Spaniards in the World

The capitol, rum, salsa music played on street corners, cars that look like collector’s pieces although under the hood they are falling to pieces. This and more in the chapter, “Spaniards in the World,” filmed here in Havana. Fifty minutes with stories of immigrants from Asturias, Galicia, Andalusia, which have transported their dreams from the other side of the Atlantic. Everything is nice and blue, sprinkled with salt; but something doesn’t fit.

While I watch the serial I have the impression that what they’re showing me is another country, a distant dimension in sepia tints. The life stories of the seven main characters happen, for me, in a space far from the daily life I know. And though I repeat — to calm myself down — that the serial is about Spaniards spread across the globe and not about Cubans lost in their own geography, as the credits run I can’t escape the feeling of having been conned.

The writers cleverly hide the detail that those interviewed possess prerogatives unattainable for natives. They fail to say that spending a night at the Bodeguita del Medio, or at the Tropicana cabaret, renting an office in the Bacardi building, managing cosmetic or tobacco companies, dining on lobster and wine, are privileges accessible — almost exclusively — to the wallets of foreigners. Not to mention the beautiful sail on the yacht in one of the final scenes, prohibited by law to the nation’s 11 million people. It lacks, this modern and diverting program, the explanation of the imbalance, the story about the gap that separates the world of these Spanish who come here from the world of the Cubans who were born here.

The video Españoles en el mundo – La Habana


86 thoughts on “Spaniards in the World

  1. Humberto — Does Margarita Alarcon, who was raised in the U.S., normally spell in British/Canadian English? #62 “like the small *handfull* who live on this site.” and “A pretty basic matter for any *traveller.*”

    “handfull” is an error as far as I can tell, “traveller” isn’t. I also caught another entry in Brit/Canuck English—

    #28 in Quick Love, Brief Shelter #28 “Well at least belatedly honest but so indicative of the hypocrisy of *criticising*…”

    I’m just sayin’.

  2. twitter talk … & all the new fangle terms … what ever happened to radio bemba?

  3. Love Cuba! I think in Twitter Talk (TT), it means that I found her “SECRET” and she “CENSORED” me on that article! No matter! Just some CONTEXT! I think “THEYRE HERE” like in the POLTERGEIST movie! But you all knew that! WE JUST KNOW ONE OF THEIR LAST NAMES “ALARCON”!

  4. Humberto, I don’t understand twitter talk. What’s going on between you and Alarcon and what’s her story?

    I agree that any anti-Castro terrorists should be punished. I also think pro-Castro terrorists, who are far more numerous, should be punished, but I’m sure she would disagree.

    Reading Castro sympathizers hold forth on world affairs and Cuba might provide insight into paranoid delusional disorder, but is as informative as reading Baby Doc Duvalier’s history of Haiti. I noticed it’s now fashionable to call oneself an “anarchist”, even though the members of that club still support the same fascist dictatorships as their “socialist” and “communist” predecessors.

    I have to concur with Albert’s assessment of the world.

  5. The “NOR I”! was and error! Dont want Margarita Alarcon to get on my case for an typo like she tried to pull off on twitter!

    Maggichu Margarita Alarcón
    @HumbertoCapiro Huffington cant spell??? o un type-O your pick….
    9 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    Maggichu Margarita Alarcón
    @HumbertoCapiro which is OF COURSe the logical rebuttal to my response to YOUR question about spelling and HuffPO! wow!
    8 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    Maggichu Margarita Alarcón
    @HumbertoCapiro “outed”?! what r u talkin about?! U r the one who mentioned sp in the 1st place… too much sun .. comment posting, huh?
    7 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

    Maggichu Margarita Alarcón
    @HumbertoCapiro i am not my fathers keeper. but hey! you figured it out so…..
    7 hours ago Favorite Retweet Reply

  6. Love Cuba said- “I don’t know who Margarita Alarcon or her father are, but I read her blog and agree that terrorists should be punished no matter what flag they hide behind and even if they’ve killed only one person.”

