WBEZ | havana http://www.wbez.org/tags/havana Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Internet access expands in Cuba - for those who can afford it http://www.wbez.org/news/internet-access-expands-cuba-those-who-can-afford-it-113194 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/kahncuba--5--edit_custom-d28b46ce7c1fa4f28843f0b8da141f0a050631d2-s600-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res446012363" previewtitle="Havana residents huddle in front of the Habana Libre hotel, trying to log onto the Internet."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Havana residents huddle in front of the Habana Libre hotel, trying to log onto the Internet." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/05/kahncuba--5--edit_custom-d28b46ce7c1fa4f28843f0b8da141f0a050631d2-s600-c85.jpg" style="height: 442px; width: 600px;" title="Havana residents huddle in front of the Habana Libre hotel, trying to log onto the Internet. (Carrie Kahn/NPR)" /></div><div><div><p>The best place to see Cuba&#39;s Internet explosion is along the busy Havana thoroughfare known as La Rampa, or the Ramp.</p></div></div></div><p>Named for its sloping descent toward the sea, it is congested and loud. Still, crowds pack the sidewalks, office alcoves and driveways here to log on. They huddle within a few blocks of huge cell towers atop the Havana Libre luxury hotel. All eyes are glued to smartphones, tablets and laptops.</p><p>Raul Cuba, 41, types a lengthy Internet access code and password into his phone. He only learned how to log on a month ago.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;d never been on Facebook before and the first time I did, I got so excited. I started chatting with my family in Miami, in Italy and Spain,&quot; he says.</p><p>Until this summer, Internet access only was available to tourists and officials, but since then the Castro government has set up dozens of pay-as-you-go public Wi-Fi hotspots around the country. And last month, President Obama allowed U.S. companies to invest in the island&#39;s telecommunication industry.</p><div id="res446000716" previewtitle="Huge cell towers top Havana's Habana Libre luxury hotel, and locals gather nearby to take advantage of the Internet access."><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Huge cell towers top Havana's Habana Libre luxury hotel, and locals gather nearby to take advantage of the Internet access." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/05/habana-libre-landov_custom-734f93c41b8f404043f1ebdfa6e7231c85b37e21-s600-c85.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; height: 373px; width: 600px;" title="Huge cell towers top Havana's Habana Libre luxury hotel, and locals gather nearby to take advantage of the Internet access. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters/Landov)" /></div><div><p>But Cuba&#39;s public Wi-Fi remains out of most people&#39;s reach. An access card sold by the state phone company, ETECSA, costs about $2 for an hour of Internet use, while the average state salary in Cuba is about $20 a month. The lucky ones have relatives abroad sending money and devices back home &mdash; or they work in Cuba&#39;s tourist industry, earning tips in dollars.</p></div></div><p>Out on the Ramp, you can buy one of the Internet access cards for about $3 on Cuba&#39;s ubiquitous black market &mdash; more expensive, but it comes with technical assistance courtesy of Manuel Garcias, who&#39;s got a stack of cards for sale.</p><p>Asked where he gets the cards, he says, &quot;they come here and sell them to me &mdash; the husband or cousin of someone who works at ETECSA.&quot;</p><p><strong>&#39;The Rest Of Us With Nothing&#39;</strong></p><p>So far, only about 5 percent of Cubans can get online &mdash; one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the world. And you don&#39;t have to go far to see those left off Cuba&#39;s Internet highway.</p><p>Just a few blocks down the Rampa, where the street dead-ends at Havana&#39;s picturesque Malecon seawall, is old-school Cuba &mdash; the original nighttime gathering spot for roving musicians, necking couples and revelers of all ages. There&#39;s barely a cell phone or laptop in sight.</p><p><img alt="Mari Jimenez, 53, uses an Internet access card sold by the state phone company." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/05/kahncuba--17--edit_custom-ea64ff4581ff321443e31bc733aecbf79ed74167-s300-c85.jpg" style="height: 206px; width: 320px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Mari Jimenez, 53, uses an Internet access card sold by the state phone company. (Carrie Kahn/NPR)" /></p><p>Franc Bernal Gonzalez, 17, and some friends have the night off from their mandatory military service. Only two of them have cell phones &mdash; old, little ones, where the only thing they do is make a call.</p><div id="res446012093" previewtitle="Mari Jimenez, 53, uses an Internet access card sold by the state phone company."><div><p>&quot;In Cuba, we didn&#39;t used to see so many people with all this stuff and the rest of us with nothing,&quot; Bernal says. &quot;These differences started showing up a few years back, but have really grown bigger lately.&quot;</p></div></div><p>The government says it will boost the country&#39;s extremely low Internet access rate to 50 percent in the next five years, finances permitting &mdash; but hardline politics may cut into that goal. The No. 2 official in Cuba&#39;s Communist Party recently accused outsiders of taking advantage of greater Internet freedom to &quot;penetrate us and do ideological work for a new conquest.&quot;</p><p><strong>Video Chats And Beauty Tips</strong></p><p>Back on La Rampa, there&#39;s no evidence of political penetration or subversive web surfing. Nearly everyone here is video-chatting with relatives abroad.</p><p>&quot;My love! How are you, my love!&quot; exclaims Mari Jimenez, 53, reaching her son, who&#39;s driving in Miami.</p><div id="res446208657"><div>Jimenez just learned a month ago how to use her new iPhone 5, sent by her son. She has long, acrylic white nails &mdash; except on her index finger. &quot;It&#39;s much faster to use the phone without the nail,&quot; she says. &quot;I don&#39;t want to waste time or money.