Cliff the Musical - Mike Read

Political correspondent Ben Riley-Smith writes that Mike Read, the former radio DJ behind the controversial ‘Ukip Calypso’ in the UK, defended the song and rejected accusations that it was racist by saying he has “many chums out in the Caribbean” and a “track-record of multiculturalism.”

Mike Read pointed to his work with the Jamaican Tourist Board and said he has spent “a lot of time” in the area as he rejected suggestions the tune was racist.

However Mr Read revealed he felt “absolutely terrible” some people found the “fun” song discriminatory and apologised to anybody who had taken offence. He admitted with hindsight perhaps it was better to have sung the song in his own accent but said he was simply following a rich tradition of using Calypso music for political satire. “I don’t have a racist bone in my body. I work across all cultures and creeds, I travel the world. It was just meant to be a bit of fun,” Mr Read told BBC London radio.

“People are very very very quick to take offence now at something that years ago would have been deemed to be a bit of satire and a bit of fun. But now with social media everybody can assume that you meant something appalling by it, which of course I didn’t. I’ve got so many chums out in the Caribbean. I’ve spent a lot of time out there.”

He added: “I was terribly hurt that people thought that, because I just think ‘well it’s a bit of fun’. You can’t do it in a Surrey accent, can you?”

Mr Read’s song praising Ukip has triggered a backlash after Nigel Farage, the party’s leader, publicly called for supporters to help push it up the charts.

Lyrics sung in a faux-Jamaican accent include lines like: “The leaders committed a cardinal sin. Open the borders let them all come in. Illegal immigrants in every town. Stand up and be counted Blair and Brown.” [. . .]

Listen to song here: 

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Posted by: ivetteromero | October 21, 2014

Strike against coal-fired plants in southern Dominican Republic

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Several groups in the southern provinces of the Dominican Republic are calling for a strike tomorrow against coal-fired plants being built in Punta Catalina. The groups are protesting against the consequences of pollution and lack for water for drinking and irrigation, among other problems.

Peravia province (south) social, community, agro and productive groups on Monday reiterated the call for a civic and peaceful strike tomorrow Wednesday, to demand water supply, farming loans and against the coal-fired plants being built in nearby Punta Catalina.

In a Sunday morning meeting at Bani City Hall, the National Committee to Fight Climate Change, the leaders of the organizations railed against the government’s indolence to the province’s demands. They said the population lacks drinking water and irrigation, despite increased dam levels and instead of rationalizing it, diverts it all the city of Santo Domingo.

Representatives complain that without irrigation they cannot plant onions, “which an irretrievable loss for local farmers and the country will need to have large amounts of dollars to import.”

They said under the pretext of solving the blackouts, the pollution from the coal-fired plants will pose a threat to people’s health, the environment, farming and livestock in the province.

“Neither Bani nor other Peravia province communities have been given the opportunity to decide whether to suffer pollution’s consequences caused by the plants being built at Punta Catalina. The authorities have made no effort to seek less-polluting fuels other than coal for these plants,” they said.

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Posted by: ivetteromero | October 21, 2014

Organic October in Jamaica


This month the Jamaica Organic Agriculture Movement (JOAM) staged the first Organic October in Jamaica, a celebration that will surely gain popularity through the years. Raymond Martin, treasurer of the organization explains that a higher level of productivity in the area of organic farming is needed in the country. This month, the organization has been bringing attention to organic products.

The JOAM is a non-governmental organisation. Its main activities include lobbying and assisting in the development of a local organic agriculture industry. The work is monitored and carried out by the executive body and by members of regional groups that are situated across the island. Individuals may participate by taking part in the activities in their five regions.

[. . .] “The mission of JOAM is to facilitate the development of the organic industry in Jamaica. One of the things we recognised this year was that we really had to have a period where we showcased organics, and that is how Organic October came about,” Martin told The Gleaner.

Martin stated that, since JOAM was founded in 2001, it has worked with several agencies such as the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, and trained several persons throughout the parishes in the area of organic farming.

[. . .] “Organic farming methods offer the best, currently available, practical model for addressing climate-friendly food production. This is because it is less dependent on oil-based fertilisers and pesticides, and confers resilience in the face of climatic extremes,” said Dorienne Campbell, chairperson of the organisation. [. . .]

