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Conflict Kitchen

Serves food from countries with which the United States is in conflict


Our CURRENT Focus is on the Food, Culture, and Politics of Cuba

Events

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Event: The Lunch Hour (Cuba)

When: Noon-1:30 Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Where: Conflict Kitchen

Join us for an informal discussion about the future of Cuba with local Cuban-Americans Victor Diaz and Betty Cruz. Betty Cruz is Manager of Special Initiatives for the Office of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. Victor H. Diaz was born in Pinar del Rio, Cuba and… MORE >

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Event: Guest Instagrammer: Angelica Salazar

When: July 19th - August 2nd, 2015

Over the next two weeks, Angelica Salazar, a 33 year-old Chicana traveling in Habana, will take over our Instagram account. #Oshun is sun gazing in Callejón de Hamel. Art plus spirit. #lahabana by Guest Instagrammer Angelica @knowmadica. A photo posted by Conflict Kitchen (@conflictkitchen) on… MORE >

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Event: Guest Instagrammer: Yosvany Deya Martinez

When: July 5th - July 19th, 2015

Over the next two weeks,Yosvany Deya Martinez, a 42 year-old Cuban living in Habana, will be taking over our Instagram account. Guest instagrammer #Yosbani #Cuba Comida Típica A photo posted by Conflict Kitchen (@conflictkitchen) on Jul 5, 2015 at 9:18am PDT CK: Can you tell… MORE >

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Event: Juneteenth Celebration at Conflict Kitchen

When: Friday and Saturday, June 19-20, 2015

Where: Conflict Kitchen

Stop by Conflict Kitchen to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth. Dine with us for lunch or dinner Friday, June 19 – Saturday, June 20 to sample the cuisine of seven Pittsburgh African American and black culinary artists who have taken over our menu to celebrate… MORE >

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Event: The Juneteenth Lunch Hour

When: Saturday, June 20, 2015 at 12 noon

Where: Conflict Kitchen

Please join us for lunch and an informal discussion about the history of Juneteenth and the conflict between the U.S. and Black America.  Juneteenth is a celebration of the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas on June 19, 1865  and enforcement of the… MORE >

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Event: Guest Instagrammer: Carlos Ernesto Escalona

When: June 4th - June 18th, 2015

Over the next two weeks, Carlos Ernesto Escalona, a 31 year-old Cuban photographer living in Habana, will be taking over our Instagram account. Guest Instagrammer Kako Escalona in #TopeDeCollantes #Cuba A man walks into the forest of Topes de Collantes. A photo posted by Conflict… MORE >

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Event: Guest Instagrammer: Fernando Medina

When: June 20th - July 4th, 2015

Over the next two weeks, Fernando Medina, a 25 year-old Cuban photo-journalist living in Habana, will be taking over our Instagram account. Guest Instagramer – Fernando Medina. The girl with red dress #cuba #oldhavana #dailylife #portrait A photo posted by Conflict Kitchen (@conflictkitchen) on Jun… MORE >

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Event: The Lunch Hour (Iran)

When: May 11, 2015

Where: Conflict Kitchen

Please join us for lunch and an informal discussion about life and current events in Iran as well as Persian life in Pittsburgh.  Special guests include: Reza Azimi was born in Tehran, Iran and is currently a PhD candidate in Electrical and Computer Engineering at… MORE >

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Event: #YoTambienExijo: A Restaging of Tania Bruguera’s “Tatlin’s Whisper 6″

When: Monday, April 13th from noon-3pm

Where: Conflict Kitchen

Conflict Kitchen is joining Creative Time, Hammer Museum, Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas Museum of Art, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and many others to re-stage “Tatlin’s Whisper #6″ on Monday April 13 at noon. All are invited to step up and speak freely… MORE >

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Event: Cuban Dance Class and Lunch Hour w/ Malpaso

When: February 23, 2015 10am-12:30pm

Where: Alloy Studios (5530 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206)

We are excited to co-host a Cuban Lunch Hour at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater with Malpaso Dance Company’s founder, artistic director, and choreographer Osnel Delgado. Join us for just for the lunch discussion or sign up also for a community dance class with Malpaso at… MORE >

