Surf Revolution Cuba – Huck Magazine 2009
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    This article originally appeared in Huck 15 – The Maya Gabeira Issue from summer 2009. As relations thaw between Cuba and the US, and talk of lifting the blockade is in the air, Huck is thinking about how the blockade has affected young people and how their lives will change if it’s lifted. In this archive piece from summer 2009, we headed to Cuba to uncover the island’s underground surf scene. Cuban surfers are among the most dedicated in the world, risking imprisonment to find materials and relying on donations from foreigners to get boards and leashes. Never mind the blockade. Psssst, psssst…” Eduardo Valdés, head of the Asociación de Surfistas de Cuba, looks uncharacteristically shifty as he peers through a wire fence, trying to attract the attention of a worker at Cuba’s national plastic factory. It’s here that the island’s chairs, tables and packaging are produced and employees, like in every industry in Cuba, supplement their meagre wages by selling the materials of their trade on the black market. Pretending to take a cigarette break, a man sidles up to the fence three metres to the left of Eduardo. Looking in opposite directions, a rapid-fire exchange takes place. “What you want?” “Three bottles of resin.” “45 CUC.” “No way, man. 30.” “40.” “35.” “Wait for me outside the bar around the corner. Give me thirty minutes. I need the money now.” Forty tense minutes later and the worker appears clutching a flimsy plastic bag containing three cylindrical […]

From Garvey to Wilmot – A Rasta Journey.
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  An amazing look into Growing Up a Surfer and Rasta in Jamaica. It Means Being More of an Outsider Than You’d Think.  by Chris Dixon Marine biologist, fisherman and musician Inilek Wilmot talks about the myth and reality of growing up a Rastafarian – and a surfer – in Jamaica. I grew up Rasta in Jamaica; I also grew up surfing on that rock. I didn’t and don’t however, see myself as a ‘Rasta-surfer’ – distinct from other surfers my family and I knew. The Jamaican surfing community was – and still is – so small that we’ve only ever seen ourselves as just surfers. We were spread across Jamaican cultural and socioeconomic borders but were a small enough tribe that there weren’t really any sub-groups – except perhaps being from Kingston, Bull Bay (the coastal community near Kingston where I grew up), or out east in rural Portland. Each of these subsets had their unique qualities, but whenever and wherever we came together, the fact that we were surfers has always overridden everything else. But to persons outside the surfing community, my Rastafarian family was peculiar. Thanks to my dad, an incredible surfer who believed the sport could present an opportunity for Jamaica’s underprivileged kids, and a well-known reggae musician who also had a role on a Jamaican TV drama called “Royal Palm Estates,” surfing skyrocketed into Jamaican attention when we were teenagers. Then, like it or not, my three brothers and sister became minor celebrities. So we […]

Wrinkles of the City: Havana, Cuba
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There is nothing more romantic about a revolution than its people. Two artists capture Cuba’s romance with life and share it on the streets of Havana. This short film documents the beauty of such a project. A must see…  

The Cuban Pleybo vs The Goons Of Doom
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Check out how to create a crude Cuban surfboard in the time it takes The Goons Of Doom to sing ‘Slapper’. It took me about one week to source a small piece of scrap plywood. This is because in Cuba nothing is wasted. Everything is recycled and re-used. The Pleybo is a Cuban surfboard that was, and still is, very common around Cuba’s beaches…

The dark side of Cuban Hip Hop.
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The plan of the US Agency for International Development was seeking the same purposes as the frustrated ZunZuneo network and its Latin American travellers contractors: to enlist youth to promote a movement against the Cuban government, “no matter putting in danger those it had recruited “says an investigation by the news agency Associated Press (AP). The documents obtained by the AP show that for more than two years, USAID secretly infiltrated the Hip Hop movement on the island and recruited several rap musicians without their consent for this subversive purpose. The terms for explaining the operation were also repeated: “break the information blockade” and create a network of young people who seek a “social change”. The AP is scathing in its assessment: “But the operation was executed with little professionalism and failed miserably.” “Any claim that our work is secret or hidden is simply false,” said USAID in a statement Wednesday. The revelations have taken up space in major US and European media, reports PL. The program again manipulated people who were unaware of being part of a subversive project of USAID, and the AP considers that it ended up hurting the active Hip Hop community on the island. Other analysts weigh up that some of its members were turned into instruments against national stability, so ended up leaving the country, or failing to present their shows with lyrics that offended the authorities. In this new anti-Cuban monster also reiterated the name of its executors: The program was conceived and […]

