Monthly Archives: September 2010

Going to Cuba, What For?!

By Paquito D’Rivera

Everyone knows that in a totalitarian regime like the Cuban is, absolutely everything is organized, coordinated and controlled by the state, including, and very mainly the arts. So a few days ago when my colleagues at Jazz at Lincoln Center naively told me that “Good thing we’re going to Cuba for musical, not political, reasons”, I immediately, kindly but firmly replyed: There is not such a thing as a non-political event in Cuba; and unfortunately, great artists like my dear friend Chucho Valdés are nothing else but tools of that lamentable regime. You should ask Chucho why his own father’s many achievements as well as Cachao, Julio Gutierrez, Celia Cruz and so many of us Cuban exile artists has been silenced and banned from the official history books in our own land. And please take the opportunity to ask also about the Ladies in White, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet–a follower of Dr. Martin Luther King–, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Dr. Darsy Ferrer, Guillermo Fariñas, Yoani Sanchez, and so many other Cubans (most of them blacks), discriminated against, harassed or even left to die or serving up to 30 years in prison just for speaking their minds. And believe me that this is just the very tip of the iceberg about the horrors hidden behind those so publicized Castro’s free schools and health (or rather HELL) systems. Everybody should know by now that every single activity there, is related and connected to a political goal, and relevant names–like Wynton Marsalis or Tania Leon, for example– will be used, no doubts about it, for propaganda matters, help legitimizing the 50 year plus old dictatorship, and against those of us, fighting for a better future for our people. On the other hand, three times already this year I turned down pretty juicy propositions to go to Communist China. I simply refuse to visit cages to play for prisoners with no crimes committed. How would it feel to criticize Cuban tourism while sending post-cards from Tiananmen Square?!

So quoting Cuban exiled journalist Miguel Pérez:

I tell my non-Cuban friends that I probably have much better reasons for wanting to go to the Island. But sarcastically, I also explain that I’ve managed to resist the temptation because I suffer from an illness called “principles” and that traveling to my country under the hideous regime from which I fled is bad for my health. Until Cuba is truly free, I’m not going to be traveling with them.

So, bon voyage!

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Why Cubans don’t play golf

Golf is the sport of Kings, or at least one of them. You don’t even break into a sweat. You can’t even get your clothes dirty even if you tried. One can have a caddie, which is just another word for a butler. If you can afford a caddie, then you opt for something that you can’t afford, like a golf cart. You walk around manicured green lawns and ponds. You’re out there exposed to the elements, but not really roughing it, unless you hit the little white ball into the area they call the “rough”. The forest is really more like an arboretum, each tree placed perfectly – in fact, most golf courses from around the world have been designed by a famous player.

Cubans don’t play golf. It’s as simple as that. I’ve tried, but quite frankly, I found it boring, like watching grass grow. Unfortunately, the folks that run golf courses don’t give the grass enough of a chance to grow, so you can’t even derive any pleasure from that.

Cubans don’t see the point in hitting a little white ball around with clubs and making “birdies” or replacing “divots” (thank God for spell-check). They much rather prefer to do that at home. They can’t see the fun in following after the ball with group of (usually) guys, especially when there is no music to be heard, with or without conga drums.

What got me thinking about golf and Cubans is that I just heard that the Castro regime, after many years of prohibiting golf courses on the island, because of the capitalistic, elite and regal connotations associated with the “sport”, has finally succumbed due to its desire for even more tourism.

So if anyone has an inkling of going to Cuba for a round of golf, keep in mind that the incredible fertile soil of Cuba, which can grow anything from a chirimolla to a watermelon, is going “green”, in the sense that thousand of acres of potentially cultivated land that would otherwise feed the hungry, will be converted instead into manicured golf courses which will be frequented by clueless foreign tourists.

Cubans don’t play golf. It’s both boring to somebody like me, who has been away from the island for almost 50 years and unavailable to those there, since they are not permitted to enter the resorts, except with an “escort” – but we’ll leave that discussion for another day. No food, no liberty, no Coca-Colas, no free press, no free elections — and worst of all, no golf.

Ah, Cuban ingenuity! I can just picture golf carts transformed into taxis all over Havana.

Mariano Vidal

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