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Posted by: ivetteromero | October 21, 2014

The Burt Award for Caribbean Literature 2015


Only a few days left to submit your manuscript, graphic novel or book FOR THE Burt Award for Caribbean Literature 2015. The deadline for submissions is Friday, October 24, 2014.

Established by CODE with the generous support of Canadian philanthropist William (Bill) Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation, in partnership with the Bocas Lit Fest, the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature is an annual Award given to three English-language literary works for Young Adults (aged 12 through 18) written by Caribbean authors.

A First Prize of $10,000 CAD, a Second Prize of $7,000 CAD and a Third Prize of $5,000 CAD will be awarded to the winning authors this year. Publishers of winning titles will be awarded a guaranteed purchase of up to 2,500 copies.

Published books and self-published books published between 1 October 2012 and 23 October 2014, as well as unpublished manuscripts, are eligible for the award. All submissions must be received by the Award administrators by 24 October 2014. The winners will be announced at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest in Trinidad and Tobago in April 2015.

To consult the guidelines and access the entry forms, please visit:

For additional information, email us at

Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 21, 2014

Legendary fashion designer Oscar de la Renta dies aged 82


This obituary by Cathy Horyn and Enid Nemy appeared in The New York Times.

Oscar de la Renta, the doyen of American fashion, whose career began in the 1950s in Franco’s Spain, sprawled across the better living rooms of Paris and New York, and who was the last survivor of that generation of bold, all-seeing tastemakers, died on Monday at his home in Kent, Conn. He was 82.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Annette de la Renta. The cause was complications from cancer. Though ill with cancer intermittently for close to eight years, Mr. de la Renta was resilient. During that period his business grew by 50 percent, to $150 million in sales, as his name became linked to celebrity events like the Oscars. Amy Adams, Sarah Jessica Parker and Penélope Cruz were among the actresses who wore his dresses.

Recently his biggest coup was to make the ivory tulle gown that Amal Alamuddin wore to wed George Clooney in Venice.

Determined to stay relevant, Mr. de la Renta achieved fame in two distinct realms: as a couturier to socialites — the so-called ladies-who-lunch, his bread and butter — and as a red-carpet king. He also dressed four American first ladies, but it was Hollywood glitz, rather than nice uptown clothes, that defined him for a new age and a new customer. Just as astutely he embraced social media.

Many high-end designers had bigger businesses. Some were more original. But very few were fearless enough to adapt to a cultural shift. Mr. de la Renta did it twice in his career, the first time in 1980.

Normally he didn’t dwell on the subject of his legacy. In an interview in 2009, at his home in Punta Cana, in his native Dominican Republic, he said of fashion: “It’s never been heavy. Somebody might ask, ‘What is Oscar de la Renta?’ And you could say, ‘It’s a pretty dress.’”


Instead, he preferred to joke, or talk about his vegetable garden in Kent, or dish the dirt. He rarely shied from controversy or calling someone out. Three years ago, he chided Michelle Obama for wearing foreign labels. (He insisted that his comments were not made because she never wore his things. Eventually, this month, she did.) Once, in a speech, he offered to send three-way mirrors to certain editors who wore miniskirts. But then, all his life Mr. de la Renta loved being where the action was — whether a gala, a dominoes table, or in his various homes entertaining talented and influential friends.

“He notices everything,” John Fairchild, the retired publisher of Women’s Wear Daily, said a few years ago. A telephone call from Mr. de la Renta might begin with a familiar bit of flirtation: “How are you, my darling? Tell me the gossip.”

In 1980, he and his first wife, a former editor named Francoise de Langlade, posed for the cover of The New York Times Magazine, with the headline, “Living Well Is Still the Best Revenge.” By then, Mr. de la Renta had lived in New York for 17 years — less time than rivals Bill Blass and Geoffrey Beene.

The article, which described the stylish couple’s uninhibited social ascent — and the array of people who came to their “salons,” ranging from Norman Mailer to Henry Kissinger — was a kind of watershed moment. Fashionable people had long been part of the city’s social scene; that wasn’t news. But, as a point of contrast, when Truman Capote held his Black and White Dance in 1966, only a tiny fraction of the 540 guests were dress designers. They became more visible during the 1970s, but The Times Magazine article, by Francesca Stanfill, now put their money and status out in the open.

As Alexander Liberman, the editorial director of Condé Nast, said, “Designers have become the new tycoons.” Mr. de la Renta soon embarked on the next phase of his career: as a designer to first ladies, beginning with Nancy Reagan.

