Chile Wins First Oscar With Dictatorship-Inspired Animated Film

Sources:  TeleSURThe Wrap
February 28 2016

Gabriel Osario bear story chile oscar.pngGabriel Osorio and Pato Escala’s Bear Story won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. It is Chile’s first ever Oscar Academy Award. | Photo: Bear Story


The animated short Bear Story tells the story of a sad bear torn away from his family, a symbol of the suffering under Chile’s military dictatorship.

Source:  TeleSUR
February 28 2016

A Chilean filmmaker made history on Sunday, bringing home the first ever Oscar Academy Award for the South American country with the animated film Bear Story, winner of the Best Animated Short.

“Bear Story” is an ingenious, dazzling piece of 3D animation, the sad story of a lonesome bear who builds an elaborate mechanical diorama in an attempt to remember (and perhaps recover) the life he used to live with his wife and son, before he was ripped from his home and sent to a circus.

bear story 1.jpgBut underneath the cuddly and melancholy main characters is a deeper metaphor for Chilean viewers, who will see parallels between the bear’s personal struggle and loss, and the country’s tragic history of families separated during the bloody Pinochet military dictatorship that came to power through a U.S.-backed coup in the early 1970’s

Also Read: Watch ‘Bear Story,’ Oscar Winner for Best Animated Short (Video)

“The idea was mainly inspired by the story of my grandfather,” said Osorio.   “He was exiled from Chile in the ’70s and spent 10 years in England — I knew that I had a grandfather, but I didn’t meet him when I was a kid.”

Osorio made the main character a bear in part because he remembered his grandfather being physically imposing.

Also Read: How Chris Rock Tackled #OscarsSoWhite in Brutally Honest Monologue

“I felt like the story shouldn’t be too literal,” he said. “But it’s very clear to audiences in Chile what it’s really about. And it’s interesting that in countries that have similar stories, like Russia, they make a connection to their own stories.”

It took  two years, spread out over about five years

gabriel osorio 2.jpg

It took a team of animators at Punkrobot, a Chilean animation company founded by Osorio and two friends, two years of steady work to make “Bear Story” — but those two years were spread out over about five years in total, interrupted by other projects the company is working on.

“For me, the biggest challenge with everything I do is to tell the story in a way that can be entertaining, and at the same time get across the message I want,” he said. “You never want to be too obvious, and you always want to do it in an interesting way.”

“Bear Story,” is directed by Gabriel Osorio and produced by Pato Escala.

“This is the first Oscar for our country, so this is very important to us,” said Escala while accepting the award. “Viva Chile!”

Other Latin American productions up for awards include Colombia’s “Embrace of the Serpent,” nominated in Oscar’s category of Best Foreign Language Film.

The White House National Security Agenda for Obama’s Visit to Cuba

Source:  Global Research
By Arnold August
February 23 2016

Ben Rhodes.jpgBen Rhodes, Assistant to Obama and Deputy National Security Advisor, provides crucial input into the new tactical road map for Cuba policy regarding Cuba–US relations. Rhodes, who is also officially the speechwriter for Obama, is to be commended, along with the President himself, for the new Cuba policy, including the decision concerning the President’s visit to Cuba.

One of the most important documents serving as the basis of this visit is the February 18, 2016 transcript of a Press Briefing by Rhodes and White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. Unfortunately, it has not been widely disseminated. During the course of the briefing, Rhodes had to answer questions from journalists, which forced him to elaborate on the plan for the President’s visit to Cuba as part of Cuba–US relations.

The briefing indicates that the US is on the offensive with regard to Latin America and the Caribbean; the Cuban visit constitutes part of this road map. However, in answering questions, Rhodes had to candidly admit and partially recognize that Cuba has its principled stand. Actually, it is more than that. The Cuban government, far from letting its guard down, is also on the offensive regarding Cuba–US relations.

Although many issues were raised during the briefing, only some of them are dealt with here.

Dissidents

After a summary of the visit to Cuba with a short mention of a second leg of that trip to Argentina, Rhodes entertained questions from correspondents. The first question concerned dissidents:

“Q: Will the President meet with dissidents when he’s in Cuba? And would you negotiate that with the Cuban government?

  1. RHODES: Yes, he’ll be meeting with dissidents, with members of civil society, including those who certainly oppose the Cuban government’s policies.”