    Love Cuba! I think the majority of Cubans have a lot of questions for Posada Carrilles, like myself! How can you say you did not know how to speak English when you served in the US Army and worked for the CIA! I’m not a hypocrite like the CASTROFACISTS! Not only that, but he gave an interview where he claimed responsibility!! This guys DOES NOT represent the mainstream of the Cuban Community NOR I! I think he should be tried in an international court and let this ALBATROSS AROUND THE CUBAN PEOPLE’S NECK out of the history of CUBA!! THANKS to my high school teacher Mildred Lynch who taught a young Cuban boy about GREAT LITERATURE! R.I.P. Mrs. Lynch! I know and love things because you TAUGHT ME TO LOVE TO LEARN!! WHAT A GREAT GIFT!

    “An albatross around my neck” refers to lines from the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in which the eponymous mariner, who shoots an albatross, is obliged to carry the burden of the bird hung around his neck, as a punishment for and reminder of his ill deed.

    Coleridge published the work in 1798, in the collection of poems that is generally accepted as being the starting point of the Romantic movement in English literature – Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems:

    God save thee, ancient Mariner
    From the fiends, that plague thee thus
    Why look’st thou so ? – With my cross-bow
    I shot the ALBATROSS.

    Ah. well a-day. what evil looks
    Had I from old and young
    Instead of the cross, the Albatross
    About my neck was hung.

    Trustee Mildred Lynch, 81, Is Proud to Be From the Old School
    Education: The veteran Conejo district board member, an ex-teacher, is known for a directness that puts off some but earns the respect of many.
    She likes to call herself the oldest sitting school board member in America, and at 81, Mildred Lynch doesn’t waste any time speaking her mind.

    Pleasantries and diplomacy take too long.

    After 60 years in education, this great-grandmother knows who she is, what she wants and how to get it done. She bristles at today’s curriculum, calling it too “touchy feely” and “stupid.” Teachers are too timid. Federal and state governments too intrusive.

    It’s not 1939 Kansas anymore, when she graduated from Benedictine College for women and subjects had names like history, not theory of knowledge.
    But Lynch, a Conejo Unified School District trustee for 13 years, doesn’t see anything wrong with the way it was. As for getting back to basics, she has no qualms about going to the mat for what she believes in.

    At a time when liberals and religious conservatives vie for control of school boards, Lynch aligns herself with neither camp. She is simply Mildred.

    When the state created a standardized test in 1994 that dared assess a student’s emotions, Lynch’s opposition inspired her clarion call that feeling a subject isn’t the same as learning it.

    “That caused quite a riot, and I was happy to be part of it,” Lynch said.

    She doesn’t apologize for her stalwart opinions nor the manner in which she dispenses them.

    Direct. Difficult. Unlikable.

    They are her own words to describe what her colleagues, students–even family members–may think of her.

    “I like being that way, and I have no illusions of myself,” Lynch said. “There is no pretense or guile in me . . . but nice and sweet is so far beyond my imagination.”

    Lynch has a commanding presence and a strong handshake. At first glimpse, one imagines Janet Reno’s mom. She speaks loudly and firmly; never in platitudes, mostly with wit.

    Make a remark she finds absurd, and she’ll groan with disgust and set you straight. She’s not afraid to say something’s “dumb.”

    Despite the lively disagreements between Lynch and district Supt. Jerry Gross–and the strong words that are often exchanged–he does have a soft spot for her.

    “She can appear to be a gruff old lady,” Gross said. “But inside, she is a very sensitive and caring person.”

    Maybe it’s the five children and 11 grandchildren. But even Lynch doesn’t fall for that idea.

    “Sometimes I wonder if my own kids like me; I know at times I don’t like them,” Lynch said. “They love their father, but probably just admire me. They say I have high standards, was too rigid and never gave an inch.”


    PROGRAM- To the Point- Cuba: A Country for Old Men- MON APR 25, 2011

    Host:Warren Olney Produced by:Frances Anderton, Sonya Geis, Christian Bordal
    Cuba’s dictatorship is about the same age as those in the Middle East and North Africa, and it’s an economic disaster. But when Fidel Castro’s old cronies got a new lease on leadership last week, the next generation did not rise up in protest. We find out why. Also, NATO strikes directly at Libya’s Gadhafi

  8. I haven’t forgoten about the rebolution’s terrorists training schools a very lucrative export business which are protected by the constitution as a commitment to defend rebolutions anywhere in the world.
    Violence seems a part of the human condition that will never go away for as long as intolerance & intimidation are related to differences of opinion, political or religious.
    So where are we? I think we are in the same place we were when Jesus was nailed to the cross … things have not changed or perhaps they have but killings go on regardless of the cause, sad indictment for the human race …

  9. I don’t know who Margarita Alarcon or her father are, but I read her blog and agree that terrorists should be punished no matter what flag they hide behind and even if they’ve killed only one person.

