Monday, July 30, 2012

Moncada Day Celebration in Halifax

The stands!
The shelter!
Welcome Leslie!
"Patria es Humanidad!" ---Motherland is Benevolence! Motherland is Humanity!
Books and Songs...
Despite the rain...
Raging Grannies: raging for Cuba...

Hello Friends of NSCUBA (Nova Scotia Cuba Association)I am taking a few minutes of my time to send a big "THANK YOU" to you for your interest, time and participation in our 2012 Moncada Day event at Victoria Park on July 27.Despite the rainy day we were able to continue with our plans, thanks to your committment and to our shelters!It takes many people to make such an event work and to make it successful.I hope that you all had time to talk, to make a new friend, and to enjoy the days activities.I certainly enjoyed seeing all of you there!I will happily appreciate any comments you may have to help make the next Moncada Day, 2013, even more thought provoking, more successful and more interesting and with fun for all. Your suggestions for  speakers and topics to add to the flavour of our educational aspect on this day are also appreciated. Musicians willing to participate are welcome. Please pass along names and e-mails or phone numbers.
Thanks to speakers:
   Tony Tracey; Megan Leslie; John Kirk; Mike Savage; Nora Fernandez; Jeff Goodspeed; Augusto Enriquez; Isaac Saney; Stephen Kimber.
Thanks to poets:
    Ambros Prechtl and EL Jones
Thanks for music and singing: Art Drysdale; Kevin Roach; Raging Grannies.
Thanks for dancing:  Halifax Salseros.
Thanks for MC: Nelson Larson.
Thanks for Art Display: Jude Claborn Skaling.
Thanks for food preparation: Randy Skaling; Ruth Wilton.
Thanks for helping set up and take down and for posting the banners:
    Nels and Ruth Larson, Charles Spurr, Ruth and Laird Wilton, Mario and Nora Fernandez, Richard       Morrow, Marilyn MacMullin, Anna Migas.
Thanks for taking care of sound system: Anna Migas.
Thanks for ensuring that we got the necessary permit: Charles Spurr.
Thanks for dominoes and games: Laird and Ruth Wilton.
Thanks for talking to CKDU radio, for postering and for overall help to Nels Larson.
Thank you all for coming and making time for this day. "Many hands make light work" 
If I forgot someone and I am sure I must have - please let me know!!!
It was fun!

Ruth Larson


Many thanks to Jim Sacouman and Barb Moore for their hospitality and the great time!

                                                                      The tasty pig!!

                                                               Two of the many cooks...

                                                                 The panoramic views!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Los Primos and beyond!

Belkys de la Paz Portal (right end of the picture) is the Director of the National School of Music --part of the National School of Art (ENA in Spanish) specializing in teaching  music, dance, theatre, ballet and plastic art in Cuba.  Belkys came in charge of a delegation of 12 students, nine from her school and three from elementary school level, participants in the project Los Primos.  They group toured Nova Scotia performing at the Black Cultural Centre (Darmouth), Kings Theatre (Annapolis Royal), St Marks´ Church (La Have), Wallace Community Hall (Wallace), Roadside Willies restaurant (Bible Hill),  Memberton (Sidney), Mic Mac Aquatic Club (Darmouth), Mosaiq Multicultural Festival (Moncton) and Stayners Wharf (Halifax).  Augusto Enriquez and his wife Yami were present accompanying their daughter, a violin player from the National School of Music.   

                                                            Belkys de la Paz Portal

The National School of Music has 438 enrolled students, 171 of them residents of Havana and the rest from everywhere in Cuba. The School provides residential accommodation for those 267 students who come from outside Havana –there are between six and eight bedrooms per floor, in their four floors building, some bedrooms accommodate female students while others accommodate male students, providing room for 65 to 70 students per floor and meeting their needs. The school has a large dinning room and chefs cooking the required meals. The school employs 290 people in total, 211 of them are teachers; they are all under the direction of Belkys de la Paz Portal and her team –a council of eight administrators and sub-directors who manage the school with an annual budget provided by the Cuban state.

