More on the trip in my next post...
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
Here he lies, against his will, comrade Rocco. He was born in Detroit in August of 1952, in the General Motors factory. In his earliest days he witnessed the confrontations of the trade unions and the racial tensions that shook the city of his birth, thus forging his unvanquished fighting spirit.
Being still very young, together with his 250 brothers, he was forced to board the overcrowded General Custer - a cousin of General Motors - steamboat arriving at the bay of Havana in January of 1953. Here in Havana he was purchased, like ordinary merchandise, at the store “El Encanto” by the Orozco family, adopting as of that moment a bourgeois life of abundance during which he chilled the most exquisite delicacies and liquors.
At the beginning of the 70s, upon the arrival of his Soviet compatriots, comrade Rocco was confined to an honorable "plan pijama," forgotten in a dark warehouse throughout five grey years, until the “inventive” administrator of the warehouse bartered him, in an “under the table” manoeuvre, for a set of twelve chairs to a humble proletarian family, among whose members, and with his customary disinterested effort and the joy of feeling useful again, comrade Rocco prepared himself to freeze delicious “durofríos,” thus becoming the provider of the family and thereby gaining the affection of all the children of the district.
Jorge Perugorría & Juan Carlos Tabío
Monday, March 22, 2010
Friends and colleagues both, Ariana Hernandez-Reguant and Paul Ryer, host a year-old blog EthnoCuba (etnocuba.ucr.edu) that I just discovered. As the name indicates, Ariana and Paul, both anthropologists/ ethnographers who have done sustained research in Cuba, have built thier blog around current research and conferences focusing on all things ethnographic, "ethnic," and "racial" - braodly defined.
It is now on the El Yuma blogroll.
One of Ariana's recent posts responds (in part) to my letter to the editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. While she generally agrees with me that (a) doing "real" research is indeed possilbe in Cuba and (b) the Obama administration should further open up academic exchange with the island, she makes a detailed, nuanced, and quite well-informed caveat that is worth reading.
Essentially, she agrees that while it is indeed easier to ask forgiveness than permission, it is best (and often essential) to ask for and receive permission (and get some form of institutional support and/or collaboration) to do proper and sustained ethnographic research in Cuba.
Here's a sample of her point:
While I agree with Ted and with the spirit of the Chronicle’s letter on the need for a radical change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, I would also like a situation in which research would be facilitated also on the Cuban end. A tourist visa is not enough. Not all research projects are created equal. Some of them are impossible to carry out without explicit on-site permission and facilitation. [...]
Without a proper research affiliation in Cuba, there are archives, survey populations and marine reefs, among many other possibilities, that are off limits. [...]
Furthermore, ethnographic research (which is after all the inspiration for this blog project) requires a lengthy stay. I am of the old fashioned opinion that proper ethnographic fieldwork cannot be bypassed and substituted by a few short trips; much less if such research is the basis of a dissertation-type project. [...]
Henken seems to be advocating complete freedom of research, and I do agree in principle with that position, but in a world of international states and borders it is unfortunately a utopia. In the end it comes down to whether the ends justify the means. For as long as a specific research or student visa is required by the Cuban government as a prerequisite to conduct bona fide academic research on the island, as responsible university professors we cannot advocate the breaking of that country’s laws. I, for one, would very much like to see U.S. roadblocks disappear, and subsequently, I would also like to see the parallel Cuban bureaucratic process eased. [...]
Friday, March 19, 2010
I just received the announcement for this year's student paper award competition from the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) that I mentioned in that letter and thought I'd share with readers of El Yuma.
2010 GRADUATE AND UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT PAPER AWARD COMPETITION
The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) is a nonpolitical, professional international
association dedicated to the study of the Cuban economy in its broader political, social, and cultural context.