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Event: Special Cuban Dinner Event

When: Tuesday, June 24, 2014| 6:00 pm

Where: Under the outdoor tent next to Conflict Kitchen

Rethinking the Revolution: U.S.-Cuba Relations in the 21st Century Dr. Sarah Stephens Executive Director Center for Democracy in the Americas Tuesday, June 24, 2014| 6:00 pm Conflict Kitchen | Schenley Plaza | Pittsburgh There is a $25 charge for this event – including dinner and… MORE >

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Event: The Cuban Speech (Printed Edition)

When: November 2013

Where: Conflict Kitchen

We asked Cubans and Cuban-Americans to write part of a speech that they would like President Barack Obama to deliver. This publication contains over 40 submissions. An edited version of this material was compiled into a meta-speech and will be performed publicly by a Barack… MORE >

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Event: The Lunch Hour (Laila Al-Soulaiman)

When: Thursday 10/10 1pm

Where: Conflict Kitchen

Join us this Thursday at 1pm for  an informal discussion with Laila Al-Soulaiman about the crisis in Syria. Laila is a Syrian-American undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh. Since the age of 16, Laila has worked to educate and engage the Pittsburgh community about the… MORE >

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Event: The Cuban Speech (solicitation)

We are looking for a few more Cubans living in Cuba and the U.S. interested in doing a short interview with us on their thoughts about the future of U.S./Cuba relations. We will transcribe your interview, add it to others we collected, and edit them into… MORE >

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Event: The Lunch Hour (Lisa Valanti)

When: Thursday 9/26 1pm

Where: Conflict Kitchen

Join us this Thursday at 1pm for  an informal discussion with Lisa Valani, president of the Pittsburgh CUBA Coalition and the Pittsburgh-Matanzas (Cuba) Sister City Partnership.  Ms. Valanti, a human-rights and anti-war activist, has dedicated herself to working in solidarity with the Cuban people.  Since… MORE >

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Event: The Lunch Hour (Dr. Basel Termanini)

When: Thursday 9/19 1pm

Where: Conflict Kitchen

Join us this Thursday at 1pm for an informal conversation with Dr. Basel Termanini, Syrian American Medical Society Pittsburgh Chapter President. Dr. Termanini was born and grew up in Aleppo, Syria. He has lived in Pittsburgh for 16 years and has visited his home country… MORE >

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Event: The Lunch Hour (Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)

When: Thursday 9/12 1pm

Where: Conflict Kitchen

Join us this Thursday at 1pm for an informal conversation with award winning Cuban author and blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo who is in Pittsburgh editing an anthology of new Cuban writers at the City of Asylum. Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo was born in Havana, Cuba. Lazo… MORE >

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Event: The Speech of the Swans

When: Sept-Oct 2011

Where: Porto Alegre, Brazil

As part of the Mercosul Biennial, each Sunday, at the lake in Porto Alegre’s central park, actors portraying Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and United States President Barack Obama are giving free rides in swan-shaped boats to the public. As they travel with members of the… MORE >

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Event: Chavez/Castro Speech

When: February 9th 2012

Where: The Waffle Shop (next to Conflict Kitchen)

We selected comments (posted on YouTube) to famous speeches by Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro and edited them into first person scripts that were performed by an actor (Alexi Morrissey) who first portrayed Chavez and then transformed into Castro. The speeches are included here: CHAVEZ’S… MORE >

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Event: Conflict Kitchen in Cuba

When: February 2012

Where: Havana, Cuba

In February of 2012 Conflict Kitchen conducted a research trip to Cuba. From the interviews we conducted: “It’s hard to predict how Cuba would change if the embargo was lifted. On the one hand, there would be an influx of goods, and that could strengthen… MORE >

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Event: Cuban Paladar

When: Past

Where: Pittsburgh

In light of our temporary limbo status (as we look for a new location downtown), the Conflict Kitchen has been functioning as a Cuban paladar (home-based restaurant) in the home of a local Pittsburgh family. Join us for a five-course Cuban meal prepared by our… MORE >

