Learn About Cuba Seminar

Saturday September 27 2008 on Cape Cod Massachusetts

Presented by Havana Journal Inc in association with the Latin America Working Group

and the Center for Cuban Studies, featuring Dick Cluster author of History of Havana.

havana journal cuba logo

Learn About Cuba Seminar

Wrap Up

We had 65 people signed up between Presenters, a few volunteers, guest list and paying attendees. Turns out that most people travelled from off-Cape for the seminar so I would imagine that if we do our next one in Boston that we can double or triple our turn out.

So, we had about 35 people show up which is pretty good for a rainy Saturday on Cape Cod. I will say that I was VERY impressed with everyone who did invest the time to make the trip. All Presenters were amazing and are worthy of speaking before an audience of hundreds rather than just dozens. The attendees were equally impressive with their knowledge and/or passion for all things Cuban.

The Cultural Center of Cape Cod deserves credit and I give special thanks to Ann who volunteered to come in on a Saturday to help out with the credit card machine, music and general Cultural Center logistics. It is a terrific venue featuring a full kitchen, book signing room, large board room for our Cuban memorabilia and Cuban art of Cuban Art Space along with just an overall great setting for this type of event.

Mavis Anderson - Latin America Working Group - US Cuba policy, hurricane update, South Florida politics

Everyone got settled in about 9:15 and Mavis Anderson took the podium and educated and updated everyone about the severity of the hurricanes that recently hit Cuba, the congressional bills that were introduced but not voted on, and the humanitarian aid that was offered by the US government (initially with conditions and to be distributed only through non-governmental recipients) and rejected by the Cuban government because Cuba will not accept aid from a country that has an Embargo against it.

She also gave a brief history of U.S. Cuba policy and congressional actions to end the travel ban, the changes in Cuban-American community in South Florida, Florida University polls and United Nations votes against the Embargo. 

Mavis offered these US Cuba travel policy links for more information regarding legal travel to Cuba: 

Overview of licensed travel to Cuba
How to Travel on a General License to Cuba
How to Apply for a Religious License to Travel to Cuba

She also suggested a new strategy for the new President and Congress: the United States needs a major overhaul of all our relations with Latin America because it is a misguided approach.

Ending the embargo should be our highest priority in our policy toward Latin America.  It is the first thing the new president should do with regards to Latin America.

It is recommended that you stay informed by signing up for LAWG’s email update, encourage your rep in Congress US Cuba policy change and even travel to Cuba legally so you can experience everything first hand. 

Jeanne Lemkau and David Strug - Love, Loss and Longing - The effect of the US Cuba policy on Cuban American families

They presented a very touching session and slide show featuring the many Cuban families that they worked with to create the book Love, Loss, and Longing: the Impact of U.S. Travel Policy on Cuban-American Families.

It is now a great tool for education and advocacy to change US Cuba policy and you can download a copy HERE.

Networking Session - Everyone stood up and talked about their Cuban interests

After this session everyone was invited to stand up and speak for a couple minutes about the interest in Cuba, their experiences and/or their Cuba related organization that they would like to promote.

I was told buy many attendees that they really liked this unique session because they got to meet everyone at the seminar, hear interesting stories AND tell their own story. A couple people ran on a little long but I don't think anyone really objected.

Then we broke for lunch and everyone found someone to talk to.

Cuban Lunch

Many people came up to me and said that the caterer did a fantastic job making these traditional Cuban entrees.

  • Arroz con Pollo
  • Stuffed Eggplant
  • Picadillo
  • Black Beans and Rice
  • Cuban Sandwiches
  • Cuban Salad

and we would like to thank CubaBev.com for sending us three cases of their tasty CUBA brand herbal energy drink. I also want to thank Larry Luxner from CubaNews and Johannes Werner of Cuba Trade News for donating dozens of issues of their Cuba newsletter for distribution to our attendees.

Statement sent in by Congressman William Delahunt

During lunch Mavis Anderson informed me that Congressman Bill Delahunt's office had sent me an email containing a statement that he wanted me to read for all attendees.