Most students at the School have completed elementary level education and have some knowledge of music, in the case of piano, violin and violoncello, for example, the selection of students takes place when they are about 9 years old and have completed grade three. Part of the selection process, the students undergo a physical examination and are evaluated for their musical capacities. There are between 400 and 600 students applying annually at the School of Music and only between 200 and 250 will be selected.  In the case of wind and percussion instruments, as in the case of choral singing and directing, there is a second round of exams after those first ones.     

The students of the National School of Music have to comply with a number of goals regarding their formal education, that is, they have to complete the educational requirements of any other student s well.  They study music and history of music and their musical education takes place on a one to one setting because the goal is to achieve high musical quality, and to this end each student has his/her teacher. The other aspects of their education takes place in a group setting, generally in groups of 18 to 20 students, and sometimes, when required, there are also smaller study groups. Exams are public and take place in front of evaluating teams or tribunals, this mainly to ensure transparency and accountability.  

The National School of Music has a focus on classic music, its general objective, but it offers workshops on specialized music like jazz, Cuban popular music and so on. It is in this area that Los Primos found its space. Belkys identified the Los Primos experience as very valuable: it has favoured an exchange that enriches students’ practical formation, contributes to the development of capacities and facilitates the confidence of participating students in performing in front of an international audience.  

Annually, we receive delegations from many countries who visit our National School of Music in Havana with a number of projects in mind, the director explained, but few of these projects include travelling outside of Cuba and exposing students to musical experiences in other countries. Personalities from Telesur for instance, showed an interest in the work of the School but travelling expenses proved to be a challenge that made exchanges difficult in practice.  Los Primos, however, has succeeded in making this possible, exchanges have proven to be very enriching to both parties and there are also donations of instruments that benefit the School and individual students. A viola and a French horn was donated to the School and the group is taking them to Cuba upon their return, and some students have received instruments too, for example a trumpet and two trombones were donated for students own use. Important direct connections between musicians and students have also been made, music workshops have been implemented, in all a very positive musical exchange, a success.  

Due to the blockade, the School has faced challenges in developing links with the rest of the world, and connections are crucial in ensuring enriching experiences outside of Cuba for the students. Sometimes the formats used in music can become a challenge too, the director explained. For instance, it has been particularly difficult to ensure experiences outside of Cuba for the symphonic school in part because of costs involved in transporting such a large group of students, the School is now experimenting with smaller groups like sextets, quartets and so on, to make exchanges easier. The focus of the School in classical music, the desire of most its students, can also contribute to the challenge because popular music seems to have greater initial appeal.   

There is awareness about challenges and such awareness has contributed to the understanding of Los Primos project as a valuable unique experience. One that emerged in a context of solidarity and friendship; Cubans participate with great love and enthusiasm, aware that Los Primos is the result of love and good will too. Both parties have benefited greatly from the exchange: valuable connections have been made and the learning has enriched both sides. It seems the project is at a point were extending these connections of friendship to create new ones is almost a must. There seems to be agreement that expanding “Los Primos” beyond Nova Scotia could be the challenge for the future. Exploring ways to expand the project’s focus on popular music to include classical music specializing students may also be part of the emerging expansion. The successes of the past, and present, seem to be announcing that the sky is the limit!    

Nora Fernández

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Victory at the US/Canada Border! Humanitarian Aid on its way thru US > to Cuba!

Dear Supporters and Co-fighters,

On behalf of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba, the BC Aid Network on Cuba, Pastors for Peace and other organizations and individuals who occupied the Canada/U.S. border yesterday we would like to thank you for your rapid and immense support for the Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba and the humanitarian aid which is now in Seattle, Washington ready to continue its journey on to Cuba! This was an important first step towards breaking the U.S. blockade against Cuba. Below are some articles explaining the victory yesterday. We will release an official statement later this evening.