Though Mr. de la Renta never took his job lightly, he always gave the impression that his life mattered more. He had enormous zest, displayed in his fashion — the vibrant colors, the airy sleeves, the Turkish delight numbers that so appealed to his greatest champion, the editor Diana Vreeland.

But where he really revealed himself, his hospitable nature, was in the Dominican Republic, where he was regarded as an unofficial ambassador (he held a diplomatic passport anyway). He built two homes there. The first, in Casa de Campo, featured thatched roofs, rattan furniture and hammocks, and images of the de la Rentas’ informal gatherings often appeared in W in the 1970s.

The second home, in Punta Cana, though imposing in the Colonial style, with wide verandas (and its own chapel on the grounds), also had a relaxed feeling. Mr. de la Renta built the house with his second wife, the former Annette Engelhard Reed, whom he married in 1989, following the death of Francoise, from cancer, in 1983.

In addition to his wife, Annette, Mr. de la Renta is survived by a son, Moises; three sisters; three stepchildren; and nine step-grandchildren.

At holidays, the de la Rentas filled their house in Punta Cana with relatives and friends, notably Bill and Hillary Clinton, Nancy and Henry Kissinger and the art historian John Richardson. The family dogs had the run of the compound, and Mr. de la Renta often sang spontaneously after dinner. First-time visitors, seeking him out in the late afternoon, were surprised to find him in the staff quarters, hellbent on winning at dominoes.

A man of the world, he was at ease everywhere. Though he once said, “To me, home is wherever Annette is,” then added with a droll laugh, “She could be unbelievably happy without me.”

Oscar Aristedes de la Renta was born in Santo Domingo on July 22, 1932. The youngest of seven children and the only boy, he often recalled that he usually got what he wanted from his family. He finished high school in Santo Domingo, and although his father preferred that he join him in the insurance business, young Oscar persuaded his mother to send him to Madrid to study art.

At 19, a year after her death, he left for Spain on a passenger ship.

Besotted by postwar Madrid, and his new freedom, Mr. de la Renta was soon spending more time in the cafes and nightclubs, meeting flamenco dancers, than in class. As well, he acquired a “señorito” wardrobe, he told the writer Sarah Mower, which consisted of custom-made suits from the tailor Luis Lopez, high starched collars and a carnation of deepest red in his buttonhole. The $125 his father sent each month paid for fancy clothes and in a sense his broader education afoot in Spain.

For extra money, he drew clothes for newspapers and fashion houses. He later admitted that his drawings were not technically accomplished or original. Nonetheless, some of his sketches were seen by Francesca Lodge, the wife of John Davis Lodge, then the United States ambassador to Spain. In 1956, she asked Mr. de la Renta to design a coming-out dress for her daughter Beatrice. The dress and the debutante appeared on the cover of Life that fall.

He was soon working in the Madrid salon of Cristobal Balenciaga, perhaps the greatest couturier of that period. Mr. de la Renta’s job was to sketch dresses to send to clients. But when he asked Mr. Balenciaga to transfer him to the main studio in Paris, the couturier told him he wasn’t qualified yet and to wait a year.

Instead, armed with letters of introduction, Mr. de la Renta left for Paris and was immediately offered a job at Christian Dior.

The following day he went to see Antonio del Castillo, the designer at Lanvin, who was looking for an assistant. “He loved me because I spoke Spanish, and he asked me if I could cut, drape and sew, and of course I said yes,” Mr. de la Renta told Bernadine Morris, a former fashion reporter for The Times. “He offered me a little more money than Dior, and I said I would start in two weeks. Then I went to a fashion school and asked the woman who ran it if she could teach me the year’s course in two weeks.”

Mr. de la Renta remained with Mr. Castillo from 1961 to 1963, when he decided to try his luck in the United States. He joined Elizabeth Arden, which then produced a couture line. Mr. de la Renta recalled that when Ms. Arden asked how much money he wanted, he threw out the largest number he could think of — $700 a week — and then sat back to wait. “Did I have the know-how to really earn that?” he recalled. “Probably not.”

Six months later, when Ms. Arden complained about his long vacation in Europe, he cannily proposed dinner at her apartment, where he let her win at cards. “From then on I could do in that house anything,” he said.

