Posted by: ivetteromero | December 19, 2014

Art: “Diaspora (Self-Portraits 2014)” by Omar Victor Diop


In “Diaspora,” a series of twelve impressive self-portraits inspired in part by European paintings, Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop embodies Africans that were notable historical figures in Europe in the colonial era. In the photo above, he poses as Jean-Baptiste Belley, who lived 46 years in what was then called Cap-Français (now Cap Haitien) in the French colony of Saint-Domingue. After buying his freedom with his own savings, he fought in the Haitian Revolution and later became the first black deputy to take a seat in the French National Convention. Belley returned to Saint-Domingue with Charles Leclerc’s expedition of 1802 as an officer of gendarmes, but he was arrested and imprisoned until his death in 1805. [The photo above is based on a well-known painting (see below) of Belley by French painter Anne-Louis Girodet.]


In “Omar Victor Diop dans la peau d’un Noir,” Sabine Cessou writes: “Who remembers Jean-Baptiste Belley, born in 1746 in Gorée, Senegal, sold into slavery in the French Antilles, who arrived in France in full revolution, became a member of the Convention and the Council of Five Hundred? Or Angelo Soliman, abducted as a child from present-day Nigeria, brought into slavery in Europe where he became a domestic servant, a mathematician, a philosopher, and confidant of Austrian Emperor Joseph II, Mozart, and Haydn? After his death in 1796, he was exhibited like a luxurious stuffed animal and exhibited as a decoration in an imperial hall until 1848, the year of the abolition of slavery.”

Omar Victor Diop’s work was exhibited at the Grand Palais last month (November 13-16, 2014), represented by Galerie André Magnin. I am hoping that this exhibition will travel to the United States sometime soon.

Cultural curator Raquel Wilson writes:

Identity and discovery–at both the collective and personal levels–are themes in the forefront of Omar Victor Diop’s Project Diaspora. A journey through time, the photographic series delves into and exposes less spoken narratives of the role of Africans out of Africa. With this body of work, Diop challenges us to rethink our own ideas of history and gives answer to his ongoing, internal dialogue of who he is as artist and person.

Starting his research during a four month residency in Màlaga, Spain, where he was immersed in the reality of being a stranger, Diop has focused this first installment on Europe during the 15th through 19th centuries. Inspired by the many baroque artworks created during this time, he considers this period as an awakening of an intense (and previously nonexistent) era of interaction between Africa and the rest of the world. Using portraits of notable Africans in European history as his inspiration, Diop pits their life-journeys and legacies with those of his own, and further defining his intrigue of the singular destinies of travellers and those in alien environments.

Choosing, for the first time, to use himself as object in his artwork, he has delved into the realities of being both narrator and character, forcing him to face his insecurities head on, and uses references to sport, football in particular, to show the duality of living a life of glory and recognition, while facing the challenges of being “other”. Paradoxes he finds are shared between modern day footballers in Europe and the men of the original portraits depicted in his self-portraits.

With plans to widen Project Diaspora’s scope to Asia, the Americas and Middle East, Diop hopes his project lends to the current debates, accusations and impacts of migration and immigration, and reshapes thoughts on the histories of Africans discovering the world.

For the original article by Sabine Cessou (in French), see

For more on the project, see!project-diaspora/ca7g

See the artist’s page at

Posted by: lisaparavisini | December 19, 2014

For An Island Trapped In The ’50s, An Instant Digital Revolution


This NPR reports appeared in Follow the link below for the original report and a link to the program’s audio.

This week’s historic agreement between the U.S. and Cuba to reinstate diplomatic relations after decades of silence could launch a digital revolution in the island nation.

According to the White House, only 5 percent of Cubans have access to the open Internet, comparable to North Korea. As part of the deal, that could change overnight.

Status Check

Maribel Fonseca, a teacher in Miramar, Cuba, has never seen the Internet. A few of her more privileged students have been online.

“I work in a school where members of the military and foreigners and top people in the country are,” she says over a terrible (and very expensive) phone connection. “They use it. They go shopping, they see things I haven’t seen.”

What she wants to see most is her family. Fonseca’s sister lives in the United States, and it’s been more than a decade since they’ve seen each other. Her voice lights up at the idea of video-chatting with her.

“I can guarantee if I could have Internet at home, I’d talk to my sister every single day. I wouldn’t miss a minute of her life. I love her so much,” she says.

Aidil Oscariz, a Cuban who lives in Miami, says students back home ask people abroad, like her, for the latest research papers, and even for news about Cuba. State-owned media don’t report reliably on crime or corruption, but underground bloggers leak stuff out.

“Sometimes I have actually found out things that are happening in Cuba before some of my family members [there] have,” Oscariz says.

Government Influence

Cuba’s only telecommunications company, ETECSA, is government-controlled. This week’s announcement could mark the end of that monopoly, and pave the way for free-market competition and growth.

“I don’t know that the Castros are ready for an information revolution,” says Alec Ross, who was a senior adviser on tech issues for the U.S. State Department. “But they’re a couple old men. They’re going to die sooner than later. And I think that they’re trying to salvage something.”

Ross, now a fellow at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, says Cuba won’t just light up with bandwidth immediately. The government has to start a bidding process. Mobile operators (presumably foreign-owned) will buy leases and build networks, putting in hundreds of millions of dollars in capital. That’s step one.

“Step two is determining and seeing whether, once Cubans actually go online, are they allowed free expression?” he says. “Or is the Internet more like it is in Iran?”

It’s a hot question — though interestingly, it’s also somewhat peripheral. In plenty of countries, Ross says, government control has a chilling effect on online speech. But as seen during the Arab Spring, if a wireless signal is there, citizens will use it.

Role Of U.S. Tech Companies

U.S. tech companies like Google, Facebook and CISCO are watching how commercial policy shapes up.

Kenth Engo-Monsen with the European telecom operator Telenor says these companies can play a huge role in keeping the Internet free: If and when a government asks for a secret surveillance deal, they can say no.

“That’s not part of being a mobile operator,” he says, “because you have your relationship with your customers, and that is built on the trust that you have with them.”

Engo-Monsen says he’s happy for Cuba, and that he views the Internet as a human right.

Nathan Eagle, a mobile technology analyst with Jana, says companies are going to compete fiercely to get the Cuba telecom contract, and that will help Cubans.

“Once third-party mobile carriers come in, they bring tariff plans — they price connectivity in a competitive way” so the average Cuban can afford service, he says.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | December 19, 2014

Nicaragua’s canal: Digging for truth


This article appeared in The Economist Follow the link below to the original report.

ON DECEMBER 22nd an odd couple—Nicaragua’s left-wing government and a Chinese-born telecoms magnate—say they will begin the realisation of a dream that has captivated Nicaraguans for generations: the construction of an inter-oceanic canal to rival Panama’s. According to Manuel Coronel, an octogenarian who runs the canal authority, their intentions are now beyond dispute. “When the bride and groom set a date, you know it’s serious,” he says.

But ask Mr Coronel just where construction will begin and who will pay for it, and he has no answers. Neither does HKND, the Hong Kong-based company run by Wang Jing, which is to build the $50 billion waterway. The project has been shrouded in secrecy since Nicaragua’s National Assembly awarded a 50-year concession to HKND in 2013. No feasibility study, environmental-impact report, business case or financing plan has yet been released. Instead come platitudes from the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega about how it will bring a jobs bonanza and end poverty.

So far, it has brought as much fear as hope. Since Chinese-speaking surveyors, backed by Nicaraguan soldiers and police, began assessing land and houses along the canal’s proposed 278km (172-mile) route a few months ago (see map), peasants fearful of their land being expropriated have taken to the streets 16 times. On December 10th several thousand, shouting “We don’t want the Chinese”, protested in Managua, the capital, despite police efforts to keep them in their villages, activists say. Boatmen in Punta Gorda on the Caribbean coast have refused to ferry heavy machinery to be used to begin construction, fearing their livelihoods will be harmed.

In November the Nicaraguan Academy of Science convened a panel of experts to demand clarification of the impact of dredging sediment along a 105km stretch of Lake Nicaragua. They said it could damage drinking water, irrigation systems, fishing and biodiversity in one of Latin America’s greatest tropical lakes. Engineers say the proposed canal, which is aimed at enticing bigger ships than those now able to cross between the Atlantic and Pacific, could run massively over budget and provoke further widening of the Panama Canal, which would ruin its business case.

Many still doubt it will ever be built. Carlos Fernando Chamorro, editor of an anti-Ortega publication, Confidencial, says the only groundbreaking on December 22nd will be for an access road to a proposed port near Brito, on the Pacific coast, at what is expected to be one entrance to the canal. Some experts think the port, a proposed airport nearby and a free-trade zone may be as far as the canal gets.

But the case for a canal may not rest only on tolls and jobs. China may see it as a strategic route to the Atlantic, says Evan Ellis of the United States Army War College. If so, it might be built after all.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | December 19, 2014

Critically endangered sea turtles rebound in Nicaragua


Hawksbill sea turtles are still rare, but after 15 years of conservation efforts in the Central American nation, their nest counts are up 200 percent and poaching has plummeted by more than 80 percent, Russell McLendon reports in this article for Mother Nature Network.

Hawksbill sea turtles can be found in tropical waters worldwide, but not very easily. Their global population has fallen more than 80 percent in the past century, due to poaching for their eggs and their beautifully patterned shells as well as beachfront development and entanglement in fishing gear.

Staging a comeback is often difficult for endangered wildlife, especially slow-paced species like hawksbills, which only mate every two to three years and take decades to reach sexual maturity. But thanks to a long game of turtle conservation being played in Nicaragua, these ancient reptiles are finally bouncing back in that Central American nation — part of a broader comeback among Caribbean hawksbills that hints at how local human communities often hold the key to preventing extinctions.

In Pearl Cays, a group of 18 islands off Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, hawksbills are reaping the benefits of a 15-year conservation project led by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The species’ nest count in Pearl Cays has risen 200 percent since the project began, from 154 in 2000 to 468 in 2014. Poaching is also down at least 80 percent, with 2014 marking the lowest poaching rate in the project’s history. And now that fewer poachers steal the turtles’ eggs, nest success has averaged 75 percent this year. More than 35,000 hawksbill hatchlings reached the sea by December, according to WCS.

Hawksbills are typically found near healthy coral reefs, where the opportunistic omnivores feed on sponges as well as fish, jellyfish, mollusks, crustaceans, sea urchins and marine algae. Their preference for sponges can make their meat harmful to humans, since sponges often contain toxic compounds that accumulate in the turtles’ tissues. That hasn’t prevented large-scale poaching of hawksbills, however, with poachers often more interested in their eggs and shells than their meat.

The species now enjoys widespread legal protection around the world, yet enforcement remains a challenge in some of the 70 countries where it has historically nested. Before the WCS began its Hawksbill Conservation Project in 2000, for example, a study found that nearly 100 percent of hawksbill nests in Pearl Cays were poached and most eggs were taken for human consumption.

On top of working with local residents to convey the unsustainable scale of this poaching, WCS helped establish the Pearl Cays Wildlife Refuge in 2010, which protects nesting, feeding, breeding and migratory areas for sea turtles as well as key habitats for other wildlife. Hawksbills still face plenty of man-made dangers — including plastic debris that resembles food or lost fishing nets that become death traps — but less poaching and habitat loss can nonetheless make a significant difference.

The rebound of hawksbills in Nicaragua is part of a broader positive trend seen in several parts of the Caribbean, namely Antigua, Barbados, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This correlates with protective measures at critical nesting sites, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as well as decreased hunting at nearby foraging grounds.

While an international ban on the trade of sea turtle parts has also helped curb global demand for their shells, WCS says its recent success in Nicaragua was only possible once local communities understood what was happening to turtle populations and joined the effort to protect them.

“These recent nest counts show that by working with local communities, we can save sea turtles from extinction,” says Caleb McClennen, WCS director of marine conservation, in a statement. “Communities partnering with WCS are directly involved with safeguarding their own natural resources. Without their help and commitment, this project would fail, and Nicaragua’s hawksbill turtles would be doomed.”

Read more:

Posted by: lisaparavisini | December 19, 2014

Papa Machete, Part of Borscht 2014, Screens Today


This article by Abel Folgar appeared in Miami’s New Times.

Jason Fitzroy Jeffers is no stranger to South Florida. Both musician and journalist, he’s made an impact on this and many local publications. With a recent focus shift turning to filmmaking, Jeffers’ first official production, Papa Machete has been picking up momentum and earning accolades from film circles.

“You and I have talked in the past about my machete obsession. I’ve always mythologized it in my own mind as the Excalibur of the third world, a symbol of determination and self-fortification yet to be fully realized. Back home in Barbados, we call it a cutlass or a ‘collins’ — it’s practically the pocketknife of the Caribbean,” Jeffers told us in an interview back in August when the short film was picked for the Toronto International Film Festival’s inaugural section of short works.

The short film concentrates on the life of aging Jacmel farmer Alfred Avril and his status as the last master of tire machét, a martial art combining African stick fighting and European-styled sword parrying.

See also: Jason Fitzroy Jeffers on His Film Papa Machete and the Art of Machete Fencing

The art form, created by slaves when combating Napoleon’s armies, is a poetic extension of the slave revolt. Slaved utilized a tool of their enslavement as the weapon of freedom in the only successful slave revolt to take place in history. Working with Third Horizon Mediaand the Borscht CorporationPapa Machete was directed by the Borscht’s “Minister of Justice” Jonathan David Kane. The short is one of the two films chosen for Sundance.

“I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet that we’re taking Papa Machete to Sundance. It was just a lofty dream when we were putting it together, and now it’s real. It feels unreal though.” The professor (Avril) passed away two weeks ago, and so the film is even more meaningful to us now,” says Jeffers. “It’s become even more of an honor to share his story with the world.”

This screening of the film will be hosted by director Kane and Third Horizon Media and will be followed by a class on Haitian machete fencing taught by Michael Dylan Rogers, one of the subjects of the film. There will also be a traditional Haitian lunch following the presentation.

Papa Machete at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, December 19 at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, 21 NE 59 Terrace, Miami. Screening and presentation free with the purchase of a Borscht 9 ticket or a $5 suggested donation. Call 305-960-2969 or

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | December 19, 2014

Haitian machete fencing at Miami film festival


The Haitian art of machete fencing is being showcased at the Borscht Film Festival in Miami, the Associated Press reports.

Machete fencing is an obscure martial art with roots in the Caribbean country’s history of slavery and rebellion.

A short film by Jonathan David Kane, “Papa Machete,” is being screened during the festival Friday at the Little Haiti Cultural Center and Saturday at the Adrienne Arsht Center.

The film focuses on the late Alfred Avril, who taught the practical and spiritual aspects of the martial art. “Papa Machete” also has been accepted into the upcoming Sundance Film Festival.

The festival opened Wednesday and continues through Sunday. Along with screenings throughout Miami, the festival includes filmmaking workshops and the premiere of “Scarface Redux,” a crowd-sourced remake of Brian dePalma’s iconic film.

For the original report go to

Posted by: ivetteromero | December 19, 2014

New Film: “A Small Section of the World”


Patricia Guadalupe writes about A Small Section of the World, a documentary by Leslie Chilcott. The film traces the development of women’s empowerment through the cultivation of coffee in Costa Rica. The film is a documentary by Italian coffee maker Illy, but as Mell from Everything Different explains, it features little branding, adding that “This isn’t just a cynical attempt to expose the film to two markets, either. The talent is there. The director of A Small Section of the World [. . .] won an Oscar for co-producing An Inconvenient Truth, and was given final cut on A Small Section of the World.” Here are excerpts of Guadalupe’s article:

When it’s a story about female empowerment in Costa Rica, it’s more than a movie about a cup of joe, according to Leslie Chilcott, co-producer and director of “A Small Section of the World.” The documentary, which has been making the rounds in several film festivals to much acclaim, tells the story of a group of women in a rural part of the country who decide to become coffee entrepreneurs, and in the process not only change their lives but the lives of many near and far.

[. . .] “Women all over the world are involved in the coffee business and a majority are coffee farmers, but very few are in control of the financial side of the business. This story is about female economic empowerment,” said Chilcott in an interview with NBC News. The documentary, she said, is a way to bring to light the lives of so many female coffee farmers.

“As the saying goes, a promotion for a woman is a promotion for the whole family,” said Chilcott. The sooner female economic empowerment happens for more, the better off we will all be.”

According to the International Women’s Coffee Alliance, more than 500 million people around the world are dependent on coffee for their livelihoods, and of those, 25 million are coffee farmers.

“Unfortunately, coffee farmers typically live and work in substandard conditions, which are compounded by the fact that they receive only a small percentage of the actual price for which the coffee is sold to the consumer,” the Alliance asserts. Women, who represent a good majority of coffee farmers, face additional challenges as they struggle with the gender inequality prevalent throughout the world’s coffee-growing regions, according to the Alliance. [. . .]

The Costa Rican women formed ASOMOBI, which stands for Asociación de Mujeres Organizadas de Biolley, or the Association of Organized Women of Biolley, a community in the mountainous region of La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, about six hours from the capital city of San José. At close to 3,000 feet in elevation, the region is ideal for growing coffee beans.

“They built their coffee mill and they are in control of the coffee,” said Chilcott. “Coffee is just a big part of our lives. It represents getting together with family and friends, and so many (involved in the process of coffee making) are women. Their influence is vast.”

Filmed in lush and vibrant cinematography, “A Small Section of the World” follows the women from the beginning, when they were surrounded by skeptics. One woman described how some of the husbands were having none of their entrepreneurial endeavors, even refusing to eat lunch left for them by the women before they went to work. It also details the trials and errors of burnt coffee and primitive machinery. The movie ends with the women in a very different place than when they started – they are considered makers of high quality coffee with their own roaster and mill, and the coffee is distributed as far away as Italy.

For full article, see

For more information on the film, see

Also see


Dominican-American writer Julia Alvarez will be one of the plenary speakers—along with Dana Gioia, Ron Hansen, Alice McDermott, Kevin Starr, and Tobias Wolff—at the conference “The Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination,” which takes place February 19 – 21, 2015, at the  USC Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies in Los Angeles, California.

Description: The best novels, poems and stories have the power to move us in profound ways. Come join Julia Alvarez, Dana Gioia, Ron Hansen, Alice McDermott, Kevin Starr, Tobias Wolff and many more leading writers, critics, scholars, editors, and journalists—young and old, Catholic and non-Catholic–in a dynamic, serious (but never pious) conversation about the relationship between faith and literature in contemporary American culture. Presenters include Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, Paul Mariani, Patricia Hampl, Francisco Aragon, D. J. Waldie, Albert Gelpi, Gregory Wolfe, Raymond Schroth, S.J., Joe Hoover, S.J. and many, many more.

For more information, see

Posted by: ivetteromero | December 19, 2014

Xiomara Laugart in Concert in Cuba

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Negra cubana tenía que ser reports that New York-based Cuban singer Xiomara Laugart and her son, pianist Axel Tosca Laugart, will be in concert on December 20 at Casa de las Américas (7:00pm) and December 21 at Fábrica de Arte Cubano (10:00pm), invited by the 2014 International Jazz Plaza Festival. The singer and pianist will also perform tonight, December 19, at 11:00 pm, at the Meliá Cohiba Hotel with Zule Guerra and the band Blues de Habana.

Organized by the NAJANDA project, in collaboration with Casa de las Américas, Fábrica de Arte Cubano [Cuban Art Factory] and the National Centre for Popular Music, both concerts offer a reunion with their audience in Cuba. The first of these, will include the participation of Pablo Milanés, César López, and Tania Pantoja as guests, in what promises to trace the musical trajectory of “La Negra” from her beginnings to the present. The concert on December 21, will be more closely linked to the work done Axel Tosca with his band (U) nity in the U.S. and the latest musical productions of Xiomara Laugart. They will be accompanied by musicians Rodney Barreto (drums), Emir Santa Cruz (saxophone) and Héctor Quintana (guitar).

See original article in Spanish at

Posted by: ivetteromero | December 19, 2014

“Statelessness” prompts change in Dominican-UN relations


Gonzalo Vargas Llosa sparked widespread rebuke in mid-September in the Dominican Republic when he invited “stateless” Dominican-Haitian Juliana Deguis Pierre to the UN forum on statelessness in The Hague. Now, the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) representative has left abruptly prompting discussion of the importance of the UNHCR’s presence in the country.

The affirmation Wednesday by UN resident coordinator Lorenzo Luis Jimenez comes in the heels of the abrupt departure of UNHCR representative Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, and stressed that its permanence in the country is now, “under quite particular circumstances.”

“It has been decided that the UNHCR presence will be restricted to the next 10 months and then will be studied whether its presence in the country is relevant or not,” said Jimenez, quoted by

“Ultimately the UNHCR’s presence is important, useful and Dominican authorities understand it as such in the same way that the UNHCR has understood that it has to change the way it performs and serves somewhat,” he said.

“There is no statelessness but there’s a situation of the potentially stateless if these processes aren’t carried out in an optimal manner and that’s the reason that all agencies, funds, programs and agencies of the UN are working. We want to help the Dominican authorities to avoid a very serious problem,” he said of the UNHCR’s mission of combating and preventing statelessness.

For original article, see

Also see and

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