Friday, January 13, 2012

International Conference on Caribbean Literature in Havana, Cuba

Last year the International Conference on Caribbean Literature took place in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Togabo.

The conference featured writer Earl Lovelace. I also enjoyed an excursion into a mangrove swamp and filmed the country's national bird, the stunning Scarlet Ibis, so
give the preceding link a look.

In a previous year, the conference visited St. Lucia, home of Nobel-Prize-winning author Derrek Walcott; the preceding blog page contains links to Walcott's reading.

This year's conference provided an even more exciting
adventure, for I got to visit a place long on my wish list for travel, Havana, Cuba.

I will organize through five separate collections of photographs and videos, for I served as this historic conference's "official" photographer and videographer:

Tuesday night in Miami and Wednesday in Havana (152 images).

We all arrived in Miami on Tuesday for a reception and discussion of the upcoming adventure in Havana.

A group of us also enjoyed an initial taste of Cuban food that afternoon at a small
restaurant close to the airport hotel complex at which we stayed; I ordered the grilled King Fish.

After a short flight from Miami to the Jose Marti Airport
outside Havana (Habana), we visited one of Havana's famous cemeteries, where many of the island's wealthy built impressive statues and other structures at their grave sites--as the photographs indicate.

After getting settled in the beautiful Hotel Nacional, Havana's most famous hotel, we got in the bus for a quick trip to the Casa de Las Americas, the nation's
center for international cultural relations--this government group also helped organize the convention, the first of its kind for scholars from the USA since 1959, the year the government created the organization.

There, the group's president, Roberto Fernandez Retamar, one of Cuba's most celebrated writers and scholars, addressed the group. Unfortunately, I did not bring the video camera and so cannot share his excellent talk.
After a fun-filled reception at Casa de Las Americas, we headed via a tunnel under Havana Bay to a restaurant, La Divina Pastora, located next to El Morro Castle that overlooks Havana Bay.

While we ate an exceptional fish dinner,
Cuarteto entertained. The preceding video from a couple of the group's numbers does not sound all that good, however, take a look to see the group and the beautiful lights of Havana sparkling on the horizon and reflected in the bay's waters.

After dinner, our evening's featured speaker, Pedro Perez Sarduy, a noted Cuban poet, journalist, and novelist addressed the group. Sarduy's latest novel is the award-winning The Maids of Havana--and you can listen to him read from this book.

Author Pedro Perez Sarduy Speaks Part OneAuthor Pedro Perez Sarduy Speaks Part Two

I did not record all of what
Sarduy related, but did video two large sections of the speech--and what a superb translator.

Give the talk a listen, for Pedro talks about his genesis as a writer in Cuba. Pedro stayed with us for pretty much the entire adventure, and I quickly came to admire him a great deal.

After Pedro's address, a surprise speaker--pictured on the right in the preceding paragraph--and one of Cuba's most celebrated statesmen and current President of the National Assembly of the People's Power, Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada talked with us for nearly an hour, a wonderfully articulate and energetic extemporaneous display.
Thursday Events in Havana (164 images).

Havana Bay with El Murro Castle

After the morning sessions, we gathered at one of the Hotel Nacional restaurants for lunch and an address by Miguel Barnet, another famous Cuban anthropologist and author, and presently the President of the Cuban Association of Writers and Artists.

Unfortunately Miguel Barnet was ill; I look forward to reading his well-known Biography of a Runaway Slave.

Before out trip to Old Havana that afternoon, I went back to the
Casa De Las Americas, where I purchased a poster marking the One-Hundred-Year Anniversary of Franz Fannon--author of the important works The Wretched of the Earth and Black Skin, White Masks.

Around two in the afternoon, the group got in the bus with our excellent driver and two guides for the day and went to Old Havana, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site under rather heavy reconstruction.

But before our tour of Old Havana, we gathered in the San Geronimo School to listen
to an address by Dr. Eusebio Leal Spengler, the City Historian of Havana, who spoke about many things, including the preservation and architecture of Old Havana.

Eusebio Leal Spengler Part One

Eusebio Leal Spengler Part Two

The previous two links feature most of Spengler's address though the quality of the voices leaves something to be desired--too much echo in the hall.

Still, Spengler offers wonderful details about Cuban history, politics, and culture.

After the talk, we all went on a guided tour of Old Havana, and the photographs attempt to capture some of the area's growing beauty, contrasted always with what these tours do not highlight. But the pre-1959 automobiles suggest something of the contrasts that describe Havana.
We had an opportunity to return a couple times to Old Havana with its stunning buildings and other attractions, from food to the used book sellers market previously pictured, from the views along the bay to a variety of entertainments, including a Mojito at a bar Hemingway frequented or dancers in the streets:

As I did on more than one occasion, I concluded the night listening to music outside the Hotel Nacional, often with seven-year-old rum and a mighty good cigar--I picked Sequencia Tropical's CD, one of the groups that performs regularly at the hotel.

Friday Events in Havana
(205 images)

Writing Tower at Hemingway Home Outside Havana

Friday proved another intense day. After the morning conference sessions at which I gave a paper and chaired a session, the group enjoyed lunch and then a talk by Margarita Mateo Palmer, a distinguished critic and novelist.

Margarita Mateo Palmer Part One

Margarita Mateo Palmer Part Two

I wish that one could find Palmer's works in English; she does not use a translator in these two pieces that pay homage from her work and that of others to Havana.

Music and Dancing at Museum of Guanabacoa

Habana Midic Performs

Saturday Events in Havana (238 images)

Nancy Morejon Part One

Nancy Morejon Part Two

Nancy Morejon Part Three

Nancy Morejon Part Four

Los Munequitos de Matanza Music and Slides of Saturday's Highlights in Havana

Sunday Events in Havana (95 images)


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