latter of whom blessed their expedition with a splash of rum and a sprinkle of chicken blood.

posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates on Apr 14, 2014 - 20 comments

What Happened to Jai Alai?

This is what a dying sport looks like. For decades, the Miami fronton was known as the “Yankee Stadium of jai alai,” a temple to the game, the site of the largest jai alai crowds in American history. Since the 1920s, the best players in the world have gathered here every winter. Jai alai used to be a very popular spectator sport in this country, with frontons up and down the Eastern seaboard. Presidents watched jai alai with their wives. Ernest Hemingway bragged about getting to hang out with jai alai players. In fact, during World War II he concocted a scheme in which jai alai players would somehow lob grenades down the open hatches of unsuspecting German U-boats. Now, the sport seems like a relic, a vision into the past. It’s vestigial, like an appendix.
posted by jason's_planet on Apr 11, 2014 - 61 comments

let's create a revolucion

US secretly creates 'Cuban twitter' for purpose of undermining the communist government and gathering data on its citizens' political leanings [more inside]
posted by St. Peepsburg on Apr 3, 2014 - 82 comments

It's Nyad not Naiad

64-year old distance swimmer Diana Nyad is back in the water again - and is just a few miles from completing the Cuba to Florida swim that has eluded her in several well-publicized attempts. (Previously, previously and previously.) Nyad's swim has already broken the Cuba to Florida distance record (for swimming without a shark cage). "You're never too old to chase your dream," Nyad has stated, while also noting that much of her earlier swimming career was motivated by anger at sexual abuse she suffered at the hand of a coach.
posted by BlahLaLa on Sep 2, 2013 - 64 comments

Ana Montes: Civil Servant, Cuban Spy

In the days following 9/11, knowing they would soon have time for little other than anti-terrorism activities, FBI agents arrested Ana Montes, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) analyst later convicted of espionage for spying on behalf of the Cuban government. Over the course of her "meteoric career" she became the agency's lead analyst for Cuban military affairs, despite having been recruited as an agent before even applying for the DIA post. [more inside]
posted by Kadin2048 on Jun 4, 2013 - 14 comments

One of my poems goes: The next one and a half pages are redacted.

The Guantánamo Memoirs of Mohamedou Ould Slahi For nearly 11 years, Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been a prisoner in Guantánamo. In 2005, he began to write his memoirs of his time in captivity. His handwritten 466-page manuscript is a harrowing account of his detention, interrogation, and abuse. Although his abuse has been corroborated by U.S. government officials, declassified documents, and independent investigators, Slahi tells his story with the detail and perspective that could only be known by himself and the people who have kept him captive. It is impossible for us to meet with him or independently verify his account. Until now, it has been impossible for him to tell his story. [ht homunculus]
posted by jaduncan on May 1, 2013 - 16 comments

Goodnight, Bebo

Bebo Valdes has passed away. A giant of Cuban music, he was a "big man whose music revealed a huge heart." He famously worked with Nat King Cole, and also handed down his musical chops to son Chucho, who would become one of the founding members of the band Irakere. There are some videos inside the fold to allow us to celebrate Bebo and his music. [more inside]
posted by jbickers on Mar 22, 2013 - 11 comments

"Are you blind? I'm on the field right now!"

Victor Mesa is the 2013 World Baseball Classic Cuban team manager. [more inside]
posted by mwhybark on Mar 6, 2013 - 10 comments

"Scholars, however, have long known a very different story"

The Real Cuban Missile Crisis: Everything you think you know about those 13 days is wrong.
posted by andoatnp on Feb 8, 2013 - 49 comments

Rebel Radio '98

In April 1998, Ninja Tune duo Up Bustle & Out traveled from Bristol to Havana. They were greeted by legendary flautist Richard Egües, who would be their guide to meeting and recording a number of Cuban musicians over the next two months. The result was the two-volume Rebel Radio: The Master Sessions, an adventurous meeting point between 'the smokeyness of Bristol and the coolness of Havana'. UB&O's Rupert Mould kept a journal which he would later publish as The Rebel Radio Diaries.
posted by mannequito on Dec 8, 2012 - 7 comments

doom ka doom ka, doom ka doom ka, doomdoomdoomdoom ka

Cuba is going to ban reggaeton [more inside]
posted by dubold on Dec 8, 2012 - 95 comments

Hold the Line. (War Isn't Always On Time.)"