The issue came up again. In response to another reporter’s question, “Who determines which dissidents the President will meet with?,” Rhodes answered, “We determine… and we’ve certainly indicated to the Cubans…” In yet another query on the same theme that compared Cuba to other countries where the US works with an established opposition, Rhodes had to admit, “you have a one-party system [in Cuba], and then you have elements of opposition but it’s not analogous [to other countries].” Later on, in defending the administration’s decision to reopen the US Embassy in Havana, he said that the “embassy allows us to better represent our interests, to better engage civil society.”

Blockade

One of the correspondents mentioned that:

“The trade minister [Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca], earlier this week, prescribed things that he thinks the White House can do without the lifting of the embargo – allowing the dollar to be used in a third country, and permitting U.S. import of rum and cigars.”

It should be noted that only the legislature (Congress) can fully lift the blockade, because it is codified into legislation; however, important aspects of the blockade can indeed be mitigated by White House executive orders. Regarding the journalist’s appropriate question on the international use of the dollar, one also has to take into account the Cuban demand: the Cuban government wants to be able to use the dollar for international transactions not only in countries other than the US, but also in trade and commerce with the US itself. The Cuban delegation headed by Malmierca visited Washington in mid-February for several days. He went much further than mildly “prescribing things,” as Rhodes seems to imply. Malmierca strongly stressed the Cuban government’s position while right in middle of his US political and business counterparts. He dared to go on the offensive against the blockade as well on the need for the Obama administration to use all the executive powers at his disposal to effectively gut it. Rather than responding to the examples provided by the questioning, such as allowing the dollar to be used, Rhodes said:

“[O]ur judgment is that the embargo should be lifted. Short of that, we want to look at what are the areas where we can open up space that can promote the greatest travel and commercial activity that ultimately benefits the Cuban people.”

In response to persistent questions about the embargo (blockade), Rhodes said:

“[T]his is a government that was very comfortable for over five decades with the embargo in place and with the United States as essentially the source of legitimacy that they drew upon because of what we were trying to do to Cuba.”

How can the Cuban government be described as “comfortable” when in fact it has fought courageously against the blockade for five decades? In the 2015 United Nations General Assembly, it won the support of the entire international community with the exceptions of the US and Israel. However, Rhodes’s last words indicate that his road map is still quite convoluted when it comes to the use of executive powers to render much of the blockade ineffective. The Cuban government is forced to be in assault mode with regard to this executive option comfortably in the hands of Obama. Will Obama’s visit to Cuba make a decisive dent in the blockade?

Travel Ban

A journalist asked if the Obama administration will use an “executive order to lift the travel ban to the extent that [he] can.” Rhodes response seemed to be evasive: “[W]hat we’ve aimed to do is promote additional travel, commerce and economic activity in Cuba that, again, we believe benefits the Cuban people.” In response to another question on the blockade and in that context lifting the travel ban, once again travel is circumscribed by Rhodes. He said that the administration is continuing to allow travel only for “Americans who want to travel to Cuba to engage the Cuban people, or American businesses that want to engage in Cuba, but also, frankly, in helping ordinary Cubans.” One can ask, then, are Americans who want to visit Canada or the UK beholden to “engage” Canadians or the British? Or if they wish to travel to other countries in the Third World, are they restricted to “helping ordinary people” there? Why is there a double standard? The use of an executive order to lift the travel ban as much as possible, in the words of the correspondent, is definitely a step that can be taken in the period leading up to the Obama visit.

Guantanamo

In response to a query on Guantanamo, Rhodes stated:

“I’m sure that will be part of the discussion. I know that because I’ve had that discussion many times with my Cuban counterparts. They are insisting, obviously, that our presence there is not legitimate and that the facility be returned to them. But again, that is not on the table as a part of our discussions. We’re focused on the range of issues that I discussed. But I’m sure that they will raise it. It continues to be an issue of concern to them.”

Actually, to say that the Cubans are “insisting” that it be returned is somewhat of an understatement. The Cubans have been – and are – fighting tooth and nail on all international tribunes for return of the territory to Cuba. This demand is a mark of national pride and dignity for the Cuban people, and it constitutes a major roadblock to normalizing Cuba–US relations. As far as US–Cuba policy, why is this thorny issue that can be solved by a stroke of the presidential pen not “on the table”?

