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

25th Havana Book Fair: A festival of books and literature

Source:  Granma
30 November 2015
by:  Madeleine Rodrigue Sautié  |  informacion@granma.cu

The 25th International Book Fair will be dedicated to Uruguay and Cuban intellectuals Lina de Feria and Rogelio Martínez Furé

cuban book fair 2016.jpgPhoto: Juvenal Balán

Soon Havana will be immersed in literature. In just three months time, February 11-21, 2016, the 25th International Book Fair will be held, this year dedicated to the Eastern Republic of Uruguay and authors Lina de Feria and Rogelio Martínez Furé.

Rodolfo Nin Novoa, Foreign Minister of Uruguay, and Sergio Mautone, National Director of Cultural Affairs of the Ministry of Education, were in Havana to coordinate preparations prior to the event, heading a large Uruguayan delegation.

34 countries 250 intellectuals

Edel Morales, vice president of international relations of the Cuban Book Institute (ICL), noted that so far they are working with 34 countries and have established contacts with some 250 intellectuals. Nin Novoa confirmed the presence of Uruguayan President Tabaré Vásquez at the event, and noted the decision made by the country’s Foreign Ministry to republish the letters and documents of José Martí addressed to the jose marti 4Republic of Uruguay, when he served as consul of the country in New York. “That the Cuban hero was a representative of a country such as ours, for us is a source of ongoing pride,” he said, adding “In a world of so much material interest, Martí’s detachment was simply great. This letter is a love song by an American for an American homeland that he considered his own.”

Mautone offered his impressions on the significance that being guest of honor holds for Uruguay, recalling, “At the time of the dictatorship, Cuba was a small light at the end of the road.” He also noted that Uruguay is committed to representing the very best of its culture, with greats such as Mario Benedetti and Eduardo Galeano, just to mention a couple, together with literature from new generations. “We still have a big challenge ahead, to ensure the success of this Uruguayan presence within the success that is the Havana fair,” he added.

zuleika romay cuba.jpgA debt owed to Uruguayan contemporary literature

Zuleica Romay Guerra, ICL president, assured that the fair is a wonderful opportunity to settle the debt we owe to Uruguayan contemporary literature, since while many Uruguayan classics have been published here, the country’s contemporary literature has been overlooked. Romay Guerra, also director of the event organizing committee, highlighted the cultural and literary program that is already being prepared. (Photo:  Zuleica Romay)

“I am receiving something I think I do not deserve and that it appears I deserve, and that means situating myself among very important intellectuals,” De Feria expressed during her words of thanks for being honored at the fair. Martínez Furé, who considers himself a defender of the spoken word, a cimarrón of words and a cloner of identities, tells us that an insatiable hunger for universes stirs him. “The ashé of the word turns me into the living word,” he stated in thanks for the tribute.

The next edition of the fair will also pay tribute to the writer José Soler Puig, during his centenary of his birth; the 130th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Cuba, and the 60th anniversary of the landing of the Granma yacht.

Source:  A festival of books and literature

Uruguayan Writer Eduardo Galeano Dies at Age 74 in Montevideo

Source:  TeleSUR
April 13, 2015

The famed Uruguayan writer and journalist authored over 35 books, including the “Open Veins of Latin America.”

eduardo galeano 4Internationally awarded Uruguayan author and journalist Eduardo Galeano died Monday of lung cancer at age 75 in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, according to local newspaper Subrayado.

The writer of about 35 books, including the “Open Veins of Latin America,” which became a bestseller overnight after the late President Hugo Chavez handed the book over to his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama during the fifth Summit of the Americas in 2009, was born Sept. 3, 1940.

The confirmation of his death was also covered by Spanish daily El Pais and Europe Press.

One of the most notable authors of Latin American literature

Galeano is considered to be one of the most notable authors of Latin American literature. Among his many works are “Memories of the Fire,” “The Following Days,” and “Guatemala, an Occupied Country.”

Galeano distinguished himself as a writer by transcending orthodox genres and by combining documentary, fiction, journalism, political analysis and history.

He once proclaimed his obsession as a writer, saying, “I’m a writer obsessed with remembering, with remembering the past of America and above all that of Latin America, intimate land condemned to amnesia.”

Source: Uruguayan Writer Eduardo Galeano Dies at Age 74 in Montevideo TeleSUR

Over 700 New Book Titles at upcoming International Havana Book Fair

January 9 2014

havana book fair 2014Over 700 book titles will make up the sample to be displayed at the 23rd   International Book Fair, Cuba 2014, to be held February 13-23 in  Havana and later till March in other Cuban territories.

Vice president of the Cuban Book Institute Juan Rodriguez told  reporters that a total of 2.5 million copies will be on the offer.

Ecuador is the guest nation to the fair and it will be represented by 32 works at what the major event of its kind of the island.

Some 160 world personalities will attend the fair, including 120 writers, plus 130 exhibitors who have already rented 2 thousand 622 square meters at the exhibit ground at Havana’s San Carlos de la Cabana Fortress, right on the side of the Havana harbor.

A colloquium on anthropology and archeology

The fair’s program includes for the first time a colloquium on anthropology and archeology, with outstanding Ecuadorian, Mexican and Cuban experts in the field.

The exhibit and sales of books will also take place in different areas of downtown Havana, such as the University of Havana and other cultural institutions.

The fair, which aims at promoting national and foreign literature, will pay homage this  year to outstanding Cuban poetess Gertrudis Gomez de Avellaneda in her 200th birthday anniversary and to the 100th anniversary of Cuban Samuel Feijo and Onelio Jorge Cardoso.

Source:  Over 700 New Book Titles at upcoming International Havana Book Fair

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10 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Chinua Achebe, The Father Of African Literature

chinua achebe

Source:  Newsone.com

Chinua Achebe  perhaps the most-influential voice in the history of African literature — died after a short illness, robbing the world of a literary elder who brought the trials and tribulations of Nigeria to the world’s consciousness for the last half century.

Tributes for the 82-year-old Achebe, a scholar, poet, and social critic, have been pouring in from around the world since word of his death in Boston broke. But the most-concise and brilliant words ever spoken about Achebe came from former South African President Nelson Mandela who said Achebe “brought Africa to the rest of the world.” Here NewsOne offers 10 facts you likely didn’t know about the author.

Read more at:  http://newsone.com/2298742/chinua-achebe-wiki/

News from Cuba

New Community for Sandy Victims in Eastern Cuba 

Rebuilding after SandyHAVANA, Cuba, Dec 26 (ACN) Just two months after recovery activities began in eastern Cuban territories hard hit by hurricane Sandy, another 49 families were recently benefited with a new housing program in the community of Armando Mestre, in Holguin province.
The project was conceived after remodeling idle facilities for some 158 persons, mostly women and children. The community counts on all basic utilities.
A young couple made up of 19-year-old housewife Adisbel Rodriguez and self-employed Continue reading