The Jorge Pérez-López Student Award Competition
The ASCE Student Award Committee is accepting nominations for the 2010 Jorge Pérez-López Student
Award Competition. Anyone can nominate original papers authored by undergraduate or graduate students in good standing. The papers should address topics related to Cuba's domestic issues, its foreign relations, or Cuba in comparative perspective. Papers cannot be coauthored with an instructor. At a minimum, all papers must outline a thesis statement, present evidence or data supporting it, be no more than 5,000 words (double-spaced), and follow one of the standard academic writing and citation styles. Self-nominations are also welcomed.
All correspondence must be accompanied by a letter stating the name, school affiliation, mailing address, phone number, and email of the nominee as well as a brief statement describing the
merits of the nomination.
First prize $600, up to $400 travel,
and publication in Cuba in Transition.
Second prize $300
First prize $300, up to $400 travel, and publication in Cuba in Transition.
Second prize $200.
All students who enter the competition will receive a one year complimentary membership in ASCE, which will entitle them to receive our publications and newsletter. If they wish to attend the annual meeting in Miami, they will also receive a complimentary conference and key speaker luncheon invitation (but no travel allowance, except to the first prize winners).
Papers received or postdated by May 20, 2010 will be considered. The winner of the competition will
be announced in June.
Basis for Award
A panel of scholars on the basis of relevance,originality, quality, contribution, and clarity of presentation will judge papers. The 5,000 words limit for the essay will be STRICTLY ENFORCED.
Submission and Information
Please send a hard copy of the manuscript via regular mail and an electronic MS Word attachment of the paper to:
Dr. Enrique S. Pumar
Chair Student Award Committee
The Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy
P.O. Box 28267
Washington, DC 20038-8267
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
Thursday, March 18, 2010
For those of you who live in or near New York City, there are three consecutive events this weekend (Thurs., Fri., & Sat.) all hosted by the Hostos Center for the Arts in the Bronx, each celebrating the musical genius of Cuban son innovator and tresero Arsenio Rodríguez.
Here's the line up...
This seminar takes its name and theme from one of Arsenio Rodríguez's most beloved tunes which is an ode to the community - the South Bronx - where Arsenio performed in working-class social clubs during the 40's and the 50's for audience that rarely frequented downtown establishments. It will focus on the típico and Afro-centric nature of Arsenio's music which contrasted with the music of such contemporaries as Títo Puente and Títo Rodríguez. PARTICIPANTS: David R. García, Author of Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transitional Flows of Latin Popular Music; René López, Musicologist; and Ned Sublette, Moderator
Areyto presents a dynamic evening of dance, live music and visual art featuring Afro-Cuban Orishas, Rumba, Salsa, Cha-cha-chá and contemporary dance theater. Joined by master percussionists Román Díaz & Pedrito Martínez, the performance celebrates tradition and innovation- both the legacy and present impact of Cuban dance and music in NYC. Artistic Director: Sita Frederick; Executive Producer: Leticia Peguero; Guest Choreographers: Rebecca Bliss, Rodney López; and Visual Artists: Carlos Mateu, Jóse Ortíz
Grupo Folklórico y Experimental Nuevayorquino
By popular demand, Grupo Folklórico y Experimental Nuevayorquino, the ground-breaking 1970's orchestra which presaged many developments in Latin music, returns to the Hostos Center with a program of the greatest hits composed by the legendary Arsenio Rodríguez who is credited as the creator of son montuno, mambo and salsa. Co-produced by Rene López, Andy Kaufman and the Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture, ths concert pays homage to a true musical genius who is considered by many musicologists as being the greatest composer/musician of Afro-Cuban music of the 20th century.
The legendary Latin music alliance performing the music of:
Andy González, bass, leader
Jerry Gonzalez, trumpet, percussion
Gene Golden, percussion
Nelson González, tres
Oscar Hernandez, piano
Eddy Zervigón, wooden flute
Jorge Luis Maldonado, volcal
Pedrito Martínez, vocals, percussion
Reynaldo Jorge, Trombone
Eddy Venegas, Violin, Trombone
Abraham Rodríguez, vocal, percussion
Tony Rosa, percussion
Guido González, timbales, bongo, percussion
Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros, trumpet
Sergio "Armandito" Armenteros, trumpet
Israel Berrios, vocals, guitar
Alfredito Valdéz, Piano
René López, Percussion
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I wanted to call your attention to two news stories about academic exchange in Cuba that appeared this week. The first is "Push for Student Exchanges With Cuba Hits Obstacles, Both Political and Academic" by Paul Basken from The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 9, 2010). The other, "Piden a Obama que levante las restricciones para viajes de académicos a Cuba," is from El Nuevo Herald.