Wet-Foot, Dry-Foot Policy

On August 19, 1994, President Bill Clinton announced his “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy: Cubans who land on US soil (“dry-foot”) could remain in the US, even if they did not enter the country through the standard legal immigration channels. However, migrants who were intercepted by the US Coast Guard at sea (“wet-foot”) would be returned to Cuba. This policy applies only to Cubans, thus encouraging illegal emigration and a pool of people to be usedas a political tool against the Cuban economic/social/political system. The change of this Cuba policy is something that the executive branch can do in the same way that President Bill Clinton initiated it.

A question went right to the point. While in Cuba, is the “wet-foot, dry-foot policy … something that the President is going to address?” Rhodes response was disappointing, but clear: “We are not planning to institute change with respect to wet-foot, dry-foot… Our focus is on how can conditions improve in Cuba so that over time there’s more economic opportunity and less of a need, frankly, for Cubans to have to pursue opportunity elsewhere.”

The Argentine Leg of the Obama Visit

In the November 2014 Argentine presidential elections, after more than a decade of left-wing governments, the right-wing won the vote. During his electoral campaign, the new president Mauricio Macri promised, among other policies, to realign Argentina’s foreign policy away from Venezuela and closer to the US.

Even though the subject of the Rhodes press briefing was the Cuba trip, he also said in his opening remarks:

“Following the trip to Cuba, I’d just note the President will be traveling to Argentina. The Cuba opening also has to be seen as part of an effort by the United States to significantly increase our engagement in the hemisphere. This is a region that had long rejected our Cuba policy. Our Cuba policy had, in fact, isolated the United States more than it had isolated Cuba in the hemisphere. Argentina is a country that, until recently, had a President who had, I’ll say, problematic relations with the United States. The new President there has indicated his interest in beginning and restoring and renewing U.S.–Argentina relations.”
Rhodes is very frank about the new Cuba policy being linked to the US reputation and prestige in Latin America. In fact, the White House indicated its adoption of this orientation in various statements and documents released around the December 17, 2014 Obama speech to announce the new chapter in Cuba–US relations.

Even though the Argentine sojourn was relegated to a very secondary position in the opening briefing, it did provoke two questions. The responses further flesh out the road map leading to the Argentine visit. The first question concerned “…whether they [new Argentine First Family] can be an ally. And what kind of reception do you expect the President to get, especially considering the one that President Bush received when he went down there?” The Bush reception refers to the November 4–5, 2005 Fourth Summit of the Americas that was held at Mar del Plata, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of Buenos Aires in Argentina. This summit gathered the leaders of all the countries of the American continent, except Cuba. President George W. Bush’s plan to push though the Free Trade Area of the America’s plan (FTAA) was a debacle. The charge against it was led by the host, President Néstor Kirchner of Argentina; President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela; and President Lula da Silva of Brazil.

The response by Rhodes to the query is perhaps indicative of where his road plan is intended to lead:

“With respect to Argentina, we definitely anticipate that they’ll be a closer partner on a range of issues… He’s [new president Mauricio Macri] signaled that he’d like to have closer economic and diplomatic cooperation with the United States. So we believe this is really a new beginning and a new era in our relationship with Argentina, and it mirrors the sentiment we see across the region, particularly since our Cuba opening, where there’s much more receptivity to working with the United States.”

The latter part of this citation indicates that, according to Rhodes, the US is, as planned, already reaping the fruit of the Cuba opening in Latin America.

In response to the second question requesting further elaboration on the Argentine visit, Rhodes said that the goal of the Obama administration is to “demonstrate that a cornerstone of the President’s legacy is his approach to Latin America [that] involves the Cuba opening…”

Cuba Sticks to Its Principles

By playing the Cuba card, the US offensive in Latin America seeks to drive a wedge between Argentina and countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. The US game plan would also like to force differences between Cuba and the other left-wing countries. However, the Cuban revolutionary government carries out its own push to fully support the revolutionary processes in these countries. Cuba is also one of the main stalwarts of regional integration through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC, for its Spanish initials). It includes all countries in the Americas except the US and Canada.