New Beginnings for Cuba…
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Following 56 years of a revolution that has out-lived 10 US presidents, more than 5000 acts of terrorism, trade sanctions and so much more… here is today’s statement from the Cuban president: Statement by the Cuban president (December 17, 2014) Fellow countrymen, Since my election as President of the State Council and Council of Ministers I have reiterated in many occasions our willingness to hold a respectful dialogue with the United States on the basis of sovereign equality, in order to deal reciprocally with a wide variety of topics without detriment to the national Independence and self-determination of our people. This stance was conveyed to the US Government both publicly and privately by Comrade Fidel on several occasions during our long standing struggle, stating the willingness to discuss and solve our differences without renouncing any of our principles. The heroic Cuban people, in the wake of serious dangers, aggressions, adversities and sacrifices has proven to be faithful and will continue to be faithful to our ideals of independence and social justice. Strongly united throughout these 56 years of Revolution, we have kept our unswerving loyalty to those who died in defense of our principles since the beginning of our independence wars in 1868. Today, despite the difficulties, we have embarked on the task of updating our economic model in order to build a prosperous and sustainable Socialism. As a result of a dialogue at the highest level, which included a phone conversation I had yesterday with President Obama, we have been able […]

New Restrictions Threaten Cuban Skateboarding…
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Thanks to Rene Lecour at Amigo Skate Cuba Cuban state media recently announced new customs restrictions on the amount of items allowed in the country through commercial travel. While the government says that the new rule is intended to cut down on a growing black market that undermines recent economic reforms, many fear unintended consequences. For example, the fledging Cuban skateboarding scene relies on skateboards and gear brought in from the outside world. Skaters on the island feel that the new rule may change their way of life. It happened at 23 y G, an intersection in Havana, Cuba. It’s nothing much really. Just a few small benches spread out among scrawny trees that offer scant protection from the sun’s glare. But for one scrawny kid that day some 12 years ago, the humble parcel of land seemed like Eden. At age 13, Fernando Verdecia Maseda finally found some other skaters. Maseda would go on to become one of Cuba’s greatest skaters – but he had to emigrate to Miami to find widespread respect for his skills. Years earlier, Maseda first discovered skateboarding at his next-door neighbor’s house. The enterprising neighbor would let him play a half-hour’s worth of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater for 5 Cuban pesos on a well-worn PlayStation. “In the beginning, I thought that Tony Hawk was just a character,” Maseda said through a translator. “But when I saw the real videos in the game of him, then I wanted to go out and do it.” Soon after, […]

USAID – All American and Global Joke…
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The following is a declaration by Cubans hoping for real change… US leaders, interested in showing their electorates and Congress that they are concerned about and actively involved in promoting “democracy” in Cuba, take misguided steps time and time again, deploying counterproductive programs aimed at impelling a “democratic transition” on the island. Not long ago, it was the Twitter-like Zunzuneo program, and now we are hearing about the sending of young Latin Americans to Cuba, tasked with “identifying” potential young leaders for “transition or destabilization” plans, depending on one’s perspective. Either US leaders do not care one bit about the struggle of the Cuban people to set a true process of peaceful democratization in motion and build a society better than the one they have now, or they are so stubbornly set on prolonging the situation the people of Cuba are in to demonstrate how unviable “socialism” is that they are simply incapable of doing something sensible. The one thing these kinds of programs implemented by USAID are good for is giving the Cuban government more pretexts to continue with its repressive policies at home and to step up its “customs and immigration controls.” If it is truly interested in helping the Cuban people develop a process of democratization, what the United States should do is unconditionally lift all of its absurd, discriminatory and criminal blockade-embargo laws, laws which, as we have mentioned in previous articles, do not affect the living standards of the leadership in the least and do […]

Cleaning Havana’s Ocean Front – One Step at a Time…
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Havana’s ocean drive sea wall welcomes thousands of people every day, particularly during the summer months. Young people also bathe in this area of Cuba’s northern coast, even though it is technically illegal. As many Cubans and foreigners gather along this coastal strip, especially the area between the US Interests Section and Old Havana’s Prado street, the water tends to be littered with garbage that are thrown onto the reef and sea (most intensely during Havana’s summer carnivals). In response to this, the members of the Guardabosques environmental project, a group that is part of the Observatorio Critico network, and other friends have carried out clean-up campaigns in the area near Prado street. The first clean-up took place in 2010, the second in 2012 and we are planning another for August, 2014. During each of our two previous sanitation campaigns, we have pulled out more than ten sacks of garbage, bottles, paper, plastic bags, cans, broken glass, bits of driftwood and all manner of waste materials from the water. People always give us a strange look – we look “suspicious” to them – but, when they approach us and we have a chance to talk, after we explain to them why we do what we do, some help us, others praise and congratulate us and others tell us we’re crazy and that what we do is pointless. Generally speaking, we do manage to draw people’s attention to the need to avoid throwing garbage into the sea, of looking after beauty […]