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Interviews

Our Food Wrappers Feature Interviews With Cubans
Living in Cuba and the United States

Fidel & Raul

Before I studied journalism, I wanted to be a writer.  I was traveling a lot and thinking about the problems of the world.  In 1999, I was in Poland during the year of solidarity, and this experience opened a window to socialism for me.  I came back to Cuba and finished my high school studies: journalism, history, art law, art history.  Very quickly, I realized that I didn’t want to be a journalist.  Here in Cuba, there is a big, big problem with journalism.  It’s not journalism; it’s like a science fiction!  You read the newspaper, and you say, “I don’t live in this country.”

We definitely have underground media; however, it is extremely dangerous and difficult to access these forums. People like Yoani Sánchez, who has a blog called Generation Y, write about daily oppression in  Cuban life and the political actions needed to resolve this.  Underground forums like these are lifelines for people in Cuba; however, there needs to be more done to help expand these efforts.

Since most Cubans have little information about what’s going on in the U.S., it’s not important to them.  Remember that most people don’t have Internet access.  You can’t get American newspapers, not one.  Our family and friends don’t talk about the United States. But, of course, elections are always big news here. The fact that an African-American and Democrat was elected to be president was really significant in Cuba.  There were expectations that our relationship with the U.S. would improve, just as we expected with Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton.

Even though the government tries to control the Internet, I’ve found ways to hack into it to connect with friends who have left Cuba. They write to say if they are in Spain, the United States, Mexico, Argentina,  or Peru. I even have friends in Japan, Cuban people. We are like the new Jews.

Media

Before I studied journalism, I wanted to be a writer.  I was traveling a lot and thinking about the problems of the world.  In 1999, I was in Poland during the year of solidarity, and this experience opened a window to socialism for me.  I came back to Cuba and finished my high school studies: journalism, history, art law, art history.  Very quickly, I realized that I didn’t want to be a journalist.  Here in Cuba, there is a big, big problem with journalism.  It’s not journalism; it’s like a science fiction!  You read the newspaper, and you say, “I don’t live in this country.”

We definitely have underground media; however, it is extremely dangerous and difficult to access these forums. People like Yoani Sánchez, who has a blog called Generation Y, write about daily oppression in  Cuban life and the political actions needed to resolve this.  Underground forums like these are lifelines for people in Cuba; however, there needs to be more done to help expand these efforts.

Since most Cubans have little information about what’s going on in the U.S., it’s not important to them.  Remember that most people don’t have Internet access.  You can’t get American newspapers, not one.  Our family and friends don’t talk about the United States. But, of course, elections are always big news here. The fact that an African-American and Democrat was elected to be president was really significant in Cuba.  There were expectations that our relationship with the U.S. would improve, just as we expected with Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton.

Even though the government tries to control the Internet, I’ve found ways to hack into it to connect with friends who have left Cuba. They write to say if they are in Spain, the United States, Mexico, Argentina,  or Peru. I even have friends in Japan, Cuban people. We are like the new Jews.

Arts

This year is the 11th Havana Art Biennial.  It is going to be in public spaces and have direct exchange with the public.  I don’t think Havana is ready for that.  There are so many levels of bureaucracy that will limit the artistic possibilities, such as art concerning politics.  The public is always ready to participate, and this is very gratifying for artists.  It’s just the bureaucracy that will stop this interaction from happening.

Back in 1993, many people in my town would rig their antennas to get U.S. programs.  My first exposure to modern music was hip hop on Soul Train (Public Enemy, Q-tip, Busta Rhymes). I liked everything about it: the sound, the flow, the energy.  In 2001, the Minister of Cultural Affairs gave a speech saying that he was about to legalize rap music.  No one ever knew that it was illegal!  The government began to institutionalize rap music as a way of controlling it.  There are very few spaces for youth to express themselves in politics; we do that through hip hop.  For us, it’s the music of this generation’s coming revolution.

