Sugar Barons

Building a cultural bridge between US and Cuba, one day at a time. Cultural Exchanges & Cuban Musings

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Questlove was the first person to reach me after President Obama’s announcement to normalize relations with Cuba on December 17, 2014 and ask to visit Cuba. His heart and soul has been invested in the island nation since their Havana performance in 2002, always dreaming of the day he’d go back. Enter April 2015, there was finally a hole in his exhaustive schedule, including Late Night with Jimmmy Fallon, tucked just after Coachella 2014. Cuba, here we come. It was a hell of a memory.

In addition to two nights of DJing, Questlove made good use of his time in Havana, engaging in extensive cultural research both by digging up some classic Cuban-made vinyl and by visiting the legendary EGREM studios, where most–if not all–of those classic sessions were recorded.

Directors: Jauretsi & Daniel Petruzzi
Cinematographer: Hector David Rosales
Sound Technician: Adrian Garcia
Editor: Jake Remingon (http://collabonyc.com)
Executive Producer: Daniel Petruzzi for Okayplayer
Produced by: Edgar Productor n Jefe, Okayplayer, You and Me Inc.
Sugar Barons.
All Music Courtesy of: Edgaro Productor n Jefe & Maria Bacardi, MB Records — https://soundcloud.com/productor-n-jefe

“Me Queda Voz (Instrumental)
Produced by Edgaro Productor n Jefe

“Cojimar” (Instrumental)
Produced by Edgaro Productor n Jefe

“Nunca Vida Mia”
Produced by Edgaro Productor n Jefe

“Nosotros” (Maria Bacardi Version)
Produced by Edgaro Productor n Jefe

Special Thanks to: EGREM, Fabrica de Arte Cubano, X Alfonso, Josue Garcia, La Rueda Producciones, Jorge Rodriguez, Joyce Alvarez aka Bjoyce, Tania Canet Iglesias, Cultural Island Travel

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(A Man whose “Soul is Fed”, Ahmir backstage after his DJ Performance at La Fabrica)

All photos: Jauretsi

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This month, the May 2015 issue of Architectural Digest celebrates one of Cuba’s biggest treasures, its architecture. AD’s Mitchell Owens offers some insightful thoughts on specific design decisions seen in the city’s buildings. Why do so many of Havana’s building have large arcs and what is the thought behind the enormous gated windows?

See the video for that and more.
To read the whole story, visit Architectural Digest

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Photo by: Lisette Poole

It’s official. Yesterday, Airbnb announced their launch in Cuba, listing 1,000 Cuban properties on its website for American users to book (half of these homes are in Havana). I’m impressed with the official statement made by the company on its blog, specifically stating the support of the Cuban people and it’s growing private sector.

“Because we’re building on the rich Cuban tradition of home sharing, we’re uniquely positioned to help Cubans reap the rewards of economic growth while preserving their unique culture. When Airbnb guests stay in local neighborhoods, they bring business to surrounding entrepreneurs—whether they be hosts, artists, or even ice cream shop owners.”

The listing for Casa Particulares (aka home hotels in Cuba) starts at $30 and up per night. Of course, there will be many snags in the road:

First is the low internet penetration on the island (Time magazine states that Bloomberg reported only 4% of Cuban homes have Internet access of any kind). The Airbnb site relies on healthy internet usage in order to search, communicate, and book rooms. For now, Airbnb is working with “local intermediaries” to manage the listings and connect hosts with customers. There is no such thing as a clean-cut solution in Cuba, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The second issue is the fact Americans pay with cash only once in Cuba. The Airbnb model relies on 3% commission per booking which is made during the online transaction. The makeshift solution has Airbnb contracting a license money remitter, Florida-based VaCuba, to make payments on its behalf.

We salute Airbnb for finding productive solutions to complicated issues during this peaceful transition.

 

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Muestra Joven is a showcase of young talent hosted by ICAIC (Cuba’s Film Institute). It’s sort of a competition festival of audiovisual work made by Cuba’s youth today.

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This fresh director, René Alejandro Díaz Rodríguez, competes in the Animation section with his short film, Tiny (Minisculo). In only one minute, this animator seems to capture the “grandeur of small things”. Moreover, it shows (at least to me) how talented and young hungry Cuban artists are seemingly behind schedule, but in reality, have developed an epic imagination in their isolated vacuums… ready to be shared on the world stage.

Read more about Muestra Joven and other young directors to watch, happening this April 2015 in Havana.

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Read this clever article released by fairly new blogger, and amusing writer, Ana Dopico on her blog Cuba Cargo Cult.

In it she describes: “The recent pictures of Paris Hilton with Fidel Castro Díaz Balart taken while the socialite was in Havana visiting the Habana Hilton (opened by Conrad Hilton)…. Smiling side by side, the selfie socialite and the socialist scion (a good photogenic surrogate for his father) seem to annul sixty years of history. Here we are, it seems to say, the celebrity descendants of two famous dynasties (three if you count the Diaz Balarts), and isn’t all that other nonsense irrelevant when a good selfie is all you need to heal the world. One can almost imagine Paris in the near future naming her new baby Havana Hilton.”

Read the full article on Cuba Cargo Cult, entitled Socialite Revolution: Dynastic Fantasies, Aristocratic Touches and Surrogate Royalty in Havana. Her Conan coverage is tight too.

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Although this podcast and article was released in 2012 for National Geographic, it still presents a fairly broad view on contemporary Cuba, it’s challenges, it’s black market, and mixed feelings about the future — all packaged in hope.

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(Photo Credit: a receptionist in Viñales. Photo by Paolo Pellegrin)

For those beginning to read on the islands modern day news — This article, (Cuba’s New Now), is considered Cuba 101 today, although lots more has transpired since the normalization talks began in Dec 2014.

Listen to this informative podcast interview with the author.

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