I just submitted the following letter to the editor of The Chronicle and thought I'd share it with readers of El Yuma.
Re: "Push for Student Exchanges With Cuba Hits Obstacles, Both Political and Academic" by Paul Basken from The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 9, 2010).
Having done the bulk of my dissertation research in Cuba between 1997 and 2001 (though not through an affiliation with any official Cuban government or academic organization), my experience is that it is indeed possible to do "real" research in Cuba. However, as with any research it is the scholar's responsibility to remain clear sighted about the particular constraints and opportunities of any research context.
The key word in understanding the Cuban research and academic context is indeed government control. The Cuban government has a long record of controlling access to the island in order to keep unflattering data and analysis, especially from social scientists, to a minimum. It also arrogantly and unjustifiably gives itself the right to determine which of its own scholars can travel abroad to do research or participate in international conferences. However, these condemnable practices should not be used as a justification for continuing our own failed policy of isolation. Nor do they make fruitful research, collaboration with Cuban scholars, or student learning impossible. On the contrarly, Cuba's closed, insular environment often makes the island a richer and more vital learning and research environment for younger students and scholars coming from abroad.
In fact, from my experience doing research in Cuba (both in my past research on Cuba's underground economy and in my current research on its emergent blogosphere) and from helping to operate past academic (at Tulane University's Cuban and Caribbean Studies Institute) and cultural exchange programs (with the CubaNola Arts Collective) in Cuba, I would argue that academic travel to Cuba by U.S. undergraduates and graduate students is among the very best and most intellectually challenging and stimulating experiences students can have.
It is also a quiet but very effective way to achieve one of President Obama's chief foreign policy goals vis-a-vis Cuba - to increase people-to-people contacts between the citizens of each country and contribute to breaking the Cuban government's own "blockade" - its monopoly on information and careful screening of outside contacts.
Finally, I reject Jorge Sanguinetty's insinuation quoted in the article that scholars or students aim to go to Cuba to simply lie on the beach, "under the guise of research." And I am frankly insulted by his categorical dismissal that, "You cannot do real research in Cuba."
In fact, the organization of which he is the current president, the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, awarded me its highest student prize in 2002 when I was a graduate student for research I did entirely in Cuba ("A Taste of Capitalism: The Rise and Fall of Havana’s Private Paladar Restaurants”). Indeed, after earning my Ph.D., I was elected to two terms on ASCE's Board of Directors (2004-2006 and 2006-2008) and have been a past member of the ASCE committee that seeks to recruit graduate and undergraduate students to submit their own papers (the vast majority of which are based on research done in Cuba) for that same annual prize awarded at the organization's annual conference in Miami.
While Sanguinetty beleives that there's a "tremendous amount of hypocrisy by the educational system in the United States" regarding the potential for authentic academic research and exchange with Cuba, I respectfully offer that it is perhaps himself who is the one being hypocritical when his own organization encourages and awards prizes to young scholars like me who do just that.
Ted Henken, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Acting Chair
Department of Black and Hispanic Studies
Baruch College, City University of New York
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Chávez calls for Internet regulation in Venezuela - President Hugo Chávez, who has complained that social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are used to spread unfounded rumors, called for regulation of the Internet this weekend and singled out a site that he said had falsely reported the death of one of his ministers, Reuters reports.
Related: Venezuela denies plans to censor Internet - CARACAS - Venezuela is not planning to censor the web or to shut down social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, officials said on Monday, after President Hugo Chavez called for regulation of the Internet.