In 1965, Mr. de la Renta left Arden to join the Seventh Avenue company of Jane Derby, as partner and designer. Miss Derby retired shortly after, and Mr. de la Renta took over, with backing from Ben Shaw. The brand eventually grew to include fragrances, boutiques in the United States and abroad, and dozens of licenses.

Mr. de la Renta formed close friendships with the first ladies he dressed, in particular Nancy Reagan and Mrs. Clinton. Beginning in 1997, in Mr. Clinton’s second term, Mr. de la Renta helped Mrs. Clinton streamline her style, with signature pantsuits in bright pastels. Mrs. Clinton liked to say, somewhat drolly, “He’s been working for 20 years to turn me into a fashion icon.”

Mr. de la Renta made his debut as a couture designer in Paris in 1993, showing a collection for Pierre Balmain. He became the first American to design an important couture collection in Paris since Main Rousseau Bocher, known as Mainbocher, closed his salon there in 1940. The house of Balmain, a fixture on the fashion scene since 1946, had foundered after its creator’s death in 1982, and before Mr. de la Renta’s arrival, several designers had been responsible for the line.

Mr. de la Renta also showed his ready-to-wear collection in Paris for three seasons, in 1991 and 1992. The shows were substantially backed by Sanofi, the producer of his fragrances — Oscar and So de la Renta for women, and Pour Homme, for men.

He was presented with Coty Awards, chosen by a jury of fashion editors, for having had the most significant influence on fashion in both 1967 and 1968. In 1973 he was named to the Coty Hall of Fame, and in 1989 he was given a lifetime achievement award by the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

During his long career, Mr. de la Renta was among the few designers who knew the difference between the runway and fashion.

“Never, ever confuse what happens on a runway with fashion,” Mr. de la Renta once said. “A runway is spectacle. It’s only fashion when a woman puts it on. Being well dressed hasn’t much to do with having good clothes. It’s a question of good balance and good common sense.”

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Monica Puig may be aware that she is competing in an invitational exhibition event in Singapore this week, but the fiery Puerto Rican has been playing like her life depended on it, as Reem Abulleil reports in this article for

One of four youngsters featuring in the newly-introduced Rising Stars event that is being staged on the sidelines of the WTA Finals in Singapore, Puig has posted two solid victories in her opening two round robin matches so far, beating Kazakhstan’s Zarina Diyas on day one, and China’s Zheng Saisai yesterday to close in on a spot in Tuesday’s final.

The 21-year-old had a breakthrough year last season, reaching the third round at Roland Garros on her grand slam debut, and following it up with a fourth round appearance at Wimbledon where she ousted the fifth-seeded Sara Errani in the first round.

She peaked at No41 in the world mid-last year and was considered one of the ones to watch heading into 2014.

But Puig’s 2014 season did not go as planned as she failed to replicate her success in the majors and has dropped to No63 in the rankings.

Despite capturing her first WTA title in Strasbourg in May, the Florida-based player was unable to put together any consistent results.

But she seems to find her footing in Singapore, where she was voted by thousands of fans to take part in the Rising Stars event.

“It’s just an unbelievable thing to end the year being here and being able to play in one of the greatest stages in the world so I’m so excited,” said Puig, who was pumping herself up throughout her win over Zheng, which took place on one of the practice courts at the Singapore Sports Hub.

“The final is going to be played on the main stadium so that’s really a huge reward and that’s really what I wanted. I practiced with Simona (Halep) the other day in the main stadium and I was like ‘I really want to be here’ so I really have to work hard and earn my spot.”

Puig admits she’s had a tough year and says some unfortunate draws made things difficult for her at the majors.

“It really hurts when you lose first round knowing that you had to defend so many points,” said Puig.

“It hurts to know that I was 41 (in the world) at one point and now I’m hanging in the balance in the 60s. But you know it’s a process. I just turned 21. I have a lot of tennis ahead of me.

“Right now if I lose but I’m learning that means that I’m going to win in the future. I’d rather lose and learn than win and not know anything and just be out there and see what happens. I would really like to enjoy the process, learn what I have to learn and then be a very consistent player in the future.”

Changing coaches twice in the first six months of the season also didn’t help, but she seems in sync with her current teacher, Ricardo Sanchez, who has previously worked with Nadia Petrova and Jelena Jankovic.