&quot; She&#39;ll just glue it back on when she gets home.</div></div><p>Meanwhile, 18-year-old Daniella Hidalgo is checking out makeup tips from a YouTube beauty guru named Yuya in Mexico City. Unfortunately, the signal isn&#39;t that good and she only gets to see a few of the tips before the video cuts out.</p><p>I ask Hidalgo if she visits news sites or anything political. No way, she says: &quot;I&#39;m paying for this, I&#39;m not going to waste my money on politics.&quot;</p><p>Jorge Bativia&#39;s been trying unsuccessfully for the past hour to video-chat with his girlfriend in Australia &mdash; whom he first met via an online chat &mdash; and is ready to give up.</p><p>Even so, he says, he&#39;s glad the Internet finally came to Cuba.</p><p>&quot;Even if [the government] wanted to take it back, they can&#39;t,&quot; he says. &quot;You can&#39;t keep people&#39;s eyes covered forever.&quot;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/10/06/445998527/internet-access-expands-in-cuba-for-those-who-can-afford-it?ft=nprml&amp;f=445998527" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 06 Oct 2015 10:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/internet-access-expands-cuba-those-who-can-afford-it-113194 White House explores ways to do business with Cuba http://www.wbez.org/news/white-house-explores-ways-do-business-cuba-112755 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/gettyimages-483711172_wide-dab18d4d4e6ce1cfa38f290f818727773a1fa941-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>The Obama administration is considering ways to further ease travel and restrictions on Cuba. There is still an embargo in place and it would take an act of Congress to lift that.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The president, however, does have ways to make it easier for Americans to go to Havana or to sell goods there. A lot has changed already since the White House announced its new approach last year.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Washington, D.C. lawyer Robert Muse managed to get a U.S. government license to start ferry services to Cuba. He describes the process this way:</div><div>&quot;As Ernest Hemingway wrote about going bankrupt, it happened both slowly and then suddenly. I had applied for the license several years ago and it just sat there in a kind of policy void.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Once President Obama announced an opening with Cuba late last year, everything changed. &quot;Out of the blue,&quot; Muse says, &quot;suddenly the license was granted.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>That doesn&#39;t mean this is a done deal. Cuba still has to agree to allow ferries to bring people and goods from Miami. But at least on the U.S. side, he says, it is getting easier to get licenses, especially for sales to Cuba&#39;s small, but emerging private sector.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;That could be anything from a pizza oven to restaurant lighting to napkins and chairs. Anything you could think of. So the authority exists,&quot; Muse says.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He&#39;d like to see the Obama administration go further to boost trade. So would Sarah Stephens of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, who has taken U.S. lawmakers and others to Cuba for many years.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;One thing that we are seeing is that many of these companies, U.S. companies that are going down to learn what they can about the market and Cuban priorities are coming back and applying for licenses and getting them,&quot; Stephens says.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>She&#39;s asked the Treasury Department to change the regulations for travel too to make it easier for individuals to go &mdash; as long as they are on educational, cultural, religious or family visits, as required by U.S. law.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;If individuals are going to Cuba, the money they are spending is going directly into the hands of individual Cubans and that&#39;s really the goal,&quot; Stephens says.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Not so says Frank Calzon of the Center for a Free Cuba.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The folks who travel to Cuba today are subsidizing the Cuban military and the security forces because the Cuban travel industry is completely controlled by the Cuban military. That&#39;s a fact,&quot; he says.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Despite warmer relations with the U.S., he says Cuban authorities still routinely round up and beat up dissidents. He argues that having more Americans going to Cuba or doing business there won&#39;t improve things for average Cubans.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The contrary happens,&quot; Calzon says. American corporations that are in Cuba become lobbyists of the Cuban dictatorship because they are afraid of what the Cuban government can do to their investment.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Calzon argues that President Obama has already gone too far to undermine an embargo that was put in place by Congress.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But Muse, the D.C. lawyer, says the president can still carve out exceptions, and should before he leaves office.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The president can leave the U.S. embargo on Cuba like a piece of cheese that&#39;s far more holes than cheese,&quot; he adds.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The White House will only say that it &quot;continues to explore regulatory changes to provide new opportunities for American citizens and U.S. businesses.