The Knight Center also features a digital library with the following useful publications:
Herramientas Digitales para Periodistas / Ferramentas Digitais para Jornalistas
(Digital Tools for Journalists)
By Sandra Crucianelli (Spanish & Portuguese Editions)
Click here to download
Cómo escribir para la Web / Como escrever para a Web
Bases para la discusión y construcción de manuales de redacción ‘online’ / Bases para discussão e construção de manuais para redações online
(How to write for the Web--basis for discussion and construction of style books for online newsrooms)
By Guillermo Franco (Spanish & Portuguese Editions)
Click here to download
Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive
A digital literacy guide for the information age
By Mark Briggs (English, Spanish & Portuguese Editions)
Click here to download
Press Freedom Monitoring and Advocacy in Latin America and the Caribbean
Knight Center, Open Society Institute Hold Conference About Press Freedom in Latin America.
Conference report available in English and Spanish here.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
I first heard about Han Han back in October of last year when NPR profiled him, along with two other guerrilla bloggers, one from Mumbai, India and another from London, England. For that story, go here: "Across Globe, Blogging Brings Change." For the article in the NYT, read on or click here .
The NYT article is full of great quotes and anecdotes, but here's my favorite:
The Internet, he says, will eventually prod China toward greater openness. No army of censors can completely constrain free expression. "I think the government really regrets the Internet," he said, pausing for effect. "Originally, they thought it would be like the newspaper or the television - just another way to get their view out to the people. What they didn't realize is that people can type and talk back. This is giving them a really big headache."WORLD: SATURDAY PROFILE
Heartthrob's Blog Challenges China's Leaders
"The government wants China to become a great cultural nation, but our leaders are so uncultured." Han Han
By ANDREW JACOBS, March 13, 2010
SHANGHAI. IT'S not so easy being Han Han, the heartthrob race car driver and pop novelist who just happens to be China's most widely read blogger.
Traveling incognito is all but impossible. Local officials frequently vie for his endorsement of their latest architectural boondoggles. (He politely declines.) And love-lorn young women often approach him after races with letters bearing his name. (He says the women have been duped by impostors who have assumed his identity.)
But Mr. Han's most vexing challenge comes from a more formidable nemesis: the unseen censors who delete blog posts they deem objectionable and the publishing police who have held up the release of his new magazine, "A Chorus of Solos," a provocative collection of essays and photographs. "The government wants China to become a great cultural nation, but our leaders are so uncultured," he said with a shrug, offering his characteristic Cheshire-cat grin.
"If things continue like this, China will only be known for tea and pandas."
Since he began blogging in 2006, Mr. Han has been delivering increasingly caustic attacks on China's leadership and the policies he contends are creating misery for those unlucky enough to lack a powerful government post. With more than 300 million hits to his blog, he may be the most popular living writer in the world.
In a recent interview at his office in Shanghai, he described party officials as "useless" and prone to spouting nonsense, although he used more delicate language to dismiss their relevance. "Their lives are nothing like ours," he said. "The only thing they have in common with young people is that like us, they too have girlfriends in their 20s, although theirs are on the side."
Mr. Han has enjoyed widespread fame since he published his first novel at 19, but his popularity has ballooned in recent months through blog posts that seem to capture the zeitgeist of his peers, the so-called post-80s generation born after the economic reforms introduced by Deng Xiaoping.
Theirs is a generation of only children, the result of China's one-child policy, and one that has known only uninterrupted growth. Whether true or not, it is also a demographic with a reputation for being spoiled, impatient and less accepting of the storyline fed to them by government-run media.
If Mr. Han's tongue is sharp, he is careful to deliver his barbs through sarcasm and humorous anecdotes that obliquely take on corruption, censorship and everyday injusticeIn one recent post about redevelopment projects that often end in violence and forced evictions, he suggested that the government build public housing in the form of prisons. The benefits would be twofold, he explained: Tenants could make no claim on the apartments and those who make a fuss could simply be locked up in their homes.
