LIVE FROM HAVANA, Ken joins Obama, MLB, & the Stones (sort of)

I expected the Jose Marti airport to be swarming with reporters and tourists, as my friend at the Ministry of Culture told me they had received over 1500 requests for press credentials, that main thoroughfares would be closed, and that it would be difficult for me to work. Why not wait, she asked, and come after the hubbub of Obama, Major League Baseball, and Los Rollings (local parlance for the Rolling Stones) has passed? I explained to her that I need to be here to locate the characters in our film on the canvas of this moment. I have asked Cuban friends, shopowners, and police on the street which of the three events is the most significant. Their answers remind me thatthere is no “Cuban people;” there are many Cuban peoples. Some are thrilled to see Los Rollingsperform here for the first time; others are resentful of the reminder of what they have been denied, others want it to be over, others love Obama, others distrust the PR aspect of his visit, others are upset that they cannot secure a ticket to see the Cuban National team play the Tampa Bay Rays in the Estadio Latinoamericano, the temple of Cuban baseball. As always, there is universal agreement that the lifting of the US embargo (yes, it is still very much in place, despite the recent loosening of restrictions vis-a-vis travel and commerce) will lift everyone’s spirits and opportunities. A police officer told me today that Obama’s visit is good for humanity, yet he is just another human, like us.

 Ken @ SFO, waiting for his red eye to Cancún.

Ken @ SFO, waiting for his red eye to Cancún.

 

Within moments of my arrival I met a visiting humanities professor from the University of Yucatan in México; while waiting for our luggage, we made fast friends talking literature, university curriculum, and the upcoming events. He suspects that the visit by Los Rollings may be of greater significance than that of Obama . And upon entering my casa particular (I say “my” because by now it feels like home), the private home I rent while in Havana, Ana, the excellent owner, had fixed a broken light, bought me bottles of water in advance of the rush, and prepared several plates of papaya and pineapple in the fridge. A series of “I love this place” moments.

 Arriving at José Marti International.

Arriving at José Marti International.

 

At the International Press Center I bumped into Cynthia Carris Alonso, who is working on a follow-up to her beautiful book on Cuban artists. She has been working and photographing here for 23 years, and we both marveled at how many journalists are here for the first time, with no Cuba experience and little or no Spanish. Another affirmation of the importance of our project—to hear about Cuba from the Cuban point of view.

 Planning our shoot with photographer, Ivan Soca Pascual. He has one of the few Cuban press passes to cover Los Rollings (as the Stones are known in Cuba). You can check out his photos at #ivansoca on Facebook.

Planning our shoot with photographer, Ivan Soca Pascual. He has one of the few Cuban press passes to cover Los Rollings (as the Stones are known in Cuba). You can check out his photos at #ivansoca on Facebook.

 Ivan Soca tracking the building of the immense stage for Los Rollings concert on Friday.

Ivan Soca tracking the building of the immense stage for Los Rollings concert on Friday.

 

The Obamas are set to arrive sometime today, although information is scarce. If there will be a motorcade with throngs of cheering people on the streets, it will be unannounced. And today the area where he, his entourage, and the journalists are staying (just a few blocks from my casa) is oddly quiet. I suspect a bit more of a throng tomorrow.

That's all for now.

Ken

Your man in Havana