One thing that one has to admit about humor is that humor is inherently political.  Before the revolution, humor was synchronized with life and responded to politics and corruption. Even dictators like Batista knew the power of humor:  he persecuted comic artists.  After the revolution, the political corruption stopped, but the directness that one asks for in humor stopped as well.  When the official press refused to reflect reality during the 1980s and the special period that followed, we were fortunate that the visual arts stepped up to provide a space to criticize those in power once again through humor.

Casa las Americas, which promotes art and literature of Latin America and the Caribbean, is the second institution that was established in Cuba after the revolution.  It’s a public institution, not a governmental one.  I have to tell you this because, in Cuba, everything is the government.  The House of Americas was founded by a heroic woman, Haydée Santamaría, who fought as a guerrillera with the revolution.  Attracted by the success of the revolution, artists, intellectuals, writers, painters, and theater people came through the house to Cuba from the whole of Latin America – very avante-garde.  Throughout Latin American history, there have been difficult moments.  The house has been the place to negotiate and discuss these moments via culture.  It’s about creating a network through culture.

 

Health Care

This year is the 11th Havana Art Biennial.  It is going to be in public spaces and have direct exchange with the public.  I don’t think Havana is ready for that.  There are so many levels of bureaucracy that will limit the artistic possibilities, such as art concerning politics.  The public is always ready to participate, and this is very gratifying for artists.  It’s just the bureaucracy that will stop this interaction from happening.

Back in 1993, many people in my town would rig their antennas to get U.S. programs.  My first exposure to modern music was hip hop on Soul Train (Public Enemy, Q-tip, Busta Rhymes). I liked everything about it: the sound, the flow, the energy.  In 2001, the Minister of Cultural Affairs gave a speech saying that he was about to legalize rap music.  No one ever knew that it was illegal!  The government began to institutionalize rap music as a way of controlling it.  There are very few spaces for youth to express themselves in politics; we do that through hip hop.  For us, it’s the music of this generation’s coming revolution.

One thing that one has to admit about humor is that humor is inherently political.  Before the revolution, humor was synchronized with life and responded to politics and corruption. Even dictators like Batista knew the power of humor:  he persecuted comic artists.  After the revolution, the political corruption stopped, but the directness that one asks for in humor stopped as well.  When the official press refused to reflect reality during the 1980s and the special period that followed, we were fortunate that the visual arts stepped up to provide a space to criticize those in power once again through humor.

Casa las Americas, which promotes art and literature of Latin America and the Caribbean, is the second institution that was established in Cuba after the revolution.  It’s a public institution, not a governmental one.  I have to tell you this because, in Cuba, everything is the government.  The House of Americas was founded by a heroic woman, Haydée Santamaría, who fought as a guerrillera with the revolution.  Attracted by the success of the revolution, artists, intellectuals, writers, painters, and theater people came through the house to Cuba from the whole of Latin America – very avante-garde.  Throughout Latin American history, there have been difficult moments.  The house has been the place to negotiate and discuss these moments via culture.  It’s about creating a network through culture.

 

Economy

The salary for our public teachers doesn’t motivate them to provide quality education and excel in their profession.  A few years ago, there was an expectation of increasing the salaries. A doctor, for example, makes about 700-800 Cuban pesos a year.  But what a person actually needs to live is more like 8,000 to 12,000 Cuban pesos.  And raising salaries is not a potential solution because the government can’t afford it.  In the past, you could live off of a much lower salary.  Why?  You could stretch your money, do more with what you had.  The currency had more value.  The biggest problem are the two currencies: the Cuban pesos and the convertible pesos (equivalent to the dollar).  You see, for tourists, the exchange rate is 1:1.  For Cubans, the exchange rate is about 25:1 (Cuban peso to convertible).  It hasn’t created two economies; it’s created two social classes.

So here’s a common contemporary joke: There is this drunk guy on the street and the police try to pick him up and the guy says “No, no, no….don’t worry,  you don’t need to harass me; I’m a porter at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, the fanciest hotel in Havana.”  The police are impressed; so they decide to help him out and give him a ride home.  When they get to his house, his wife opens the door, and the police say, “Here is your husband.  Is he really a porter at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba?” And the wife says, “Oh, what the hell are you talking about?  He’s not a porter, he’s just a neurosurgeon!”  (The joke is descriptive of a very common scenario in Cuba where porters make more than neurosurgeons since porters, who work in the tourist industry, earn convertible pesos (equivalent to the dollar) as opposed to government issued Cuban pesos (worth only 1/25 of a dollar).)