His current gambit is a wryly subversive competition that will award $730 to the person who comes up with new lyrics to a song-and-dance routine that was broadcast last month during the reliably soporific Chinese New Year television gala.
The performance, staged by China's national broadcaster and viewed by an estimated 400 million people, featured merry members of the Uighur minority belting out praise for Communist Party policies.
These were not the policies that many Uighurs bemoan as oppressive - and which may or may not have provoked the deadly riots in the western region of Xinjiang last summer - but ones that supposedly reduced taxes, increased health benefits and according to the singing farmer Maimaiti, filled his donkey sack with cash.
ALTHOUGH his posts are sometimes "harmonized" - a popular euphemism for censorship -his blog, published by one of China's most popular Web portals, has so far been allowed to continue. Ran Yunfei, a writer and blogger in Sichuan Province, says that Mr. Han is partly insulated by his celebrity, but also by his avoidance of the most politically charged topics.
"He uses humor and wit to laugh at the injustices he sees," said Mr. Ran, whose own blog is blocked in China and available only to those with the technical means to hop over the Great Firewall. "Perhaps the reason he's tolerated is because he does not name names directly and he doesn't go after the heart of the problem, which is China's one-party dictatorship.
"His other trump card is his financial independence. With 14 books to his name and a successful career as a race car driver, he is not susceptible to pressures that constrain other critics, many of them academics or journalists whose jobs tend to evaporate when their public musings cross an invisible line.
But the government has lately found a way to pique him by holding up the release of his magazine. Mr. Han said the main objection appears to be an article that details the blacklisting of actors who have angered the authorities. Asked what he will do if his endeavor is thwarted, or if one day his blog is banned entirely, Mr. Han smiles and offers trademark sarcasm, delivered deadpan. "I'll just become a better driver," he said.
MR. Han has been reinventing himself since he dropped out of high school and promptly went on to become one of China's best known writers. His first novel, "Triple Door," plumbed the adolescent angst of those withering under the pressures of family and school. With two million copies in print, it is the best-selling book of the last 20 years.
The protagonists in that novel and several that followed were young men like himself, raised in small rural townships and disdaining authority, especially teachers, whom Mr. Han sometimes likens to prostitutes.
Growing up, Mr. Han says he was given wide latitude by his parents. His father was the front-page editor of a local party newspaper and his mother worked for a social service bureau helping the needy. "My mom gave me an appreciation for the underdog," he said.
His family's home was packed with literature, he said, and his father made sure to put the good stuff - books published before the Communist revolution - low enough for an 8-year-old to reach. "He put all the poorly written books published after the founding of the People's Republic of China high enough so I couldn't reach it," Mr. Han said.
When his anti-establishment writings began to affect his parents' state-run jobs, Mr. Han encouraged them to retire early, offering to support them financially.
Once viewed by critics as petulant and self-consciously rebellious, Mr. Han has moved beyond ad hominem attacks on poets, pop stars and fellow bloggers. These days his attention is largely drawn to society's deeper problems: a surge in nationalism; the lackluster quality of contemporary culture; and the albatross of sky-high real-estate prices that keep China's nascent middle-class in a constant state of anxiety.
He blames the high prices on local officials, who sell off land to the highest bidder in an effort to finance public works and pump up the double-digit economic growth figures that keep Beijing happy. High property values, he adds, also pay for all those dinners and fancy gifts that seem to be the birthright of officialdom.
The grim result is a country of young professionals so overworked and distracted by mortgage payments that they have no time to care about what ails China. "The government is happy to see prices go up, people are forced to buy property they can't afford and they end up living in fear." Then he smiles and adds, "It's a perfect situation, right?"
Despite the sarcasm and griping, Mr. Han is an optimist at heart. The Internet, he says, will eventually prod China toward greater openness. No army of censors can completely constrain free expression. "I think the government really regrets the Internet," he said, pausing for effect. "Originally, they thought it would be like the newspaper or the television - just another way to get their view out to the people. What they didn't realize is that people can type and talk back. This is giving them a really big headache."