    So does she have a blog entry where she demands the extradition of FARC and ETA terrorists from Cuba? Or are those guys “freedom fighters” who’ve never killed anyone?

    I could be wrong, but the terrorists given military training by Cuba have probably killed hundreds of thousands of civilians (going back to the PLO days). And then there’s the little matter of Cuban army atrocities in Angola that need clearing up.

    Why don’t we all stop being partisan hypocrites and start condemning terrorism wherever it occurs. Isn’t that the only way to stop the violence?

  10. @#72
    Mr. H. if she is, I guess she must be ashamed of her given name or she likes passing herself as “sheep in wolf fur” (get it?) :-)

  11. Hey boys and girls, I think I know who “Samatha” might be! Margarita Alarcon, the daughter of Ricardo Alarcon president of the Cuban National Assembly. She and I have been having a “Twitter Romance” since I mentioned on the Huffington Post where she writes and comments that she is Ricardo’s daughter. Funny how NONE of my comments on that article written by Mike Farrel (of MASH fame) titled “Been to Cuba Lately?” were posted and one comment to a comment by Rick Viera was deleted? AND on her HP there is no mention of her LENIAGE! HMMM! INTERESTING!

    [Margarita Alarcón Perea was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in New York City. She studied at Karl Marx Stadt in East Germany and Havana, and is a graduate of Havana University in linguistics. She has taught English translation and North American Twentieth Century Literature, and worked in the Cuban music industry. She is currently a news analyst for Cubadebate in Havana and contributes to The Rag Blog and The Huffington Post. Margarita’s father is Ricardo Alarcón, president of the Cuban National Assembly.]

  12. Damir:
    your newst incarnation is pretty good, still your “tale” gives it away …

  13. Samantha, I certainly can admit I’m ignorant of MANY things Cuban and worldwide. One thing obviously is currency taxes (I’m also very ignorant of exchange rates wherever I travel). And I have to thank you for pointing this out. And I should have verified the information before posting incorrect information. It was not a deliberate lie, as I hate exaggerating in the slightest.

    I’m happy to add this to my long list of stories of how I’ve been ripped off in Cuba. No big deal though, I’ve been ripped off in most countries. Just never at currency exchanges like in Cuba (although most currency exchanges in Cuba I believe have been honest with us).

    Samantha says: “Well I’m certainly ignorant of MANY things Cuban – never been arrogant to enough to argue otherwise”

    Your posts reek of arrogance, and you keep lying.

    For example: “But at least we are now put to rest 2 myths – any Cuban with money CAN access the internet AND Sanchez IS rich.
    So that is progress.”

    These were never myths, unless they were myths for you, but that’s not what you are implying, are you? Where does Yoani say she is poor or inaccurately describe the internet reality in Cuba? Read Yoani’s posts over the last 4 years and name one line that you factually know to be wrong at the time of writing. And I’ll be glad to admit you were right once again.

  14. #66
    “Then you know absolutely nothing. It’s a special tax that only applies to US dollars, and it most definitely was 20% (after being ripped off on the exchange rate also). I knew it beforehand but ran out of Euros. Now I make sure to bring down sufficient amount of Euros, although I heard the US dollar tax was reduced to 10% in the news. Hope this clears up my post for you.

    I hope at least you’ll have the decency to admit your ignorance of all things Cuban, which you’ve already displayed”
    Well I’m certainly ignorant of MANY things Cuban – never been arrogant to enough to argue otherwise.
    But if getting this matter wrong is damning I don’t know what that makes you?
    4 posts all repeating the same misinformation
    Since Nov 2004 there has been a TEN PER CENT penalty on US CASH. STILL the case today.
    NEVER been 20%.
    So nothing recent “in the news” about any change to this. There was a EIGHT PER CENT DEVALUATION of the CUC recently. A very different matter.

    Are you now admitting your ignorance on this?

    But at least we are now put to rest 2 myths – any Cuban with money CAN access the internet AND Sanchez IS rich.
    So that is progress.