“I changed coaches twice this year. I was with my coach (Alain de Vos) that I was with for six years until the end of the Australian Open and then I was with another coach (Antonio van Grichen) until Estoril and then I started with Richy (Ricardo Sanchez),” she says.

“It was really tough transition, I was hearing a lot of different voices.

“Now I’m really comfortable, now I have stability in my life. He’s really positive.

“The second week that I’m working with him I win my first WTA title, so I was really excited. It was a different outlook, he made me feel really relaxed on the court, like I can believe in myself.”

There are a host of players who are Puig’s age who have had bigger breakthroughs, most notably Eugenie Bouchard, who at 20, is already a grand slam runner-up.

With the competition amongst the youngsters reaching incredible heights, is women’s tennis as cutthroat as it seems?

Absolutely not,” says Puig. “Tennis is a competitive sport and you have to look at it that way.

“I mean, Genie (Bouchard), you see how well she’s been doing this year. For some people it clicks earlier than others. I have to accept that I’m a bit of a late bloomer, it happened in the juniors as well. So right now I’m just learning and I’m looking forward to what I’m going to do in the offseason and really get ready to boom in 2015.”

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Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 12.20.01 AM

UNIX Gallery presents Alfredo Scaroina, “Reclamation,” the artist’s debut New York exhibition. Scaroina is a Dominican artist known for his abstract, colorful, and experimental works that unveil a universal understanding into the subconscious. “Reclamation” runs from October 16th through November 19th, 2014.

Scaroina begins his creative process by absorbing themes and motifs in the world around him, and projects an image that resonates in the subconscious mind of his viewers. This methodology determines the form and content of each completed painting. Scaroina’s work thus presents an emotional and phycological dialogue that communicates directly to the collective humanity, transcending across cultures. Clara Silvestre from the International Association of Art Critics writes, “Scaroina seizes and empowers the everyday, the daily ritual, building and creating from the foundation of conscious- ness, rhetoric free and rich in nuance, which embraces the splendor of expressionism and abstraction.”

The artist incorporates a variety of materials including sand and metal flakes, to paper fibers and clippings. Scaroina mixes these mediums and treats them with archival solvents, which reveals a complex arranged laying of complementary surfaces. From these materials, he takes the works through a number of organic transformations, including the addition of geometric patterns and codes. His use of archetypal symbols and primitive motifs like geometric shapes, numbers, letters, and other markings act as a kind of universal language. Silvestre also states, “Scaroina explores the brows of abstraction, and romance of shapes and unique shades of colors.”

Alfredo Scaroina was born and raised in the Dominican Republic where he received his education from Es- cuela de Artes Plasticas and Academia de Bellas Artes where he studied under various established artists including Latin American artist Migdalia Chavez and Spanish master Joaquin Castellote. Scaroina is rep- resented in collections in the United States and throughout Latin America. His recent exhibitions include Museum of Modern Art in Santo Domingo, Artistas Contemporaneos Unidos, Debora Colton Gallery, and Kirk Hopper Fine Art.

The artist lives and works in Houston, TX.

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Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 21, 2014

José Antonio Abreu: any child can be a musician


Maestro Abreu underscores that “El Sistema” is aimed at “rescuing low-income children and teenagers by means of music”, aS Caracas’ El Universal reports.

The founder of the Venezuelan System of Orchestras, José Antonio Abreu, an economist, does not believe in untalented children for music. His purpose, therefore, is to make every Venezuelan a musician and help vanquish fear, lift self-esteem and love the beautiful things of life by means of music.

“Any child, any youngster has the potential of the musical art and the orchestral development just powers such endowment,” said the laureate of the prize Prince of Asturias of Arts 2008 in an interview with Efe.

“Maestro Abreu,” as everybody calls him in Venezuela, remembers that the symphonic project known as “El Sistema” and founded 40 years ago is rather social. Its main objective is “rescuing low-income children and teenagers by means of music.”

For children with social disadvantages, learning a musical instrument “opens a shiny road, ennobles and dignifies.”

“Development of music arouses many intellectual potentials underlying in children. For instance, it favors talent for mathematics,” said the founder of more than 800 orchestras and almost 400 choirs. Over 500,000 Venezuelan children and teenagers are members of El Sistema.

Abreu does not want his project to stop growing, but to give every child a place in the orchestras. In his view, such goal is possible, as the Venezuelan State has fully backed El Sistema.