Misfits Of Bull Bay – Maroons of the ocean
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  Jamaica has many ties with the island of Cuba.  They are neighbours. Fragments of Jamaica’s political past stood beside Castro’s ideology without apology. They fought similar battles against Babylon. Out of Cuba came some of the Rastafarian movement’s greatest figures: Mortimer Planno (Rasta Elder), Rita Marley, and the godfather of Jamaican ska, Lorenzo “Laurel” Aikken. Both islands are rich in Africa’s past and present, from Jamaica’s Rastafarian movement to Cuba’s Yoruba, and so much more. Both islands have been, and still are at  the forefront of the green revolution. Both islands have a love affair with Ethiopia and all things African. Cuban president Fidel Castro was quoted in August 1979 by the Associated Press as saying he was frustrated by the lack of enthusiasm from his citizens, who would prefer to volunteer in Ethiopia then their own country. “Hundreds of thousands turn up wanting to go to Ethiopia, or Angola, or wherever. Demonstrating their revolutionary political consciousness in somethings, but when it is required on a daily basis, it fails to appear.” Outside the US, Cuba had the largest number of Marcus Garvey’s UNIA  (Universal Negro Improvement Association) branches. Garvey was a Jamaican political leader, journalist and entrepreneur whose teachings gave rise to the modern Rastafarian movement. The connections could be listed endlessly, but the most important tie of all is that both islands have a small community of grassroots surfers who have bonded over recent years, thanks to Jamaican Icah Wilmot. He travelled to Cuba back in February  2010 to compete against the Cubans in […]

Brutal in Cuba – It’s back again…
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      Bands from four countries will make the musical scale in six Cuban cities as part of the summer edition of Brutal Fest. European groups, exponents of extreme metal, will seduce a national audience by participating in the Brutal Summer Fest, a traveling event that will come in its eighth edition to six cities, from 15 to 24 of this month. Festival organizers told the press that this time the bands Dead Cowboys, from France; Carnal Demise, Finland; Insanity, Switzerland, and Neid, from Italy, a country represented for the first time, will be performing at the event. The tour will begin in Holguín on the 15th Then will follow presentations in Bayamo (August 16), Santiago de Cuba (17), Camaguey (19) and Santa Clara (21). In the Maxim Rock in Havana the capital followers expect to have these groups for two nights: 22 and 23; the last stop of the tour will be Pinar del Río (24th). Local groups will accompany each show, said David Chapet, general producer of Brutal Fest. Also the director of the French label Brutal Beatdwon said this festival, sponsored by the Cuban Rock Agency and the record label he leads, has boosted, since its inception in 2008, the exchange of experiences between Cuban and foreign artists; hence it is highly anticipated and fills the participants with enthusiasm. This time around for the island Switch, Deadpoint, Stigma DC, Congregation, The Shepal, The one who bleeds, Wishbone, Metastasys, Parasomnia, Resistenzia and Trend are performing.  

Cuba Skate team up with YMG Films…
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Miles Jackson from Cuba Skate has to be one of the hardest working guys I know. He never f#@king gives up and this is why he is one of the most amazing guys in the international skateboarding community. This time he has teamed up with the legends from YMG Films to create some amazing footage with Cuba’s street-skating freaks. Check out this preview of their work…

Surfing The Embargo – Alexa Van Sickle
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“I had my fears about landing in Havana with a surfboard. The things aren’t illegal, per se, but the Cuban government—until its recent moves to make traveling out of the country simpler for Cubans—had been sensitive about any flotation devices that could aid would-be defectors. And there was that 2011 report in state-run media that the CIA tried to bring in surveillance equipment disguised as surfboards in a fake surfing contest.” – Alexa Van Sickle, roadsandkingdoms.com Check out this honest and amazing look into the lives of Cuba’s small surfing community and the struggles they face just to get into the water. Surfing The Embargo – Alexa Van Sickle  

Patinas Sin Fronteras En Cuba Trailer
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PATINAS SIN FRONTERAS (SKATE WITHOUT BORDERS) Check out this 6 minute trailer by film buff and street artist Spencer Keeton Cunningham. He recently created this while visiting the island of Cuba with the guys from Amigo Skate Cuba. I traveled to Cuba this month with some close friends to donate skateboards to skateboarders on the island. During our stay I shot a film titled “Patinas Sin Fronteras.” The film documents current conditions of skateboarders in Cuba. In Cuba there are no skate shops of any kind and no ways of getting skateboards or any of the necessary equipment needed to skate. The only way for skateboarders to continue to skate in Cuba is if people continue to share boards, wheels, trucks, etc with each other. This is the trailer for the film shot in Cuba. The title of the film translates to “Skate Without Borders” or “You Skate Without Borers” Cinematografía Chris Miller Y Spencer Keeton Cunningham Special Thanks: Amigo Skate Cuba, Rene Lecour, Matt Eversole, Roberto Gomez, George Lorenzo, Anthony Perez, Mike Freeman, Rodney, Jimi, Gordito,Will Sprott, Jose Rojo, Carlos and Jen at ES7, El Che, Jonathon Hexner, and 23 G

Maestra The Film – A Must See…
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Cuba 1961 – 250,000 volunteer teachers join the national literacy campaign. Almost half of them were under 18 and over half of them were women. Together they taught a nation to read and write – and their lives would never be the same. The Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961 dramatically changed the nation’s literacy levels within one year by organizing over 100,000 volunteers — over half of who were women — to teach classes in the rural areas of the country. In 2005, our documentary crew began collecting testimonies of women literacy teachers, exploring how this experience influenced their lives & sense of self, as well as the future of their nation. This film brought tears to my eyes. Thank you. It is beautiful. Alice Walker Writer and Peacemaker Pulitzer Prize Winner Author of “The Color Purple” Check out this amazing documentary by Catherine Murphy at www.maestrathefilm.org