SKATING IN CUBA AFTER THE EMBARGO…
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“The thing that I hated in Barcelona is that nobody would talk to you,” Che said. “They’re all a bunch of pros, filming videos there, skating with their iPods on and not talking to anybody. That sucks. People are too concerned about how they can market themselves to be a professional and stuff like that. It’s turning into a job, and people are losing the passion.” A brilliant look into Cuba’s skate scene by Daniel Oberhaus for Vice Sports. It was high noon on a weekday in June, and I was sweating profusely as I fought my way through the dense, overgrown park that surrounds a massive sporting complex just south of Havana’s Vedado neighborhood. I was searching for Cuba’s only skate park, rumored to be somewhere in the area, but every time I approached someone to ask for directions to the patinodromo, all I got was vague hand gestures in contradictory directions. On the verge of succumbing to the heat and humidity, I heard the telltale clatter of polyurethane wheels on concrete. Pushing through the jungle scrub of palm and Marabou weed, I nearly fell face-first into an empty man-made pond. The patinodromo was in rough shape. Two thirds of it was unusable, covered in standing water and detritus. The remaining third was an amalgam of concrete ramps and benches, metal quarter pipes, pyramids, and a tower ramp. Murals and graffiti—mostly variations on the mantra “patina o muerte” (“skate or die”), a play on Che Guevara’s famous call to […]

Havana’s skateboard subculture…
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HAVANA – Some call Che Pando the godfather of Havana’s skateboarding scene, and the 40-year-old tattoo artist can still recall how tough things were in the 1980s when he and a handful of other pioneers first started shredding in public squares. Like listening to rock music in the 1960s, interest in such a uniquely American import marked the young skaters as socially suspicious, and sometimes for rough treatment by police and arrest, though their experiences were perhaps not all that different from confrontations between U.S. skaters and civic authorities concerned about the destruction of public property. “One time we were a big group of kids skating on the smooth floor in front of the Havana Libre,” Pando said. “The hotel security and the cops came running out.” “It was difficult because we were misunderstood by most people,” added Pando, who was named after revolutionary commander Ernesto “Che” Guevara. “They used to kick us out everywhere.” Attitudes have largely done a 180 ollie, to borrow the term for a popular aerial manoeuvr, and today a small but thriving urban tribe of pierced youths prowls Havana’s streets, looking to have fun and, just maybe, land the perfect trick. Familiarity has come through high-profile visits by professional skateboarders and brands such as Red Bull; a brief partnership with a local cigarette company that helped build a skate ramp, and a series of semi-sanctioned or at least tolerated trick competitions. A program documenting skaters’ lives even aired on state television, the official arbiter of […]