“It has received all the support in resources to finance teachers; resources to buy instruments, and resources to build the necessary infrastructure,” he said.

Projects that have grown under the aegis of El Sistema include eight centers of the Penitentiary Academic Program, where “hundreds of prisoners” have formed part of penitentiary orchestras, and the Special Education Program for children with disabilities.

“We want to sow music in every sense; hence we work with children under medical treatment,” Abreu added.

At the end of 2014, Maestro Abreu has his sight on a special orchestra, the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Caracas, established in 1980 and composed of 200 musicians of 18-24 years of age. They are getting ready for a tour of Europe, including performances in France, Switzerland, Germany, Croatia, Hungary, Austria and Sweden.

Abreu commented that top government authorities of the visited countries have confirmed that they will attend the concerts of the Youth Symphony Orchestra. In addition to the works of Russian composers Dmitri Shostakovich and Igor Stravinsky, and Swedish Rolf Martinsson, the works of Venezuelan authors Evencio Castellanos and Antonio Estévez will be played.

The experience of El Sistema has been replicated overseas, including France, Greece, most of South America and some Central American and Caribbean countries.

“When will I be pleased? Never, for there will be always a child in need of music as a fundamental companion in his/her life; there will be always a gifted youngster for music, and there will be always communities, families, low-income barrios, and sectors able to regard collective musical development as a piece of beauty and happiness.”

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | October 21, 2014



This profile of Puerto Rican tennis player Gigi Fernández appeared in ESPN.

Gigi Fernandez was 14 when she watched the 1978 Wimbledon women’s singles final between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert from her home in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“It was the first time I became aware of this thing called professional tennis,” Fernandez said.

Five years later, Fernandez became the first female athlete from her country to turn professional in any sport.

“We didn’t have tennis coverage so it was probably the first time I ever saw tennis on TV, and it was so foreign to me that I could play with them someday,” Fernandez said. “I was on this little island, and they were off in the world.”

Fernandez, 49, voted the 10th-most-influential Hispanic female athlete in history by our blue-ribbon panel of voters, would go on to become a highly ranked singles player and one of the most successful doubles players in tennis history, winning 17 Grand Slam titles with four different partners and two Olympic gold medals with another in her 14-year Hall of Fame career.

“Gigi was extremely talented, very gifted and fun to watch,” said Navratilova, who partnered with Fernandez for the 1990 US Open title. “She was very creative on court, had all the shots. I always thought she could have done better because she was so talented, but who’s to say?

“When you have that much talent, you’re always fighting that in a way. I went through that and many others.”

Fernandez, a controversial figure in her homeland following her decision to represent the United States in the Olympics, reflects on a childhood in which her mother and father, a well-known physician in Puerto Rico, were able to provide her with lessons at their country club, and later, on a court built next to their home. But she also possessed a God-given talent recognized at a very early age.

“Apparently I had very good hand-eye coordination, and at 3, I was already rallying on court with a big racket,” Fernandez said.

What she did not have in tennis, however, was anyone to emulate.

I always talk about that, that I really didn’t have role models growing up,” she said. “There wasn’t a female athlete I knew about who was Hispanic in any sport.”

She told herself that “a lot of things had to fall into place. I was recruited to go to college [at Clemson] with a really marginal junior career,” she said. “They saw talent in me and gave me a scholarship, and it was the first time I ever practiced in an organized manner.”

Fernandez repaid Clemson by reaching the NCAA singles final, where she lost to a player then ranked 27th in the world. Seven years and one Grand Slam title later, Fernandez remembers partnering with Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1990 and feeling overwhelmed.

“She and Pam [Shriver] had been established partners, and I knew if we lost, it would be my fault,” Fernandez said. “We lost in the quarters, and it was a big shock. When we went to play the US Open, I had to vindicate myself because Wimbledon had been such a disaster. I thought if we didn’t win, I’d be washed up at 26.”

Navratilova remembered the Open that year, as well.

Considered one of the greatest doubles players of all time, Gigi Fernandez was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010.
“At the time, I didn’t appreciate enough the pressure players felt playing with me,” she said. “I had played with Billie Jean King, who was a legend, and even though I was a better player at the time because she was at the end of her career, I was terrified of not playing up to her standards.

“Of course, Gigi was feeling the pressure, and I remember we were playing on one of those outside courts and she was as flat as a pancake. No matter what I did, she was staring into outer space and played like it, too. I thought, what am I going to do with her?”