  15. After doing some Googling, I really think we were ripped off. The exchange workers were reducing each 100 dollars to 80 dollars, and then doing the exchange which came to another 20% if my memory is right. With the exchange fees, we were getting 60 CUC to 100 US dollars or slightly less.

    Was the US dollar tax always 10%? Samantha or anyone know what I was supposed to be taxed? I can’t remember which trip it was, probably about 3 or 4 years ago.

  16. I admit Samantha that you have brought up a good point. All the hotels were taking a 20% percent tax on US dollars. All the American tourists I met complained about it also.

    Anyone know if that was the official US dollar tax, or if the hotels were ripping us off and pocketing the difference? I’d also like to warn anyone who visits that even the airport exchange counters short-changed us, so be careful.

  17. Samantha, Yoani is definitely “rich” by Cuban standards and definitely never claimed otherwise. But even the “rich” face problems in Cuba the “poor” in North America can’t imagine, and Yoani writes about the struggles of her less rich neighbors as well.

    Samantha said: “You were talking about ” 20% penalty” not day to day exchange rates – a very different thing. And yes I know enough to state it was NEVER 20%”

    Then you know absolutely nothing. It’s a special tax that only applies to US dollars, and it most definitely was 20% (after being ripped off on the exchange rate also). I knew it beforehand but ran out of Euros. Now I make sure to bring down sufficient amount of Euros, although I heard the US dollar tax was reduced to 10% in the news. Hope this clears up my post for you.

    I hope at least you’ll have the decency to admit your ignorance of all things Cuban, which you’ve already displayed. It would be a nice change from the run of the mill armchair socialists who frequent this site.

  18. You’re not much of a logician either.
    You were talking about ” 20% penalty” not day to day exchange rates – a very different thing. And yes I know enough to state it was NEVER 20%!
    Your logic on this is just as bizarre as the syllogism you erroneously ascribe to me re Haiti.
    So Sanchez is “rich” by your definition given her ease of accessing the internet?
    She claims not to be.

  19. Just to help you out Samantha, here is basically what you said, and you have to admit it is incredibly stupid: “anyone Haitian who is rich can afford to buy food, so there is no hunger in Haiti”.

    Glad we cleared that up.

  20. samantha, you’re right, I just know very rough exchange rates and it’s the last thing I care about, I’m not much of a capitalist. Does that have anything to do with Cuba or this blog? So far you’ve posted several comments but said nothing. Do you know anything about Cuba or have any point to make?

  21. #32 “And access to the internet, except for email, isn’t possible for most Cubans.”
    but is for any with the necessary money to pay for access to either email or the broader but much more expencive internet.

    Glad we cleared that up.

    ” I can change US dollars down there at a penalty (I think recently reduced from 20 to 10 percent??), ”

    It always amuses me that people who endlessy pontificate on Cubana affairs – like the small handfull who live on this site – seem to know so little about how even basic matters like currency exchange operates there. A pretty basic matter for any traveller.

  22. We are certainly sure that Dumbir (and his many other names) is like Mr. Bean. Just what cubans need: a fu__ing clown.

  23. @#57
    I guess u are to young to know the history of Cuba & am sure u have not studied it.
    Nevertheless: I must thank u 4 the comic relief u bring to the blog … THANKS!

  24. @#57 – I nearly spat out my drink reading your entry.

    You are right. Much to be proud of the Cuban people have, standing up to their oppressors of 52 years. The oppressors’ names are Fidel and el Che, Raul et al….

  25. Talk about “Espanoles en el mundo”. Cubans have so much to be proud of. They even have 2 living legends that made history. Raul and Fidel started with a handful of followers and achieved something no one in the world would have believed possible. Standing tall with their heads up in front of their oppressers even after 52 years. How can anyone who is Hispanic not be proud to be one. I`ll go one step further, how can anyone being Cuban not be proud of being one.
    Mr. Castro will go down in history as a visionary, unfortunately like all other visionaries, the things he has achieved will not be praised until long after he leaves for a better world. I hope I`m wrong but almost certainly when the Castro`s tour of duty ends, then Cubans will realize what a leader he was, and how well he managed with the few means that he had, not to mention the little support from neighbouring countries.

