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

Posted by: lisaparavisini | December 18, 2014

As Washington and Havana talk, where is Fidel Castro?


This article by NANCY SAN MARTIN AND NORA GAMEZ TORRES appeared originally in El NUevo Heraldu

The stunning announcement made simultaneously in Washington and Havana of renewed diplomatic ties between both nations after nearly 56 years has raised many questions.

Among the most prevalent: Where is Fidel Castro? And did he consent to the historic change? Or is the former Cuban leader in such deteriorated health that it no longer matters?

“Dictators need an enemy, the bigger the better,” said former Cuban political prisoner Sebastian Arcos, who now serves as assistant director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University. “I would be very surprised if Fidel Castro is conscious and approved this agreement.”

Frank Mora, director of the Latin America and Caribbean Center at FIU, also doubts Castro green-lighted the new accord.

“Fidel Castro always took advantage of an adversarial relationship with the United States,” he said.

The 88-year-old Castro ceded power to his younger brother Raul in 2008 after falling ill in 2006. But he continues to have a looming presence even though he is rarely publicly seen or heard.

Essays signed by him continue to be published in state-run newspapers, most recently on Oct. 14 in response to a New York Times editorial. And photos of meetings with foreign heads of state were published in July.

But Fidel Castro’s last public appearance was on Jan. 8, when he attended the inauguration of an art gallery in Havana featuring the work of Cuban artist Alexis Leyva, a.k.a. Kcho. Looking fragile, he was hunched over and used a cane to walk, surrounded by an entourage of security. Even then, many speculated his years on earth were numbered.

Many Cuba watchers are now waiting to see if Fidel Castro makes a statement about the agreement with the United States. Previous attempts by Washington at reconciliation under Fidel Castro’s reign were ultimately torpedoed. But since stepping in as leader, Raul has introduced some economic reforms and – it is now clear – held quiet negotiations with President Barack Obama’s administration.

In making the new U.S.-Cuba ties announcement Wednesday, the two addressed their respective nations at the same time and each spoke for about 10 minutes.

“The normalization of relations, especially trade relations has always been a priority for Raul Castro, not because he is a Democrat but rather for his legitimacy as ruler,” Arcos said. “He did not do it before because Fidel would not allow it.”

Longtime anti-embargo advocate Max Lesnik disagrees.

“If Fidel Castro wasn’t in agreement, it would not have happened,” said Lesnik, of the Miami-based Alianza Martiana and founder of Replica magazine, who has long been known as a personal friend of Fidel Castro.

Before January’s appearance at the art gallery, Fidel Castro attended the National Assembly meeting in February 2013 but did not speak. Lesnik said he has not seen the former leader but is sure he remains in good health.

“If he has suffered a setback in his health, that would be very difficult to keep secret,” Lesnik said. “Besides, Raul would not do anything so dramatic to affect his brother’s well-being if Fidel were opposed.

“It is important for this agreement to have taken place while Fidel Castro remains alive and lucid because had it been done with Fidel not physically present, there would always be doubt as to whether or not he agreed or would have done something different,” Lesnik said. “This was done with his blessing. Otherwise, it would be viewed as a betrayal to the revolution.”

Much remains to be seen about how the agreement between Washington and Havana will unfold. Also in question is whether there with be changes to the current government structure on the island.

Raul Castro, 83, appeared alone in military uniform during his noon television address on Wednesday. Watching from a couch inside government offices, according to published photos in Cuba, was Vice President Ramiro Valdes, a high-profile revolutionary who represents the old guard and now oversees the island’s telecommunications.

“That’s very interesting and suggests that Ramiro can be a contender in an internal struggle,” Arcos said. “The back story is that Raul and Ramiro do not get along. … Raul has not given Ramiro a high profile under his administration. If Fidel is in his final phase, the dispute between Raul and Ramiro gets interesting.”

Posted by: lisaparavisini | December 18, 2014

The Delicious Way to Curb the Caribbean’s Lionfish Problem


Jamaican fishermen and chefs are working together to kill and eat the invasive species, Willy Blackmore repots in this article for Take Part.

The poisonous spines of the lionfish are no joke. “That pain lasts a long time, and it moves fast,” Karrinton Lyons, a fisherman from Montego Bay, Jamaica, says of being stung by the fish. “You feel it in your whole body. You feel it in your heart, man.”

Lionfish, native to the Indian and Pacific Oceans through South and Southeast Asia, is an invasive species in the Caribbean. Since the 1990s, the highly proficient predator has been wreaking havoc on the waters that fishermen depend on for their livelihoods. So instead of letting the invaders eat away their catches, Lyons and his fellow fishermen are turning their spear guns on the lionfish.

“They’re bad for the reef, so you have to get rid of them,” Lyons says in this new video from YouTube’s Foodie channel. “So if we can make a little money other than staying here, well that’s good.”

Dockside, the fish are far less of a nuisance—because they happen to be, on all accounts, delicious. Once their poisonous spines are snipped off, the fish are a dream to work with in the kitchen. At one Jamaican restaurant, lionfish are smeared with jerk spices and served with papaya salsa, which sounds like a rather delicious solution to a vexing problem.

For the original report and video go to

Posted by: ivetteromero | December 18, 2014

Ron Belgrave Shares Some Thoughts on the Film Caribbean UK Festival

ron_belgrave_sankofa_caribbean_film_festivalRon Belgrave, founder of Sankofa Televisual and director of the almost-unique Film Caribbean UK Festival—which just ended—has a very clear vision of what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. The British Blacklist interviewed him and asked him about the journey which led him to this point. See the full interview in the link below:

I love stories and I also loved reading. But I’m lazy…so I like to watch stories on television. Whilst it might take 2 weeks to read a book, you can watch a good film in 2 hours. The problem I’ve had for many years is that I haven’t been seeing stuff on television, at the cinemas, that reflects me and is in tune with what I’d like to see. I used to shout at the TV for years…then, my wife and daughters finally had enough and said, “Do something about it!” So, I took up the challenge, and towards the end of 2011 I started talking to a couple of TV companies. At the end of 2011/start of 2012, I set up Sankofa Televisual, which was just to give me some kind of a framework within which to operate to try and improve the visibility of black people within Britain.

I noticed you re-tweeted my tweet about black images mattering (I did)…that to me is fundamental to what I’m doing. It’s about how it affects black and white people.  Not only are we simply under-represented on screen, but it’s about the way we are represented on screen and that affects everyone. I’ve got children and grandchildren and I want the world in which they grow up in to be a much better place. The way our minds are affected by the images that are pumped into them all day, every day in this society undermines that.

I set up Sankofa Televisual to try and help counter that. I set (it) up with the intention of enhancing the quantity and quality of black visibility in Britain on-screen. But, I’m from the Caribbean, and I’m old enough now to see how young British Caribbeans are different to young British Africans. Africans in Britain are very clued up, relatively speaking, about their culture. They’re proud of their culture and I think we see that reflected in the number of African television stations on satellite and cable. Whereas, the British Caribbean community, even though we’ve been here quite as long as the British African community, we are simply lacking in impact. Our young people simply don’t have, not only that sense of cultural identity, but they don’t even have any desire, really, to have an association with the Caribbean. I think that’s a shame.

See full interview at


From the Associated Press:

Despite deep political and ideological differences over the years, Cuba and the United States always have shared a love of baseball.

From the Negro Leagues to the current crop of Cuban stars, the communist island and the U.S. are linked by century-old baseball ties. It was during spring training in 1947 in Havana that the Brooklyn Dodgers got an extended look at Montreal Royals star Jackie Robinson, who later that year became broke the major league colour barrier.

Major league teams regularly held spring training camps in Cuba and played exhibition games there, and the Cincinnati Reds even had a Triple-A affiliate in Havana before Fidel Castro banned professional sports.

Cuban Hall of Famers Jose Mendez, Martin Dihigo and Cristobal Torriente were some of the biggest stars in the Negro Leagues in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and eventual Satchel Paige and Roy Campanella played in Cuba in the 1930s and 40s as parts of careers that led to Hall of Fame induction.

President Barack Obama’s announcement Wednesday that the U.S. is restoring diplomatic ties with the island nation could usher in a new era in U.S.-Cuba baseball relations, which were strained after the Fidel Castro-led revolution and the U.S. economic embargo. If Congress lifts the trade embargo, American-owned teams might one day return to Cuban soil, and Cuban players could sign with major league teams without defecting.

Some key moments in the history of U.S.-Cuba baseball ties:

—1864: Baseball is introduced in Cuba by Cuban students returning home from the U.S.

—May 1, 1871: Cuban Esteban “Steve” Bellan becomes the first Latin American player in U.S. baseball, making his debut with the Troy Haymakers of the National Association.

—Dec. 29, 1878: First official baseball game in Cuba, between Habana and Almendares. Bellan coached the Habana team, which won 21-20.

—1937: New York Giants hold spring training camp in Havana.

—1941-42, 1947: Brooklyn Dodgers hold spring training camps in Havana.

—1953: Pittsburgh Pirates hold spring training camps in Havana.

—1954-60: The Havana Sugar Kings, a Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, play in the U.S. minor leagues. The team was born in 1946 as the Havana Cubans in Class C.

—March 21, 1959: Less than three months after Castro’s revolution, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds play what would be the last game between major league teams in Cuba for the next four decades.

—Jan. 14, 1962: Castro bans professional sports in Cuba.

—September 1995: Pitcher Livan Hernandez leaves the Cuban national team during a training camp in Monterrey, Mexico, one of the first in a series of high-profile players to defect and sign multimillion dollar contracts with MLB teams.

—March 28-May 3, 1999: Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban national team play a two-game series in Havana and Baltimore. Game 1 in the Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana was the first time a major league team played in Cuba in 40 years. It was attended by Castro, and Baltimore won 3-2 in 11 innings. Cuba won the second game 12-6 at Camden Yards, led by future Yankees starter Jose Contreras.

—Sept. 27, 2000: The U.S. beats favoured Cuba 4-0 in the gold medal game at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

—2012: For the first time since 1996, a Cuban national team and U.S. college players meet in an exhibition series in Cuba.

—Nov. 11, 2013: Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez is voted the NL Rookie of the Year, the first Cuban to win the award in either league since Jose Canseco in 1986. Jose Abreu wins the AL Rookie of the Year in 2014.

—Aug. 23, 2014: Rusney Castillo signs a $72.5 million, seven-year contract with the Boston Red Sox, the largest baseball agreement for a Cuban defector.

—Dec. 17, 2014: President Barack Obama announces plans to restore U.S.-Cuba diplomatic ties.

For the original report go to

Posted by: lisaparavisini | December 18, 2014

Travel magazine names Cayman “Destination of the year”


The Cayman Islands receives a pat on the back after being named the destination of the year by the Caribbean Journal.

Describing what it calls our “almost impossibly beautiful beaches,” the travel magazine says the Cayman Islands is a laid-back place but is seeing the tourism sector soar to new heights.

“This was achieved through our increasing numbers in air arrivals particularly and without any new major hotels to speak of and we were recognised for that effort. It gives credence to the efforts that are being out in the by the staff at the Department of Tourism and the new way we approach things,” said Tourism Councillor Joey Hew.

See the magazine here.

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