I appreciate the Congressman's efforts to recognize our Cuba seminar. The Cultural Center of Cape Cod is in his district, I am a constituent and the Congressman is a leading proponent of easing the trade and travel restrictions of the Cuba Embargo.

You can read the full statement HERE reprinted with permission from his office.

The audience was pleased to have the seminar officially recognized by the Congressman and I thank him and his staff for his time and public acknowledgement of our Learn About Cuba seminar.

Sandra Levinson - Cuban Art Space - Original Cuban art and Cuban posters

For those of you who have ever met Sandra, you know that she immediately lights up the room with her smile and love of life. She went into great detail about the background of the Center for Cuban Studies' lawsuit against the US Treasury Department. A lawsuit in the early 1990s which made possible the importation of original art from Cuba. As a result of her lawsuit, all Cuban art may be imported and sold in galleries in the United States. The US Treasury Department now provides special licenses for that purpose to legitimate art galleries (including online galleries).

Sandra had the documentary by Cuban director Roberto Chile, "Alas con puntas," which shows 12 well-known Cuban artists doing their artwork running without sound as she gave her presentation. She also brought more than fifty pieces of original Cuban art and twenty silkscreen posters to exhibit for the seminar. These works featured the art of Jose Fuster, William Perez, Roberto Fabelo, Montebravo, Sandra Dooley, Nestor Vega, Jorge Perugorria, Mabel Poblet and graphic designers Rostgaard, Bachs, Reboiro among others.

Towards the end of her presentation she invited the entire audience into the large board room where she gave a short presentation on many different pieces of art. The audience seemed to really enjoy the personal touch.

Dick Cluster - author of History of Havana - Presentation 1519 to present day Havana

Dick Cluster, co-author with Rafael Hernández of History of Havana, gave an illustrated talk on the long life history of the Cuban capital, from its settlement in 1519 to today. He showed how the city's past contains not only the ruptures we're used to hearing about, the many continuities and characteristics that keep popping up in new ways.

His talk also highlighted connections between Havana and the U.S. -- good, bad, and mixed. 

I wanted to add that the Chicago Sun Times said "This colorful work explains the singular allure of Havana. What makes it compelling is how effectively Cluster and Hernandez convey the personality of the city."  

Peter Swanson - CubaCruising.net - The Great Bahamas Loop

Peter gave a fantastic presentation regarding his travels around Cuba along with a great slideshow featuring all kinds of rare photos from places like Cayo Saetia where he said African wild game runs free, an island full of iguanas and a number of beautiful bays that are perfect for boating due to their narrow mouths and large and deep bays. However, he said that there are not many amenities for recreational boaters due to the lack of facilities.

He went into great detail about what he calls the Great Bahamas Loop that he thinks will evolve in a post-Embargo Cuba. Right now apparently most boaters stop at Georgetown in the Bahamas but post-Embargo he thinks a great number of boaters will continue on to Jumentos and Duncan Town and then south to Vita on the north eastern end of Cuba. Once arriving on the north coast of Cuba, boaters can then continue on past Guardalavaca, Cayo Coco, Varadero then onto Marina Hemingway before heading north to Key West.

Rob Sequin - CEO Havana Journal Inc - Cuba and the Internet

Rob said he became interested in Cuba because of the Internet. He started reading about Cuba online in 1997 and was inclined to save dozens of bookmarks. He then started blogging and buying Cuba related domain names and now covers Cuba business, culture, politics and travel at HavanaJournal.com.

He put up a web page with a number of Cuba blogs, forums and news sources and you can see the page HERE. He also suggested that everyone should own a Cuba related domain name that they would consider developing in the future.

He closed the day by giving away a number of Cuba books and other items as door prizes.

Summary

I would like to thank all the presenters and attendees for all their time and participation. This was a very educational and interactive event and I hope that we all learned something new about Cuba and made some new lifelong friends.

I will look into hosting a seminar in April or May in Boston since many people made the trip down to Cape Cod just for this seminar. I will keep everyone posted on future developments. If you are reading this and not on our attendee list, please ask me to add you to future Learn About Cuba seminar email updates.