Based on Robert Kennedy's book Thirteen Days, with a stunning cast and a riveting screenplay, broadcast a scant 12 years after the event... The Missiles of October. [more inside]
posted by timsteil on Oct 16, 2012 - 20 comments

like the most beautiful slum ever

This NYT slideshow of Cuba photographs does an excellent job of portraying Cuba's mood: "like the most beautiful slum ever." [more inside]
posted by univac on Sep 20, 2012 - 22 comments

You Gotta Admit She's Persistent

Diana Nyad is in the water again, trying to swim from Cuba to Florida. The "badass endurance swimmer," now 62 years old, is making her third recent attempt (after one try years ago), chalking it up to a persistent, competitive ego, despite her age. Among the biggest challenges she'll face: jellyfish and sharks. Twitter feed here. (previously, and previouslyer)
posted by BlahLaLa on Aug 19, 2012 - 22 comments

"Very interesting and attractive young women without hats"

Leftist Planet: Why do so many travel guides make excuses for dictators? [more inside]
posted by KokuRyu on Aug 15, 2012 - 75 comments

Art will Out

Two Cubans are exhibiting their art in Britain – despite being imprisoned in the US.
The pair are members of the so-called Miami Five, who were jailed in the US in 2001 at the conclusion of a controversial trial.
They are Antonio Guerrero and Gerardo Hernández and their work will be exhibited alongside that of many other cuban artists.
There is a National Committee to Free the Cuban Five.
posted by adamvasco on Apr 20, 2012 - 3 comments

In 1870, the vampires started to get organized

Vampires in Havana (YT, 1:09:58, Spanish with English subtitles, also available on Netflix streaming) is an animated film by Cuban director Juan Padron about the battle between European and American vampires for control of Vampisol, a formula which allows vampires to go out in the sun.
posted by Daily Alice on Dec 20, 2011 - 8 comments

Never underestimate a man whose name means "He Who Can Conquer Mountains"

After months of struggle to get his family out of Cuba, Orestes Lorenzo got his response. Raúl Castro, then Minister of the Armed Forces, declared "If he had the balls to steal one my MiGs, then he can come back and get his family himself!" In hindsight, that was probably the wrong thing to say. [more inside]
posted by Cobalt on Sep 26, 2011 - 68 comments

Third Time's the Charm?

61-year-old Diana Nyad is back in the water. Again. (previously) American endurance swimmer Diana Nyad is making her third attempt (and second in as many months) to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, a distance of 103 miles. Her previous attempt failed after a crippling asthma attack. At the time, she swore she wouldn't try again, but a week later she was already having second thoughts. You can track her progress here.
posted by BlahLaLa on Sep 23, 2011 - 26 comments

You Go, 61-year-old Girl!

Diana Nyad is in the water! One of the world's greatest long-distance swimmers from age 20 - 30, Nyad set records and was a media sensation. And then, after famously failing in a swim from Cuba to Florida (rough water sent her far off course), she quit -- and didn't swim a stroke for 30 years. As age 60 approached, however, she got remotivated to tackle the one challenge that got away. No shark cage, no wetsuit, and an estimated 60 hours of swimming to go. CNN's tracking map.
posted by BlahLaLa on Aug 7, 2011 - 41 comments

Vanguard of American Journalism

Current TV previously & previously, the media company founded by Al Gore after the 2000 election, has picked up the kinds of in depth long form journalism being rapidly dropped by major networks, but has been tantalizingly unavailable for those without cable; until now. They have been putting their Vanguard episodes up on their website and on YouTube. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Apr 30, 2011 - 24 comments

Luis Posada Carilles Acquitted

Luis Posada Carilles Acquitted. [more inside]
posted by lalochezia on Apr 10, 2011 - 8 comments

28 Days Later

Justin and Stephanie are travelling from Philadelphia to Auckland on the Cap Cleveland, a 220m long container ship. [more inside]
posted by jontyjago on Sep 23, 2010 - 17 comments

An interesting look at a post-presidency Fidel Castro.

The Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg gets an opportunity to sit down with former Cuban President Fidel Castro. [more inside]
posted by g.i.r. on Sep 9, 2010 - 39 comments

Owning up.

Fidel Castro takes blame for persecution of Cuban gays. 'Fidel Castro has said that he is ultimately responsible for the persecution suffered by homosexuals in Cuba after the revolution of 1959.' 'The former Cuban president told La Jornada the persecution of gays, who were rounded up at the time as supposed counterrevolutionaries and placed in forced labor camps, was a "great injustice" that arose from the island's history of discrimination against homosexuals. He said he was not prejudiced against gays, but "if anyone is responsible (for the persecution), it's me." "I'm not going to place the blame on others," he said.' But 'there is a Castro who is fighting to introduce radical changes in Cuba.' [more inside]
posted by VikingSword on Aug 31, 2010 - 117 comments

Reflections of Fidel

Fidel Castro has a blog. via
posted by lazaruslong on Aug 29, 2010 - 17 comments

Consciente estoy de mi próximo fallecimiento y lo considero un honor

On Saturday, Cuba issued an unprecedented public report on the status of an imprisoned dissident. Guillermo Fariñas Hernández began his hunger strike in February, the day after the first Cuban hunger striker death in almost forty years. He is now near death. [more inside]
posted by hat on Jul 6, 2010 - 21 comments

Havana, Cuba 1930s

Travelogue of Havana, Cuba in the 1930s. Posted to YouTube by the great Travel Film Archive (previously), apparently filmed by André de la Varre, an associate of Burton Holmes (previously).
posted by jjray on Mar 29, 2010 - 6 comments

The Elian Gonzalez shrine

The house where Elian Gonzales stayed in Florida is now a shrine. [more inside]
posted by Omon Ra on Feb 23, 2010 - 15 comments

a glimpse of the joy and genius of contemporary Cuban culture

You dig this Canto para Shango? Well then, you might want to peruse more of the Cuban folkloric and popular music and dance on offer at Boogalu Productions. Check out the top video on their YouTube channel for a dizzying display of the varieties of musical expression emanating from today's Cuba.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Feb 8, 2010 - 10 comments

His Majesty 'El Bolero'

Su Majestad 'El Bolero' - Sonidos del Mundo::2::3::4::5:: Special bolero, a musical genre with Iberian and African mergers that are installed in the Cuban archipelago in the late nineteenth century. Classical introduction of Matt Ramirez (Radio Felicidad 88.9 - Peru) who is involved in a musical gatherings led by Mabel Martinez. The same applies to journalists Eloy Perez and Agustin Jauregui Aldave. Since my senses perceived that needle to settle into the grooves of vinyl. After listening to the announcer's voice and even at that moment, unknown bolero invaded me as they say, the sweet joy of 'sad', called melancholy. I remembered that magical scene of an afternoon in which, from a makeshift place, interrupted the dance of two lovers who blushed as teenagers after being discovered. Well I wrote my Father on the album cover photo she shared with 'her pimp'. Love? There are lots... but like ours are very few people there. Now imagine how lucky I am to have been a spectator of so simple and beautiful moment. (google translate)
posted by vronsky on Dec 14, 2009 - 6 comments

Commie Ball

Cuban players have long been a mainstay in baseball. After Fidel Castro made it impossible for people to leave the island, the flow of players stopped to a drip. That changed with the defection of Rene Arocha in 1991. [more inside]
posted by reenum on Nov 8, 2009 - 4 comments

Cuba's Oil

Cuba's Undersea Oil Could Help Thaw Trade With U.S. [WAPO bugmenot] - Deep in the Gulf of Mexico, an end to the 1962 U.S. trade embargo against Cuba may be lying untapped, buried under layers of rock, seawater and bitter relations. [more inside]
posted by Burhanistan on May 16, 2009 - 29 comments