The US is using its Cuba policy to make tracks along the path of diplomacy, such as with the Obama visit to Argentina. However, the US has not limited its approach to just this relatively peaceful road: it is simultaneously interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador in order to bring about regime change.

Thus, the situation in Cuba and Latin America is complex. We will see how it develops in the period leading up to Obama’s visits to Cuba and Argentina, as well as in their aftermath throughout 2016.

Arnold August, a Canadian journalist and lecturer, is the author of Democracy in Cuba and the 1997–98 Elections and, more recently, Cuba and Its Neighbours: Democracy in Motion. Cuba’s neighbours under consideration are the US, Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. Arnold can be followed on Twitter@Arnold_August.

The original source of this article is Global Research

Copyright © Arnold August, Global Research, 2016

US: Same objective, different strategy for Cuba

fidel y nixon 5raul y obama 2

Obama’s actions prior to his visit

By Néstor García Iturbe
February 20, 2016

Source http://www.alainet.org/es/articulo/175533

 This translated version, without subheads, appeared on http://www.letcubalife.org

Obama’s visit to Cuba in context

Many of those “well versed in the material” are saying that in our remaining days before the Nobel Peace Prize winner arrives in Cuba surely the U.S. government will make some gestures toward our country that will “sweeten” the environment so that when the welcoming takes place, the climate will be favorable for the visit.

I don’t imagine that the reception will be along the lines of the film “Welcome Mr. Marshall” with a long row of people, from the airport to the place where he is going to stay, all holding little U.S. flags, and musical groups playing the Marines’ Hymn as the motorcade passes by. (1)  That’s all well and good, but not too much of it!

It looks like the U.S. government has also done some thinking about gestures it must make for “sweetening the welcome.”

USAID targets Cuba again – offers $500,000 to $2 million to special Cuban organizations 

usaid 1.jpgOn February 18, USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), whose activities have nothing to do with international development but instead with political subversion and meddling in the internal affairs of other countries, adjusted its guidelines for organizations interested in providing Cuba with “humanitarian assistance to political prisoners and their families, and also to persons and groups that have been politically marginalized.” The deadline for submitting proposals has been extended from February 15 to February 29.

For any one of these projects, these organizations may ask for something between $500,000 and $2 million. As is obvious, the amount is hardly trivial, especially if the proposed project costs $2 million.

Avoid detection

USAID cautions that any organization whose proposal is approved must not send U.S. citizens to Cuba for carrying out the project, because they would be easier to detect.

Very well: if USAID does fear that people who do come may be discovered and does make good on this warning, then it’s because by the nature of the project it’s totally illegal and contrary to established laws in Cuba. That’s why this type of project instead of “sweetening the atmosphere,” adds the bitter taste of interference in the internal affairs of our country — and all of this just a few days before Obama arrives in Havana.

Some of those interested in this kind of activity, but who don’t have any interest in residing in Cuban prisons, have brought questions to USAID concerning this project of the U.S. government.

USAID explains

The explanations offered by USAID are these:

  • This program operates under the jurisdiction and legal authority of the United States. (In no way does it rest upon acceptance by the Cuban government.)
  • The program is secret and exceptions to this will be considered on an individual basis. However, at this time USAID is not soliciting any exception for this program. This is said in accordance with the DATA Act and the OMB M-15-12 memorandum having to do with U.S. governmental spending. (2) (3)
  • This program prioritizes humanitarian assistance to political prisoners and politically marginalized individuals and the families of both. We cannot offer any recommendations as to necessary methods through which the assistance referred to here may reach the targeted groups.

US Interference in Cuba is alive and well

We infer from all this that:

  • Actions of the U.S. government for interfering in our internal affairs are alive and well.
  • For the sake of “paying their agents in Cuba,” funds are removed from the money U.S. taxpayers hand over to keep their government functioning.
  • The U.S. government assumes “political prisoners” and politically marginalized persons exist in Cuba and, in its judgment, has to help out in their struggle against the Cuban revolution.

Obama’s role

Surely Obama, when he comes to Cuba, will have a meeting with the “politically marginalized” to assure them that their salaries are protected and that they must continue carrying out activities they are directed toward. In any case, if they go to prison, they’ll be converted into “political prisoners,” and will keep on receiving their salaries, and from that moment on, with a ten percent increase for being in prison.