Li Bibo contributed research.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Head's up from Penultimos Días about the report, "Enemies of the Internet: Countries Under Surveillance," out today from Reporters Without Borders. It includes profiles of 23 countries considered to be "Internet enemies," including China, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Australia, Russia, South Korea, and Turkey.
If this report interests you, you might also find the following four reports from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Univeristy enlighting reading.
1. The Internet and Democracy: Global Catalyst or Democratic Dud? (Download PDF)
Michael Best and Keegan W. Wade, September 30, 2005
This study explores the global effect of the Internet on democracy over the period of 1992 to 2002 by observing the relationships between measures related to democracy and Internet prevalence. Results show a significant correlation between Internet penetration (measured as the estimated number of Internet users per 1,000 people) and a common indicator of a nation’s level of democratization provided by Freedom House.
2. Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere: Politics, Culture and Dissent (Download PDF)
Bruce Etling, John Kelly, Rob Faris, and John Palfrey, Internet and Democracy, June 17, 2009
This case study is part of a series produced by the Internet and Democracy project. It analyzes the composition of the Arabic blogosphere and its possible impact on political and democratic processes.
3. Mapping Iran’s Online Public: Politics and Culture in the Persian Blogosphere (Download PDF)
John Kelly and Bruce Etling, Internet and Democracy, April 6, 2008
This case study analyzes the composition of the Iranian blogosphere and its possible impact on political and democratic processes.
4. Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility: Battleground and Common Ground (Download PDF)
Rebecca MacKinnon, February 1, 2005
This is a conference reoprt from an event held in late January 2005 at Harvard, at which a group of 50 journalists, bloggers, news executives, media scholars, and librarians sat down to try and make sense of the new emerging media environment.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Translated from Penultimos Días, "Una denuncia de Yoani Sánchez."
With a brief snippet at the end from Sánchez's latest post.
"Today on Twitter Yoani Sánchez tells us that she has presented a formal complaint to a number of Cuban official institutions denouncing the illegal detention and mistreatment she and her sister received on February 24 when they attempted to attend the funeral and sign the book of condolences at the burial of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.And here is Sánchez's oblique hint about the recording at the end of her latest post, "Glass House."
"Until now, Sánchez had not called attention to her illegal arrest and mistreatment. I understand her reticience: at that time the focus needed to be on expressing grief for Zapata's passing with all media coverage necessarily concentrated on his lamentable death.
"But now there is an official complaint, which should also be presented to international institutions that monitor the human rights situation in Cuba.
"And along with the complaint, Sánchez provided proof.
"Before they were taken into custody Sánchez and her sister had their cellphones confiscated. However, the police did not realize that she had intentionally left her phone on in order to record the entire illegal arrest, the beatings, their confinement, and the later conversations among the guards.
"All this was there on the chip when their cellphones were returned to them and the testimony is revealing.
"It not only gives us a window into the political motivation of the police crackdown on dissidents, journalists, and bloggers between February 23 and 25, but it also contains the names of many of the officials in charge of the operation.
"We await Sánchez's release of the recording very soon."
"...Unfortunately for the crude producers of this kind of reality show, the technology in the hands of citizens has started to make the walls around their lives transparent as well. Having been so long observed, we now see that there is hole we can look through to the other side of the fence."
Monday, March 8, 2010
Hosted from the start at the site DesdeCuba.com, the digital magazine Consenso was run collaboratively by (from left to right in the photo) Marta Cortízas, Eugenio Leal, Yoani Sánchez, Reinaldo Escobar, Miriam Celaya, and Dimas Castellanos, among a few others who made up its editorial board.
Consenso published its last issue in December 2007 at which time both its name and format were changed. Now called Contodos, the newly christened webmag increasingly resembled a blog in format (and in fact had already begun hosting a growing number of individual blogs during 2007) as it shed the old media habit of publishing monthly "editions" (similar to the innovative Huffington Post). A year and a half later, the final editorial of Contodos appeared. Entitled, "We Continue to Evolve" (June 2009), the editorial went on to explain: