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Taller Puertorriqueño’s current exhibition, “Images of Identity,” is still open for viewing through Saturday, January 31, 2015. Celebrating 40 years of engaging and building community through the arts, this exhibition is a survey of Taller’s response to the needs and aspirations of the community it represents.  Multi-media installations, videos, photographs, art and interviews retell the story of the struggle, resilience and creativity of the people behind Taller who made and make the organization.

Description: Celebrating 40 years of engaging and building community through the arts, this exhibition is a survey of Taller’s response to the needs and aspirations of the community it represents.  Multi-media installations, videos, photographs, art and interviews retell the story of the struggle, resilience and creativity of the people behind Taller who made and make the organization.

The exhibition begins before Taller’s creation in 1974, when heightened postwar migration and immigration of Latinos to Philadelphia resulted in ethnic tensions. After World War II, Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican population grew to the third largest in the country.  This exhibition examines how Taller’s founders used art and cultural production as instruments for ethnic pride and a means of self-sufficiency. Printmaking was not only an art form to be maintained but also a trade that could be capitalized on.  The bookstore (as it was known then) not only promoted and sold culturally specific items but was also an introduction to running a business.  Taller became a center for artists and intellectuals to gather, and also a place for community investigation and documentation, as “Batiendo la Olla”, the oral history project, demonstrated.

As Taller’s members changed and its role in the area expanded, the programs began to include more and more youth activities.  It was through meeting their needs that Taller best fulfilled its mission to promote Puerto Rican and Latino culture and understanding.  Art was a doorway leading to self-expression and personal growth.

With this perspective, an artist’s work, no matter how abstract or esoteric, is never separate from the community or culture to which it belongs.  Art is part of a broader conversation that references history, language, privilege and experience.  And artists, as members of a community, refer to this conversation – whether consciously or not. Through the public display of their work the artist speaks to their community and the public, and in so doing echoes their people’s aspirations by demanding acknowledgement. [. . .]

For further information or images, please contact Rafael Damast @ 215-426-3311 or rdamast@tallerpr.org

Read more about the show http://tallerpr.org/2014/12/03/images-identity-taller-puertorriqueno-1974-2014/

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Unfortunately, after three months of trial marked by continuous delays and setbacks, “justicia” has not been found. In Costa Rica today, a Limón court acquitted seven men of the murder of 26-year-old sea turtle conservationist Jairo Mora on the night of May 31, 2013, “citing reasonable doubt, discarded evidence and an ineffective investigation.” Here are excerpts; see full article in the link below:

Defendants surnamed Arauz, Salmón (brother of defendant Donald Salmón) and Loaiza will walk free, absolved of all crimes, while Hectór Cash, Ernesto Centeno, José Bryan Delgado and Donald Salmón will serve prison sentences for a prior rape and robbery on the same beach. All seven defendants were acquitted of the kidnapping, robbery, sexual assault and murder that took place on the night of May 31, 2013, when Mora was killed.

That night, a band of masked men captured Mora, who worked at a nearby wildlife refuge, along with four foreign volunteers from Moín Beach near Limón, on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast. The group had gone to the beach to collect leatherback sea turtle eggs to rebury them safely away from the poachers that frequented Moín. As the group was returning to the sanctuary, they encountered a log blocking the road, and when Mora exited the car to remove it, he was ambushed by a group of masked men. The men took the four women to an abandoned house, while Mora was taken to the beach, beaten and dragged naked behind a car. He died of asphyxiation in the sand.

[. . .] The prosecution alleged that the seven defendants were members of a known poaching gang and murdered Mora because of his role protecting turtles on the beach. Judges cited the legal principle of in dubio pro reo, which means the court must rule in favor of defendants when reasonable doubt exists. In her explanation of the verdict, Judge Yolanda Alvaredo said the mishandling of evidence by investigators, prosecutors and preliminary courts contributed to this doubt. She also cited an incomplete investigation that was unable to determine with exactitude the identities of the perpetrators. “Lamentably the management of evidence broke the chain of proof in this case,” Alvaredo said.

That mishandling of evidence led to the exclusion of three key pieces of evidence from the prosecution’s case. These included bottles of cologne that were  lost in evidence, a recorded disc of telephone conversations that was not properly reviewed by a preliminary court judge, and cellphone tower investigations that also did not undergo judicial review. The Tico Times had reviewed much of this evidence for a previous in-depth report on the case. Read that related story, “Why Jairo died,” here.

[. . .] Rodrigo Araya, an attorney representing Mora’s family, told online news site AmeliaRueda.com that he felt “an absolute sense of impunity,” and that he would appeal the ruling, which he said was based on technicalities.

The news site also reported that a protest to denounce the trial’s outcome is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 29, in front of the court complex in downtown San José. [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.ticotimes.net/2015/01/26/not-guilty-7-men-acquitted-of-murder-of-costa-rica-sea-turtle-conservationist-jairo-mora

[Image above by the Ecologist Federation of Costa Rica, from http://revista-amauta.org/2013/09/a-tres-meses-del-asesinato-de-jairo-mora-seguimos-esperando-respuestas/ ]

Posted by: ivetteromero | January 26, 2015

The Dominican Republic Honors National Hero Juan Pablo Duarte

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Today, January 26, a holiday in the Dominican Republic, marks the birthday of Juan Pablo Duarte, founding father of the Dominican nation. [Also see previous posts Juan Pablo Duarte helped found Dominican Republic and Dominicans mark the birth of Founding Father Juan Pablo Duarte.]

During his early years Duarte studied in Spain (1828-1833). Upon his return to his homeland, he found that young Dominicans were resentful of Haitian rule. In response to this unrest, he and several other patriots organized a secret society, La Trinitaria, to work toward independence and to stimulate liberalism.

His first attempt to oust the Haitians in 1843 collapsed, and he fled the country; but his followers succeeded in overthrowing the Haitians the next year. In February 1844 Duarte returned, and the Dominican Republic proclaimed its independence.

It was not Duarte’s followers, however, who ultimately triumphed, but a local caudillo (military dictator), Pedro Santana. The defeated Duarte was exiled and took up residence in Caracas. He left Caracas for the Dominican Republic only once, during the War of Restoration (1864) against Spain, after which he was sent on a diplomatic mission for one year. Juan Pablo Duarte died in 1876.

For original article, see http://www.dominicantoday.com/dr/local/2015/1/26/54020/Dominicans-honor-National-Hero-Juan-Pablo-Duarte

Posted by: ivetteromero | January 26, 2015

Fidel Castro: “I do not trust US, but talks needed for peace”

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According to The Telegraph, retired Cuban president Fidel Castro appeared to lend his support to Cuba’s talks with US with a statement that addressed his longtime adversary for the first time since the two countries restored ties:

Fidel Castro does not “trust the US, nor have I spoken with them,” the revolutionary icon, 88, said in a letter attributed to him and read out on state television Monday. “That does not represent – far from it – a rejection of peacefully settling conflicts,” said the letter, a week after communist Cuba and the United States held landmark talks in Havana as they attempt to normalise ties.

US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced on December 17 that the Cold War rivals would work to normalize relations that broke off in 1961.

Pope Francis played a central role in mediating the secret negotiations that led to the December announcement.

In Washington, some Cuban-American lawmakers have criticised Obama, saying the administration had given up too much without securing human rights commitments. Yet what many observers found most stunning in so much change is that the leader of Cuba’s 1959 revolution – a lawyer by training famous for speaking for hours in excruciating detail – has yet to publicly comment about the detente that his brother Raul, 83, has engaged with his old enemy.

Obama has called on Congress to lift the US embargo on Havana, and used executive powers to ease some travel and trade restrictions. He has also given the State Department six months to review whether Cuba should remain on the terror list.

For original article, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/cuba/11371163/Fidel-Castro-I-do-not-trust-US-but-talks-needed-for-peace.html

Posted by: ivetteromero | January 26, 2015

Curry could be used in treatment of psychological disorders

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Caribbean 360 reports that while “culinary merits of Trinidad vs Guyana curry continue to be hot topics for debate by their respective nationals,” evidence is mounting in the wider scientific community that the dish may provide significant health benefits. Many news outlets are echoing this latest news from the scientific world: that curcumin, one of the compounds in the curry spice turmeric, could reduce inflammation in the body and have cancer-fighting properties, aid in suppressing traumatic memories, and help to improve memory. As Science Alert explains, “For the first time, scientists have found that an active ingredient in curries can impair the formation and storage of fear-related memories in mice, suggesting that it could be used to treat PTSD in humans.” Caribbean 360 writes:

Previous studies have also found that the spice may be useful in the treatment of heart disease and arthritis, as well as having an anti-depressant effect and boosting brain repair in stroke and Alzheimer’s patients. Now, a new study conducted by psychologists from the City University of New York suggests that the spice could help erase bad memories. Researchers found that curcumin not only prevented new fear memories being stored in the brain, but also removed pre-existing fear memories.

Scientists hope that these findings will assist in the development of treatments for people suffering with certain psychological disorders.

For the study, the researchers triggered fear in rats with a particular sound. The team assumed the rodents were afraid when they froze. Later, when the rats were subjected to the sound again, those who had been given regular food froze. Rats that had been fed a curcumin-rich diet did not freeze, however, suggesting that their fearful memories had been erased.

“This suggests that people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological disorders that are characterised by fearful memories may benefit substantially from a curcumin-enriched diet,” said lead researcher Professor Glenn Schafe.

Professor Schafe went on to explain that curcumin is known to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, and this may account for the way it works on fearful memories. “Inflammatory processes have been implicated in a wide range of diseases ranging from allergies to cardiovascular disease to Alzheimer’s,” he said. “Inflammation has also been implicated in psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of these same inflammatory pathways have also been implicated in memory formation, so it all fits.”

While noting that it is not yet fully understood how curcumin impairs fear memories while sparing other types of memories, Professor Schafe said that it is known that different types of memory systems encode different types of memories. The memory of the event could therefore still be there, but without the memory of the fear associated with it.

Memories, formed in the brain as new connections between neurons, are initially fragile, but gradually stabilise in the brain as they are put into long-term storage – a process known as consolidation. When established memories are recalled, they also temporarily destabilise in the brain, briefly becoming like new memories. [. . .]

For full articles, see http://www.caribbean360.com/news/curry-used-treatment-psychological-disorders and http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/sunday-magazine/living-wellbeing/194765-curry-spice-linked-to-improved-memory

Also read an in-depth version at http://www.sciencealert.com/curry-ingredient-curcumin-found-to-suppress-traumatic-memories

Posted by: ivetteromero | January 26, 2015

USC: 20th Anniversary Exhibition and Tribute to Myrna Báez

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The twentieth anniversary of the Art Gallery of the University of the Sacred Heart [Universidad del Sagrado Corazón] will be celebrated on Thursday, February 5, 2015, at 7:30pm. The gallery will host an exhibition celebrating two decades of uninterrupted programming committed to presenting the diversity of the best of Puerto Rican art.

The exhibition—dedicated to leading Puerto Rican artist Myrna Báez, professor, founder of the Fine Arts Program and resident artist at the University of the Sacred Heart—will present twenty works by emerging artists as well as seasoned masters of Puerto Rican visual arts.

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The participating artists are: Carmen Inés Blondet, Nayda Collazo-Llorens, Mariestella Colón-Astacio, Carmelo Fontánez Cortijo, Iván Girona, Marta Lahens, Nitza Luna, Connie Ann Martín, Antonio Martorell, Patrick McGrath Muñiz, Jason Mena, José Morales, Rigoberto Quintana, Rafael Rivera Rosa, Quintín Rivera Toro, Carmelo Sobrino, Eric Tabales, Rafael Trelles, Víctor Vázquez, and Omar Velázquez.

For full information, see http://www.sagrado.edu/galeria/

[Painting above: Myrna Báez’s “Entre dos mundos.” See http://www.artnet.com/artists/myrna-baez/entre-dos-mundos-nSlRqj30E5W_VNL_kaWTzQ2 ]

Posted by: ivetteromero | January 25, 2015

Film: Video Islands, a selection of video works

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A screening of Video Islands will take place on Thursday, January 29, 2015, from 6:30-8:00pm at Anthology Film Archives (located at 32 Second Avenue at East 2nd Street in New York.) The event is free and open to the public.

Description: María Elena Ortiz, recipient of the 2014 Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Travel Award, curates a selection of video works from her research trips in the Caribbean in 2014. María Elena’s research has explored film and video practices, through interviews with local cultural producers and artists in the region. Following the screening will be a Q & A session with María Elena Ortiz.

Video Islands is a program of contemporary visual shorts produced by artists from or working in Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Martinique, Trinidad and Tobago. This presentation includes videos, film shorts, documentation of performances, new media practices, and experimental narratives that portray the nuances of Caribbean experiences. Some of the works narrate personal stories, sit on the realm of nonlinear experimentation, or use animation to explore social imaginaries through classic Caribbean motifs. An investigation of the moving-image, Video Islands is the result of a research initiative in the Caribbean supported by Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and Independent Curators International.

The project features works by the following artists (for full descriptions of all artists, visit the link below: Germille Geerman (b. 1988, Oranjestad, Aruba); Marlon Griffith (b. 1976, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago); David Gumbs (b. 1977, Saint-Martin); Alicia Milne (b. 1986, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago); Kareem J. Mortimer (b. 1980, Nassau, Bahamas); Holly Parotti (b. 1972, Nassau, Bahamas); Heino Schmid (b. 1976, Nassau, Bahamas); and Tessa Whitehead (b.1985, Bahamas).

María Elena Ortiz is assistant curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), where she curated At the Crossroads: Critical Film and Video from the Caribbean (2014) and the upcoming exhibition, Firelei Báez (2015). Previously, she worked as the Curator of Contemporary Arts at the Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros in Mexico City, where she organized several projects including Carlos Motta, The Shape of Freedom and Rita Ponce de León: David. Ortiz has also collaborated with institutions such as New Langton Arts, San Francisco; Teorética, San Jose, Costa Rica; the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, San Francisco; and Tate Modern, London. In 2012, she curated Wherever You Roam at the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach. Ortiz has contributed to writing platforms such as Fluent Collaborative, Curating Now, and Dawire. She has a Masters in Curatorial Practice from the California College of the Arts (2010). In 2014, she was the recipient of the The Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros (CPPC) and Independent Curators International (ICI) Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean. As part of this research, Ortiz will be presenting an upcoming screening program titled, Video Islands, at Anthology Film Archives in New York.

[Many thanks to Rod Fusco for bringing this item to our attention.]

For full article, see http://curatorsintl.org/events/video-islands

Posted by: ivetteromero | January 25, 2015

UWI students block gates in protest demanding 2014 grades

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In Trinidad, students at the campus of the University of the West Indies-St. Augustine blocked the gates to the institution demanding that they receive their grades from their exams last year. Lecturers have refused to file the grades as they protest the non-payment of an estimated TT$87 million (One TT dollar=US$ 0.16 cents) in arrears owed to them.

The West Indies Group of University Teachers (WIGUT) has said that the non-uploading of marks’ is still in effect “until a satisfactory response from Campus Senior Management is received concerning the payment of arrears in salaries”.

Public Relations Officer with the Students Guild, Nikoli Edwards, said that the estimated 18,000 students have been caught in the middle of a dispute between the lecturers and management. He said while the Guild had no issue with the payment owed to the lecturers “our issue is with using us as a bargaining tool.

“Outside of this present situation, we support the lecturers and we have made that clear to WIGUT,” he said, adding that the UWI administration “needs to do whatever they need to do to get the money to pay off these lectures. “But to say we are standing hand in hand with the lecturers during this time that is not the case,” he said. “We will not allow the lecturers to continue to hold us at ransom, to hold us hostage over grades because you have regional and local students who need their grades and their transcripts in order to access funding.” He said there were students who cannot return to Trinidad and Tobago “unless they get funding from their institutions….”

There had been media reports quoting Tertiary Education and Skills Training Minister Fazal Karim that the Trinidad and Tobago government had stepped in to pay the money owed. Karim said that senior officials of the ministry had met with WIGUT and the campus principal Professor Clement Sankat to address the matter. But Edwards said the Guild has received no official communication on that matter.

[. . .] The registration period for students has been extended to February 20 but Edwards said “this is not enough and will not ultimately fix the situation”.

For full article, see http://www.caribbean360.com/news/uwi-students-block-gates-protest-demanding-2014-grades

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Josh Tapper (JTA) writes about the Jewish community in Cuba. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

On a recent Friday night inside this city’s Beth Shalom synagogue, Aliet Ashkenazi, 25, stood draped in a blue-and-white prayer shawl leading prayers in a mix of Spanish and near-perfect Hebrew. It was the first time she had ever led services – a feat considering she converted to Judaism seven years ago after discovering her father was Jewish.

The 300-seat sanctuary in the Cuban capital was near capacity, but the crowd filling the wooden pews was largely American, comprised of tour groups from New York and New Jersey. The next morning, with the Americans gone, the crowd had thinned. A handful of youths sat in the first few rows, leaving a gray-haired cohort of congregants in the back.

This is typically how things go for Cuba’s 1,500 or so Jews: Hordes of out-of-town guests arrive, bringing with them suitcases full of clothing and coveted medical supplies, and then they’re gone, leaving Cuba’s diminished Jewish community behind.

A month since the United States and Cuba announced renewed diplomatic relations after more than five decades of mutual recrimination and mistrust, it remains unclear how rapprochement will change things for Cuba’s Jewish community, which has shrunk tenfold since the end of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, when there were 15,000 Jews here.

[. . .] Amanda Amato, a 49-year-old secretary, sipping a plastic cup of Cristal beer at one of the lodge’s biannual parties, said, “We have a difficult economic situation now, but it’s not for all time.”

Already there has been some easing. Americans — including the thousands of Jews who fled Cuba after the revolution – now can send remittances of $2,000 every three months to Cubans, four times the previous limit.

While Cuban Jews endure the same depressed conditions as other Cubans, surviving on monthly food rations and salaries that rarely exceed $40 per month, the community as a whole is the recipient of largesse most Cubans can only dream of. Cubans generally have restricted Internet access, but computers at Beth Shalom are wired, and the synagogue’s youth lounge contains a PlayStation and Nintendo Wii. Financial support from humanitarian organizations such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which has operated in Cuba since 1991, enables Beth Shalom to provide community members with meals on Fridays and Saturdays – often non-kosher grilled chicken or canned tuna, followed by coconut ice cream. The synagogue office houses the community’s pharmacy, which twice a week dispenses free medicine supplied by Jewish tourists and aid organizations. While heath care is free in Cuba, over-the-counter drugs are rationed for ordinary Cubans.

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[. . .] Adela Dworin, president of Beth Shalom and the Jewish community’s de facto government liaison, said that Cuban Jewry is sometimes hamstrung by its financial dependence on aid groups that earmark funds for individual projects, complicating where synagogues can allocate donations. “It would be better to send to us directly,” Dworin said. “We can’t depend our whole lives on Americans and Canadians. We must become more independent.”

The Jewish community also enjoys the support of the regime. President Raul Castro twice has attended Hanukkah celebrations at Beth Shalom. The country has two other synagogues in Havana and smaller congregations in the provincial towns of Santa Clara, Camaguey, Cienfuegos and Guantanamo. [. . .]

[Photos above by Josh Tapper. Top photo: Beth Shalom synagogue, or El Patronato, is Cuba’s largest synagogue, with a 300-seat sanctuary, social hall, library, pharmacy and Sunday school. It draws dozens of Cubans for services on Fridays and Saturdays. Second photo: Adela Dworin has been president of Beth Shalom synagogue since 2006 and serves as the Cuban Jewish community’s government liaison.]

For full article, see http://www.jta.org/2015/01/25/news-opinion/world/for-cuban-jews-improved-ties-to-u-s-may-not-resolve-central-challenges

Posted by: ivetteromero | January 25, 2015

Cayman Islands and Cuban Vessels

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Peter Polack writes that a Cuban boat with 29 people aboard, which included five women, arrived at East End dive resort in Grand Cayman yesterday morning and were directed to move on by a number of local immigration and police officials. The vessel departed at 9:00am.

The immigration officers advised that Deputy Governor Franz Manderson had ordered that no Cuban boat was allowed to land or receive assistance from local residents. Attempts by local residents to provide fuel and water was prevented by the police officers present. According to Polack, local residents and visiting tourists at the resort expressed outrage at the position of the Cayman Islands government believed to be the result of pressure by the Cuban government.

Local activist Billy McLaughlin expressed the view that the Cayman Islands faced a backlash from tourists due to failure to help the Cuban vessels that pass through the Cayman Islands.

[Photo above provided by Peter Polack.]

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