Translator’s notes:

  1. “Welcome Mr. Marshall” is a 1953 Spanish film telling of a small Spanish town preparing to host U.S. diplomats and hoping to benefit from the Marshall Plan, initiated in 1948 for all of Western Europe.
  2. The DATA Act, mandating data transparency, became U.S. law on May 9, 2014.
  3. This May 8, 2015, memorandum from the Office of Management and Budget calls for “Making Federal Spending Data Accessible, Searchable, and Reliable.”

Translated by Tom Whitney

Punish the Poor: Argentina to Raise Gas Prices up to 300%

Source: TeleSUR
22 February 2016

mauricio macri 4.jpgMauricio Macri’s neoliberal government continues its assault on working people, as labor unions and human rights group announce protests.

Argentines will see the price of gas spike by 40 to 300 percent in less than two months as the new conservative government unapologetically continues to push neoliberal policies.

The new rates will be in place March 1, but if the government can’t agree on the best strategy to do so before that date, it will take place a month later.

RELATED: Huge Hikes in Electricity Rates Become Official in Argentina

The National Gas Regulatory Entity sent out letters to the main gas distributors in the country, ordering them to speed up the necessary processes to apply the new rates.

Car drivers will also pay at least 124 percent more to fill their gas tanks, with prices soaring from US$2 to US$4.70. The price could jump even higher depending on several other factors.

“I don’t think there will be another hike this year,” said Maurizio Bezze, CEO of energy distribution company Edesur. His remarks were made at the same time when the government had presented its plan to increase the prices before mid-year.

RELATED: Argentine Labor Union Calls Huge National Strike Against Macri

Argentina has 1,300 differentiated rates for users across the country, which will be affected based on geographic conditions, and the amount of subsidies received. Furthermore, gas prices would need to adjust to transportation and distribution expenses.

Danny Glover Endorses Bernie Sanders

by Danny Glover
Huffington Post
February 4 2014

Bernie Sanders’ campaign has already accomplished what most observers — including many of his supporters — thought was impossible. Coming from 40 points behind in the polls when the campaign began, he achieved a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton in Iowa and enjoys a huge lead in the second Democratic contest in New Hampshire.

There is now no denying that he is a serious contender. Although Clinton still leads in national polls, most of the people surveyed by those polls have so far given little attention to the fundamentally different policy goals between Democratic Party presidential candidates.

Political commentators in the establishment media and status-quo political operatives have overwhelmingly endorsed Clinton, raising a number of doubts about Sanders’ prospects of appealing to and winning support of Black voters, who comprise a sizable share of Democratic primary voters. But there are a number of reasons why he can win the majority of Democratic Party and Independent voters, including moderate Republicans — and many specific reasons why a Sanders’ presidency could serve the policy interests of the Black community.

“Sanders has demonstrated that he understands that real democracy is essentially a pro-active citizenry demanding that public servants represent just causes.”

First, Sanders has put forth the most coherent policy changes to achieve full employment. His economic class-based proposals for change could have great benefits for unemployed and under- employed Americans — especially African-Americans because most Black people in this country are working class and a disproportionate number are poor. The unemployment rate for African-Americans is persistently about twice that of whites, and vastly higher for Black teenagers. Sanders’ proposals to create millions of jobs through public investment could greatly benefit African-Americans.

Unlike other candidates, Sanders has highlighted the importance of reform at the U.S. Federal Reserve. This is the institution that, when operating unchecked, basically determines the level of unemployment in the U.S. He has argued that the Fed should not raise interest rates until the unemployment rate falls below 4 percent.

When the Fed raises interest rates, as they did unnecessarily in December, they are deliberately creating unemployment, with the intention of slowing wage growth. In this way they not only reduce employment opportunities but also worsen inequality, since lower-wage workers are disproportionately hit. These workers are also disproportionately Black and Latino.

African-Americans will also benefit greatly from Sanders’ proposals

African-Americans will also benefit greatly from Sanders’ proposals for free tuition at public universities, expanding Social Security benefits, raising the minimum wage to $15, universal childcare and pre-kindergarten, a youth jobs program, and other measures to reduce America’s vast disparities of income, wealth, and yes, opportunity for all.