On a changeover, Navratilova, appearing frustrated, smashed her racket to pieces.

“I just obliterated it,” Navratilova said, “and Gigi just looked at me with these big eyes. The ref, of course, penalized me, and then I smashed it again. That’s when Gigi’s eyes got really big. She didn’t say a word, we won the match and the US Open. We never really talked about it, and I had never done anything like that before in my life. But it worked.”

Now the director of tennis for the Chelsea Piers club in Connecticut, married (to Jane Geddes) and the mother of 4-year-old twins, Fernandez has managed and mentored a number of young Puerto Rican players, including Vilmarie Castellvi and Monica Puig (who reached a high ranking of 44th in singles), and continues to find Hispanic youngsters worthy of tennis scholarships at her club.

“Because I was the first Puerto Rican female professional athlete in any sport, I realized early on I was blazing a trail for others to look up to,” Fernandez said. “When I was playing, I was somewhat oblivious, but after retiring, I realized I had a responsibility to help others and continue what I had started.”

Still beloved in her native country for her tennis exploits, there are also those who have never accepted that Fernandez won her Olympic gold medals (in Barcelona in 1992 and Atlanta in ’96, both with doubles partner Mary Joe Fernandez) while representing the United States.

“It was very controversial,” she said. “It was a tough decision, but in end, if I put my career in front of my heart and my patriotism, then I made the right decision. The only chance I had to win a gold medal was for the U.S. since there was not another Puerto Rican to play with. It’s still controversial. Sometimes I’m not credited with being the first Puerto Rican woman to win a gold medal.”

Navratilova, who was granted political asylum by the United States when she was 18 and then stripped of her Czechoslovakian citizenship (she has since acquired dual citizenship), said Fernandez has defied the odds.

“Any time you succeed, you’ve defied odds,” she said. “A lot of things have to go right for you, not the least of which is you have to be strong mentally in getting up every day and going to the practice court, doing what it takes to be a professional.

“And coming from a country with no history of that, you really are blazing a new trail, and that can’t be underestimated.”

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This review of Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings by Margaret Quamme appeared i The Columbus Dispatch.

Brief it is not; as history, it’s slippery; and Marlon James’ massive, sometimes frustrating new novel features far more than seven killings, as well as numerous tortures and rapes.

But readers who can get beyond its excessive violence will find a compelling story of the Jamaican underworld and its uneasy relationship with the United States in the last quarter of the 20th century.

A Brief History of Seven Killings takes off from a failed assassination attempt on Bob Marley in 1976, during which seven gunmen entered

Marley’s house in Kingston and wounded the singer, his wife and several others.

Although the story swirls around Marley and his influence on Jamaica, he is barely a character in the novel. He is referred to only as “the Singer,” and his existence sets into motion an escalating series of crimes through several decades.

The story is told from multiple points of view — so many that the four-page “cast of characters” that precedes the book is essential. Several of the gunmen express their feelings in the local patois. Their voices are joined by CIA agents; a ghost; a freelancer for Rolling Stone; and a young, middle-class Jamaican woman who had a one-night stand with Marley and has the bad luck to be standing around gazing at his house when it’s invaded.


The plot, such as it is, revolves first around the setup for the assassination, then around the more successful attempt to assassinate the would-be assassinators.

Over time, the story moves out from Kingston and the struggle of rival gangs as well as rival political parties there and into New York, where the gangs have set up business distributing crack cocaine and several characters have established new lives.

Underneath the storyline lies a commentary on how the Jamaican underworld has been shaped by the United States, directly by the interference of the CIA and less directly by the influence of pop culture in the form of Clint Eastwood movies and television shows such as Starsky & Hutch.

James’ prose, sometimes poetic and often profane, spins out in long stream-of-consciousness swashes,

leaving the reader to grab on, hold tight and try to make sense of it all. Often, these passages go on longer than seems necessary; other times, they gather force as they go.

The plot is something of a do-it-yourself affair, leaving the reader to make connections that might or might not exist. The CIA part of the story, in particular, trails off into nothingness, and those “company men” have the least believable voices.

By the end, though, the novel coheres into something more than the sum of its disparate parts.

Characters grow and evolve, and, through their thoughts and actions, reveal the changes in a complicated country.

For the original report go to

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