El Comandante Americano

William Alexander Morgan: The improbable story of how a high school dropout, ex-con, ranch hand, gambling enforcer, mafia gunrunner and circus fire eater from Ohio, became one of the top leaders in Castro’s revolutionary army (pops), only to be executed as a traitor after the revolution.
posted by mrducts on Dec 8, 2008 - 4 comments

CPJ's census of jailed journalists in 2008

The Committee to Protect Journalists has released the 2008 prison census. China retains the lead with Tibetan issues bringing them 28 jailed journalists. Cuba claims 2nd place with 21 jailed journalists. Burma & Eritrea almost tied for 3rd with 14 & 13, respectively. But the biggest news is internet journalists are now the largest group of journalists in jail.
posted by jeffburdges on Dec 5, 2008 - 17 comments

The Economist: The World in 2009

In 2009, a remarkably gifted politician, confronting a remarkably difficult set of challenges, will have to learn to say "No we can't", Guantánamo will prove a moral minefield, economic recovery will be invisible to the naked eye, governments must prepare for the day they stop financial guarantees, we will judge our commitment to sustainability, scientists should research the causes of religion, we will all be potential online paparazzi, English will have more words than any other language (but it's meaningless), Afghanistan will see a surge of Western (read: American) troops, Iran will continue its nuclear quest while diplomacy lies in shambles, the sea floor is the new frontier, we should rethink aging, (non-)voters will continue to thwart the European project -- but cheap travel will continue to buoy it -- though it has some unfinished business to attend to, and a Nordic defence bond will blossom.

The Economist: The World in 2009. [more inside]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane on Nov 27, 2008 - 31 comments

Not-so-faded glory

Perhaps you think you've had your fill of photographs of decaying architecture and abandoned buildings. If so, the rich color and play of light in Michael Eastman's beautiful body of work from Cuba, Europe, and the U.S. may change your mind. His site is flash - for non-flash folks, the Duane Reed Gallery has additional works, including his B&W portfolios on horses, landscapes, and succulents. (no relation to the Kodak family; via BB-Blog)
posted by madamjujujive on Aug 23, 2008 - 15 comments

The Assassination of John Glenn

"Operation Northwoods [pdf], which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war." [YouTube] [more inside]
posted by blue_beetle on Aug 12, 2008 - 54 comments

Pedal digital transfer

When the wire won't carry your subversive tract, distribute your digital screed via flash drive. Last month, students at a prestigious computer science university videotaped an ugly confrontation they had with Ricardo Alarcón, the president of the National Assembly. Mr. Alarcón seemed flummoxed when students grilled him on why they could not travel abroad, stay at hotels, earn better wages or use search engines like Google. The video spread like wildfire ...[passed via flash drives]... and seriously damaged Mr. Alarcón’s reputation in some circles. [more inside]
posted by caddis on Mar 6, 2008 - 19 comments

Castro Retires

Castro Retires. "I neither will aspire to nor will I accept -- I repeat -- I neither will aspire to nor will I accept, the position of president of the council of state and commander in chief," says Castro in Cuban newspaper Granma - where he regularly posts his thoughts on international news. [more inside]
posted by crossoverman on Feb 19, 2008 - 132 comments

Beny Moré, golden voice of Cuba

While many of Cuba's top musical figures left the country to pursue their careers in the US and elsewhere, the suave, hugely popular singer Benny Moré stayed. While he is a much loved and revered figure in Cuba, this great vocalist, who died in 1963, is not nearly as widely known outside the island nation as he should be. Viva Benny Moré! [NOTE: See hover-overs for link descriptions] [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Jan 26, 2008 - 16 comments

Organic Cuba without fossil fuels.

Organic Cuba without fossil fuels.
posted by wilful on Jan 24, 2008 - 26 comments

Hezbollah in South Florida?

The coddled "terrorists" of South Florida. Examining our governments double standard with regard to providing a safe haven for terrorists. Alpha 66 continues to carry out attacks.
posted by skjønn on Jan 14, 2008 - 33 comments

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