Responding earnestly to direct calls from Black Lives Matter, Sanders has demonstrated that he understands that real democracy is essentially a pro-active citizenry demanding that public servants represent just causes. He understands that generalized economic class-based reforms must be linked with what he has correctly called “serious problems in this country with institutional racism, and a broken criminal justice system.” And he has pledged to do something about it if he becomes president.

What makes Sanders’ campaign worthy of serious attention is that, unlike other candidates, he has a decades-long track record of fighting for the reforms that he is proposing — and honestly responding to critiques and challenges to expand and deepen democratic policies. Some have attacked his proposals as impractical; for example, free tuition at public universities. But public universities were free when I went to college in California. By what economic or accounting logic is this not affordable today, when America has more than twice the income per person that it had when I was a student?

We must change our national priorities, away from the endless overseas wars that are the main cause of terrorism — therefore begetting more war — and invest in the education of our children and youth. Here, too, Sanders shows a clear contrast with his opponent, who voted for the Iraq War and has continued since then to advocate a more belligerent foreign policy than that of President Obama.

Others have maintained that Sanders is not electable because he is a democratic socialist, or more accurately, a social democrat. But the social democratic reforms that he proposes to enact with the support of a permanently active citizenry are not only feasible but needed and popular.

“We must change our national priorities, away from the endless overseas wars that are the main cause of terrorism … and invest in the education of our children and youth.”

Look at our two most “socialist” programs, Social Security and Medicare. Why would democratic-minded Americans reject Sanders for wanting to expand both of these widely popular programs? Or for using the government to expand the rights of its citizens, rather than supporting the heavy state intervention that protects the exorbitant profits of pharmaceutical companies?

More than 15,000 volunteers helped Sanders succeed in Iowa, and there are many tens of thousands more who will participate in the rest of the primary and presidential campaigns. And that is perhaps the most hopeful part of the Sanders campaign. It is a genuine mass justice movement, fueled by young people and others whose lives, limited and degraded by broken and false promises, demonstrate why America’s dominant business-as-usual political class is discredited, and its political system is corrupted. The rising tide of Sanders supporters are not naïve — they are the realists — and after decades of stagnant or declining living standards for the majority, most Americans also understand this reality.

And who best to take on such a system but a candidate who is straightforwardly honest, boldly courageous, who has not been corrupted, who receives nothing from Wall Street or the corporations who have hijacked American democracy, and who owes them nothing in return? This campaign is a rare, perhaps unprecedented event in this country’s modern electoral history. It deserves the support of everyone who favors social and economic justice.

Danny Glover is an actor, director, producer and activist.

Follow Danny Glover on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mrdannyglover

 

Sanders reveals shocking facts about wealth inequality in America

Bernie thinks wealth and income inequality is so important, he made this video to lay out all the major points regarding the dwindling middle class, the state of the wealth and income gaps today, and lays out how we might build a more equitable economy for all.

Acknowledging Disparity of Wealth & Opportunity in America

The first step is to acknowledge that America has a problem. A structural economic inequality problem.

Does this have something to do with the 99% thing?

Absolutely. Today, the United States sees vast inequalities in both income (what we get paid) and wealth (everything we own). While some inequality is expected in any economy — and is perhaps even healthy — the U.S. today has inequalities allowing those at the top to amass (and keep) huge estates, while 22 percent of children live below the poverty line. Adults can work 40 hours a week and still not make enough to feed their families, while corporate executives in many of those same companies make much, much more.

Bernie believes this is unjust. In his own words:

“Ninety-nine percent of all new income generated today goes to the top 1 percent. The top one-tenth of 1 percent owns as much as wealth as the bottom 90 percent. Does anybody think that that is the kind of economy this country should have? Do we think it’s moral?”

A woman of letters

Ana Cairo Ballester, winner of the 2015 National Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities, emphasizes the importance of studying the lives and work of the country’s great thinkers.

ana cairo 2 Ana Cairo Ballester

Source:  Granma
February 23 2016
by Granma International news | informacion@granma.cu

Cuba has always been a land of intellectuals, the home of men and women whose work represents the most authentic traditions of a cultured people. Ana Andrea Cairo Ballester, winner of the 2015 National Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities, is an exemplary figure in the area of cultural investigation.