Please visit our websites to stay updated:

In Solidarity,
Tamara Hansen
Coordinator of Vancouver Communities in Solidarity with Cuba (VCSC)

Selected articles:
(1) From Liberation News (USA)
(2) From the Province Newspaper (Vancouver, Canada)
(3) From Sun News Media (Canada)
(4) From Prensa Latina News Agency (Cuba)
(5) From Granma Newspaper (Cuba)
(6) From CubaDebate (Cuba)
(7) From the Times Colonist (Victoria, Canada)
(8) From La Republica (Spain)
(9) From Global TV (Canada)
(10) From Havana Times
(11) From News1130 (Vancouver, Canada)

caravanists at the border
----- (( 1 )) ----- Update from the Party for Socialism and Liberation's Liberation News:
"Humanitarian aid for Cuba denied entry into the US! Protesters occupy lot in front of US border, vow not to leave until aid let through!"

Following the press conference, the truck loaded with aid from Canada was allowed to cross the border into the United States, without condition. This victory was made possible by the unrelenting solidarity and militancy of the Caravanistas, who literally "occupied the border" and refused to leave until the aid was allowed through.
Read more:

----- (( 2 )) ----- From the Province Newspaper

"U.S. Customs releases B.C. charity goods truck bound for Cuba"

U.S. Customs officials on Monday changed their minds and allowed a pickup truck full of humanitarian aid for Cuba to go through the border. A B.C. group transporting the humanitarian aid to Cuba was denied entry into the U.S. on Sunday. After a demonstration by the group outside the Peace Arch border crossing Monday afternoon, an organizer with the Pastors for Peace Caravan met with the border and customs officers, and the truck was allowed through.
Read more:

----- (( 3 )) ----- From Sun News Media

"US customs blocks, then releases Canadian aid to Cuba"

A shipment of Canadian donations to Cuba detained by American border authorities on Sunday has been released. Pastors for Peace hit a roadblock when customs officials denied the group's Caravan to Cuba entry into the US at the Peace Arch border crossing in Surrey, just outside Vancouver.
Read more:

----- (( 4 )) ----- From Prensa Latina News Agency

"Canadian Aid to Cuba Crosses Into U.S.Territory"

Washington, Jul 3 (Prensa Latina) Humanitarian aid coming from Canada to Cuba crossed today through US territory, after been arbitrarily blocked for three days by Washington's authorities. The activists overcame intimidation by U.S. Customs regarding the payment of a deposit to allow the passage of the lot, which will arrive in Cuba as part of the XXIII Caravan of Pastors for Peace.
Read more:

----- (( 5 )) ----- From Granma Newspaper

"Aduana de EE.UU. impide paso de ayuda para Cuba en frontera con Canadá"

OTTAWA.—Funcionarios de la Aduana de Estados Unidos mantenían ayer bloqueado un camión con ayuda humanitaria donada por varias ciudades canadienses para enviarlo a Cuba, como parte de la XXIII Caravana de Pastores por la Paz.
Read more:

----- (( 6 )) ----- From CubaDebate Website
"Avanza por Estados Unidos ayuda canadiense para Cuba"

Un cargamento humanitario procedente de Canadá para Cuba avanza hoy por territorio estadounidense, tras permanecer bloqueado durante dos días de forma arbitraria por las autoridades de Washington.

----- (( 7 )) ----- From the Times Colonist Newspaper
"U.S. relents, lets Cuba-bound goods through border. Aid shipment was held up Sunday"
Read more:

----- (( 8 )) ----- From La Republica Newspaper
“EEUU bloquea ayuda solidaria para Cuba”
Read more:

----- ((9)) ----- From Global TV
"Shipment of humanitarian aid destined for Cuba stalled at the border"
Read more:

----- ((10)) ----- From Havana Times Website
"Canadian Aid to Cuba Blocked at US Border"
Read More:

----- ((11)) ----- From News 1130 Radio
"Canadians taking aid to Cuba. The Caravan to Cuba is celebrating its 20th anniversary"
Read more:

Oxfam's Experience in Cuba: Halifax July 6, 2012