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/08/28/435416074/white-house-explores-ways-to-do-business-with-cuba?ft=nprml&amp;f=435416074" target="_blank"><em>Parallels</em></a></div></p> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 10:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/white-house-explores-ways-do-business-cuba-112755 From Cuba to Chicago: Pedro Páramo and Havana Blue http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/cuba-chicago-pedro-p%C3%A1ramo-and-havana-blue-106939 <p><p>Listen to artists from River North Dance Chicago, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Goodman Theatre and Cuba&rsquo;s Teatro Buendía as they discuss cross-border collaborations with dance, original music and theater that led to the world premiere productions of Havana Blue (music and dance) and Pedro Páramo (theater). Moderated by WBEZ&rsquo;s <strong>Tony Sarabia</strong>.</p><div>Panelists include:</div><div><strong>Raquel Carrió</strong>, Playwright, Cuba&rsquo;s Teatro Buendía<strong> </strong></div><div><strong>Frank Chaves</strong>, Artistic Director, River North Dance Chicago</div><div><strong>Orbert Davis</strong>, Artistic Director, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic<strong> </strong></div><div><strong>Henry Godinez</strong>, Resident Artistic Associate, Goodman Theatre</div><div><strong>Flora Lautén</strong>, Artistic Director, Cuba&rsquo;s Teatro Buendía</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>**Note: This audio starts a few minutes into the discussion.</div><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IC-webstory_3.jpg" title="" /></div><div><div class="image-insert-image ">Recorded live on March 14, 2013 at Instituto Cervantes Chicago.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 14 Mar 2013 15:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/cuba-chicago-pedro-p%C3%A1ramo-and-havana-blue-106939 In Havana, no one likes Barack much anymore http://www.wbez.org/blog/achy-obejas/2011-07-28/havana-no-one-likes-barack-much-anymore-89774 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-July/2011-07-28/interests section.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A visitor from the U.S. in Havana will, eventually and undoubtedly, be asked, “What’s going on with your president?”</p><p>The debt ceiling chaos overtaking Washington right now isn’t what baffles the Cubans. The very idea of a debt ceiling mystifies them, especially since Cuba lives on debt, and things like the national budget are not really discussed in much detail here. In fact, Cubans seem generally convinced the Washington mess is mostly theater and that all will work out – whatever it is that has to work out – before the Aug. 2 deadline. My constant concern with finding out what was going on back home did little but amuse them.</p><p>But Barack Obama, now sidelined in the most defining moment of his own presidency, seemed to elicit head scratching and perplexed looks.</p><p>In its own way, that’s quite a change from the way Cubans have been viewing American presidents since I began to travel to the island as an adult in 1995. Though Bill Clinton had initially been greeted with hope, by 1995 his response to the Cojímar exodus – including allowing the tightening of the embargo – had earned him criticism and suspicion.</p><p>No one, of course, has been hated more than George W. Bush in recent years. Besides the restrictions imposed on travel and remittances, Bush appointed James Cason, now the mayor of exile-heavy Coral Gables, Fla., as head of the U.S. Interests Section, the embassy in all but name, and his antics were legendary. Besides his recklessness in ensnaring dissidents in activities that eventually got a bunch jailed, Cason was best known for running electric signs across the embassy in 2000 that said things like, “Democracy for Cuba” and “Cubans, rise up!” – an outrageous breach of protocol, no matter what anyone may think of Cuba’s government.</p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-28/interests section.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 450px; " title="The U.S. Interests Section in Havana, obscured by flag poles"></p><p>Fidel Castro, of course, responded in typical over-the-top fashion, razing the road in front of the embassy building and constructing an outdoor stage with scores of flag posts designed to obstruct the view of the embassy. Officially called the José Martí Anti-Imperialist Plaza, the Cubans informally refer to it as the “protestordomo,” because it’s been the site of hundreds of anti-U.S. rallies sponsored by the Cuban government.</p><p>Naturally, when Obama was elected, just about anyone would have had a better reception in Havana than the prior American president. But Barack brought particular things that made him more appealing than the average Democratic president of the behemoth to the north.</p><p>First, he’s black – an inspiration to the multitudes of Cubans of color, as was the case with people of color throughout the world. (Curiously, though Fidel had practically endorsed Obama in his commentaries, the government – in 2008 run by brother Raul – was well aware that Obama’s election put the lie to a good deal of propaganda about American racism, and that was a bit unnerving.) Second, he was going end the wars, close Guantánamo and bring an era of greater cooperation with Latin America that, everyone hoped, would also mean improved relations with Cuba.</p><p>Then, of course, there’s the story that supposes that <a href="http://www.babalublog.com/archives/010416.html%20">Barack is Cuban</a>. Before the 2008 election, rumors ran rampant that Obama’s mom got pregnant while on a solidarity tour of Cuba, his real father a man from the town of Sagua la Grande, and then rushed home and married Obama Sr. to cover it up. Just the vaguest chance that the president might be Cuban made him a big fave out on the streets of Havana.</p><p>Three years later, though, no one wants to lay claims to him.</p><p>Sure, he’s lifted some travel restrictions and laws regarding family reunification and remittances. But the wars continue, and Libya – a traditional ally of Cuba’s – is now feeling Obama’s bombs. And Guantánamo remains active, and Latin America has been almost completely ignored.</p><p>“¿Qué pasó?” the Cubans ask, sadly and sincerely.</p><p>And me, I have no answers at all.</p></p> Thu, 28 Jul 2011 17:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/achy-obejas/2011-07-28/havana-no-one-likes-barack-much-anymore-89774