She tells us how her studies began at the Raúl Cepero Bonilla Special Pre-University Institute, a high school established in 1962, the first of its kind in the country, “I entered in 1964. The school was intended to develop abilities in older adolescents both in the sciences and letters, and to do that, there was a good staff of teachers. I discovered that I liked what was then called the humanities.”

When were you first drawn to philology?

After high school, I enrolled in the School of Arts and Letters, where classes on literature in various languages were offered. In 1976, when restructuring was done by the Ministry of Higher Education, it became the Department of Philology, uniting what had been Letters, Journalism and Languages. Although the department later returned to its previous name, it is known as Philology.

Philology is a method of work, a way of investigating. I consider myself a Letters scholar who gives classes in literature and investigates cultural problems. No doubt, since I began my studies and research, I was drawn to it as a correct, necessary method.

– Ana Cairo graduated in 1973, and, as part of her social service, was placed in the assistant dean’s office at the University of Havana’s Humanities Department. She recalls, “I did research, but I taught, too, and I continue to do so.” Dear to her heart is not only her research, but the art of teaching, as well.

What were the first issues you investigated?

There were alternatives for professional work before graduating, which allowed me to help professors with their research. In the final years of my studies I went to work at the Casa de las Américas Cultural Investigation Center, from Monday to Friday, in the morning.

I investigated whatever was needed; they even asked me once for a file on Cuban authors. After I graduated, I began to research the Minorista Group (from the 1920s), and thus two books emerged

How did the approach of intellectuals to history become one of the fundamental issues you studied?

The history of intellectuals is, first of all, necessary, and secondly, it has to do with the tasks I was undertaking. I teach literature, but I also address the lives of authors. The tradition is not that an intellectual is solely devoted to writing. We must know ourselves as people who develop and think, which is later made concrete in our writing.

One of your most emblematic books is José Martí y la novela de la cultura cubana. Why approach Martí from this point of view?

novelta de cultura cubana.jpgThe book is divided into three parts. In the first, it addresses Martí’s relationship with the intellectual community. The second part approaches Spain’s relationship with this community, including Martí himself, and the last part addresses this same relationship, but with the United States. It is necessary to understand how this grouping spoke about this. This last part is going to have a follow-up, to be titled, Nosotros somos pueblo (We are a people).

– Ana Cairo is a member of the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists; the Cuban section of the Association of Latin American and Caribbean Historians; the Center for José Martí Studies’ Scientific Council; and the Alejo Carpentier Foundation. She is also on the board of the Fernando Ortiz Foundation; and Temas magazine’s editorial council; while collaborating regularly with the José Martí National Library.

What inspired you to write Bembé para cimarrones?

Bembé para cimarrones emerged from a project at the Fernando Ortiz Foundation for the magazine Catálogo, which wanted to devote an issue to the issue of slave runaways, and I was motivated to make a contribution, but when I started to put together a file of my information and research, I realized it went beyond the possibilities of a magazine.

There were two options, write the 20-page text they requested of me, or take advantage of the fact that I was already into it, and do something more. It started to grow and became a book. I sent it to a competition, with the purpose of having it published, and it came out with the number of pages that could be financed.

You were just awarded the 2015 National Prize for Social Sciences and Humanities. Why do you think you were recognized?

It’s necessary to emphasize that there are two fields within the Prize, one for demographers, psychologists, geographers, who are in the Social Sciences, and the other is Humanities. I believe the Prize was granted to me in the field of Humanities.

Fernando Ortiz has already said it, “Although the sciences which address the problems of humans have been separated, they must be united again.” That’s why the Humanities have not died, nor will they ever die.

What would Ana Cairo say to people getting to know Cuba for the first time?

No beginning is one-sided. What life has taught me is that you start to discover things simultaneously. I would say: look, come, learn, and don’t let yourself be affected by prejudices.

There are many people who do not understand how Havana was declared one of seven Marvelous Cities, but our city has Italian palaces, emblematic buildings, and since the conquest of Hernando Cortéz, the port of Havana has been international.

Havana.jpgAre you satisfied with what you’ve accomplished?

You do what you can, not what you would like. Within what I can do and what I would like, I am unsatisfied. I would like to have finished books. I have as a goal re-publishing Bembé para cimarrones with the number of pages it really has. In the world in which I move, it’s important not to get tired.

 

ana cairo ballester