  26. @#39
    I think you are doing a great job at divering attention w/ur statements, chances are u got the ‘guided’ tour or were allowed to do the “off the beaten path” tour.
    Either way what u state it I don’t believe & the reasonis siple, what u mention is the cliches of the paces to visit, a school w/sleeping children, the uniforms they wear & the old lady w/her cigar, even the baseball games at the park w/radiant smiles in the faces of all; ur perception of what people perceives about Cuba is rong. What the REALITY of Cuba is rests on the regimented, intimidated & repressed life they live, the REALITY is that even under those conditions, cubam people “resolves” & manages to lead their lives … in other words cubans might be oppressed on the outside, but inside they have not been conquered or subjugated. There are more & more cubans openly becoming dissidents, expressing 50 yrs of disappointmets, tired of the lies & the abuse … & even then, they smile & carry on w/their lives.
    Friend you look at something & manage to twist it based in what u think u belive (I am being nice) or u are doing what is required of u in order to keep ur “free education” since u must not be a cuban; lastly if u are a cuban keep in mind that the choices u make defending the rebolution might carry consecuences u might suffer once the rebolution & her esbirros fall.

  27. I found this blog helpful to my understanding of how Raul Castro is tightening the grip on Cubans of not only the old guard but also the military.

    The blog is I’m having trouble posting the link.

  28. L.A. TIMES: Guidelines for visiting Cuba-It is getting easier to visit Cuba legally. Want to go? Know the guidelines before heading to Havana.- By Jane Engle

    If Cuba is on your bucket list of destinations, you may now find it easier to visit the Communist island legally. But not as a regular tourist. So put aside those daydreams of sipping daiquiris at a seaside resort.

    More than three months after President Obama announced he would loosen restrictions that bar most Americans from legally visiting Cuba, the U.S. Treasury Department last week issued the guidelines to implement the changes.

    That action freed organizations to apply for new licenses to offer Cuba trips and clarified which U.S. citizens may travel to Cuba without applying for a Treasury Department license.

    That group of citizens remains small. Certain Americans, such as journalists, researchers, government employees on business, professionals attending conferences and people visiting close relatives, generally may go to Cuba. They are considered to hold a general license for such travel. Certain organizations, mostly nonprofits, can apply for a so-called specific license to organize trips there for specific purposes. Tourism is not one of those purposes

    Perhaps the biggest change, which Obama announced in January, was restoring the specific license for so-called people-to-people educational exchanges, something the Bush administration suspended several years ago. These broadly worded licenses opened Cuba travel to far more Americans and will likely do so again,

    When such licenses were in effect, Global Exchange, a San Francisco nonprofit, was sending nearly 2,000 people a year to Cuba for purposes as diverse as language programs and bicycle tours, said Malia Everette, director of the Reality Tours division. After the licenses were suspended, that fell to fewer than 100 in 2004, she said.

    “Our plan is to take a look at the final language, and update and resubmit our people-to-people license application,” Everette said last week. If the license is approved, she said, it would still take months to get new trips underway.

    Other trip organizers are in the same boat.

    “Because each application is processed on a case-by-case basis, I cannot estimate how long it could take for a licensing determination to be made,” said Marti Adams, a Treasury Department spokeswoman.

    The people-to-people licenses come with strict rules. For instance, the new guidelines require that each trip participant pursue “a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction” with Cubans.

    Of course, thousands of Americans each year are estimated to visit Cuba illegally, typically by traveling through a third country. Although few individuals are penalized for breaking the longtime Cuba trade embargo — the basis for the travel restrictions — violators face penalties that could include civil fines of thousands of dollars, plus incalculable hassle.

    So it pays to know the ground rules.

    “You want to make sure that what begins as an exciting adventure doesn’t end with a letter from the Treasury Department, and you’re spending a lot of money for lawyers to defend yourself,” said John Kavulich, senior policy advisor to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc., a New York-based nonprofit organization that advises businesses on dealing with Cuba.

    How do you know whether a group’s trip is legal?

    “The first question someone should ask is: ‘Let me see your license from OFAC,'” said Kavulich, referring to Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which issues the licenses. “If they claim no specific license is needed, then ask for an opinion letter from a law firm that says this trip does meet the general license criteria.” If they balk at those requests, don’t sign up for the trip, he said.

    Another red flag is beach time on the itinerary. The trip should focus on work, educational, humanitarian or religious activities.

    ¿Cuba, sí? Not for everyone, even with the new rules.,0,4700371.story

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