 

 

Economy (Part 2)

Ideally, I’d like to move to more of a Chinese economic system, where they have socialism but still have the idea of an open market.

Many people say that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez is a monkey, a marionette, a puppet for Cuba; that’s incorrect. For us, for Cuba, Chavez is good.  He’s sold us oil for a good price.  And, in return, we send many, many people to Venezuela to work: doctors, teachers, whatever they need, they come to us.  Before the Venezuelan revolution, all their income went to the States, to England.  Fidel has prepared the Cuban people for anything: for bad times, for good times. His project is a good one.  Look, we don’t want the world to solve our problems. Our problem is ours.  Do we try to solve your problems?

Because of the high level of education in Cuba, there is an amazing collection of professionals, doctors and engineers.  Other countries with socialist tendencies, like Venezuela, don’t allow these professions to flourish.  It’s true that each country has its own economy, and the one profession that gives Cuba problems is tourism.  Tourism appeals to the pressures of other economies, including the pesos in relation to the dollar.  For this reason, tourism is an invasive economy.  You wouldn’t want Europeans visiting America and start circulating Euros into the U.S. economy, would you?

Many Americans fail to know that at the time of the revolution Cuba’s per capita GDP was higher than that of most of the countries in post-war Europe.

Revolution

There was this big man (Fidel) that, together with many, did necessary and grandiose things in response to a historical moment.  These were good, positive things: possibilities for poor people, attention to public policies, health care for people without – these things still exist today.  But my generation (I’m 41), and maybe a little of the next generation, believe that the act of revolutionizing, of progressing, can’t be and shouldn’t be stopped.  We do this through literature, art, music…and a little bit of common sense.  So now is the time to ask: where are we now?  What is the way, the direction, of today?   We must renounce this romantic dream of “Cuba,” this utopian idea of the collective, and start treating each citizen as an individual.

My view of revolution is very personal and painful.  In my case, I grew up with this idea that everyone has equal rights to everything.  But the reality is very hard, very different.  Since Eastern Europe fell, it was a good occasion for us to rebuild Cuba in our own way.  Sometimes we think that we are in the worst situation in the world; maybe this is because we are an island, and people who live on an island think in a different way. Sometimes you also have to think about what people in other countries are experiencing.

 There is a massive generation gap between those who remember a pre-Castro Cuba and those who do not. The result is two-fold. You have one group who believes that the control and military force are the proper and just way to rule.  Their psychological perspective is driven by their military training and has led to the mentality that the current state is both fair and proper. Then, there is the other group, that has seen and perhaps experienced what freedom is.  This group of young and driven people has led to human rights movements. It is now a matter of nurturing the positive and freedom driven groups to uplift and encourage the youth of Cuba.

Revolution (Part 2)

I’m over seventy years old now, and I’ve been a member of the Communist party for fifty years.  In fact, I’m an official in the party.  In the late 60s, I confronted a higher up because I didn’t agree with certain procedures.  I had no fear to do this because Communism isn’t about just following an ideology; it’s about responding to the ideas of other people that are really invested in what you do and those who believe in you.  I’m a Communistas: one who feels connected to the ideas.

The country has experienced constant militarized control from the Castro brothers since the 1959 revolution. Institutionalized military service at a very young age and military schooling have led to generations that no longer remember a pre-Castro free Cuba but only a stagnant 1959 scene that shows no real change in sight.  In Cuba, the “Socialism” title is merely a way to appease its international partners.  Don’t forget, Cuba is in fact a Communist nation that controls all aspects of daily life: media, religion, politics, economics, social and individual freedom.

Embargo

Nothing would change if the embargo were to be lifted.  Maybe more tourists will come, but in Cuba, our political situation wouldn’t change.  Cubans of our generation grew up during the revolution, and their lives and minds have only ever operated with the embargo in place.  If you can’t change someone’s mind, you can’t change anything.

It’s hard to predict how Cuba would change if the embargo was lifted. On the one hand, there would be an influx of goods, and that could strengthen the government. On the other hand, there would be more cultural exchange with companies coming here and providing employment, which would create a loosening of dependence on the state. The simultaneous tendency toward stasis and change are in conflict. Who’s to say which one would triumph?

The U.S. blockage is a farce at this time because there are numerous states and companies in the U.S. that are doing direct business with Cuba. The only real losers in this farce are regular Cuban people in Cuba, Cuban-Americans, and the American economy.  The U.S. maintains the economic blockade because its policy, historically, has been to consider the “embargo” an extreme expression of its disapproval of the Castro regime after 1962. In February 1962, President Kennedy called for the embargo of Cuba using the 1917 Trading with the Enemy Act as a pretext.  His actual motivation was the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion and Castro’s later declaration of his Marxist leanings and plans. Of course, the last thing Kennedy did before signing the blockade into law was to buy up all the Cuban cigars his aides could find.

We are bemused by the idea that Cuban culture would be affected by lifting the embargo. There’s been a relationship between Cuba and the U.S. for more than a 100 years, and the embargo has been much shorter than that.  Embargo or not, Cuban culture has always existed.  In spite of the embargo, there has been a strong cultural influence from the United States: the way we dress, our way of speaking, the very language we are using right now.

 

Stay or Go

You know the special period in the 90’s (after the collapse of the Soviet Union) is a difficult topic.  There was a lack of food, electricity and general needs.  Everything in our cultural landscape changed.  Because of this, there were more exiles.  I have lived outside the country, and I know what that is.  I’m the only one of my friends that stayed in Cuba.  I stayed because I fell in love; for my family; because I found a sense of purpose here.  This is my country.  My kids are 12 and 5 and, when they are adults, they’ll do the best they can whether it’s here in Cuba or wherever.

When Cubans from the middle and upper classes left because they didn’t agree with the new government after the revolution, they tried to reconstruct Cuba in Miami.  Ana Lopez, a Cuban-American playwright from the University of Tulane, created the concept of “La Gran Cuba”, “The Great Cuba”.  Cuba is not its geographical borders; it is the sum of people’s sentiments for it, of the longing to belong.  Even when people leave the country, they still yearn and care for Cuba.

Right now in Cuba we are living the American way of life—not in terms of the economy, but in the way that you live there day-to-day—we have that. Why should I feel the need to move from Cuba when I have the same life here that I would have anywhere else?

When people leave this country, there is always this idea of literally buying into the other culture without carrying the tradition of Cuban culture to another place.  It’s called Coca-Cola amnesia: they buy and consume things that are a part of this new culture and let the pretty, fizzy bubbles go to their head and erase the memory of their old culture.

 

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Additional Resources

Cuba-L Direct (in Spanish)

A non-profit research organization made up of academics, analysts, intellectuals, artists, professionals, and people who are committed to collecting and making available information on Cuba.

Caribbean News Now!

News on Cuba from an independent Caribbean news outlet.

Marti

A multimedia hub of news, information, and analysis, providing interactive programming through broadcast and satellite television; shortwave and AM radio; and flash drives, emails, DVDs, and SMS text.

PanAm Post

American news and analysis that focuses on multilingual and international content in order to follow “the tradition of PanAmericanism”.

The Havana Times

An independent source for news and opinion on and from Cuba: “Open-Minded Writing from Cuba.”

Translating Cuba

A compilation of English translations from Cuban blogs. The bloggers included write from the island of Cuba and are independent of the Cuban government.

Generation Y Blog

Havana-based writer Yoani Sanchez is one of the most influential bloggers writing in Cuba today.

Miami Herald Cuba Section

The epicenter of the Cuban diaspora in the U.S. is in Miami, and The Herald is the city’s paper of choice.

Granma (in English)

Daily newspaper published in Havana; the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Cuba Travel Services

Charter travel agency out of Miami going to Cuba; extremely helpful for planning a trip to Cuba.