Arturo Sandoval: I Have Fulfilled my Dreams

English translation of an excellent interview with Arturo Sandoval, from Ivan’s File Cabinet:


To speak about music in Cuba is an analogy. Cuba is the music. There are nice people, splendid weather, the smell of salty residue, and there’s always a reason to party. Other things, like the shrimp, tropical fruits, or beef are a luxury after 54 years of misrule. Cuba lacks essential liberties, but the music goes on.

Fidel Castro tried to scrap the Sunday calls to retreat and replace them with arrhythmic marches calling for combat. The olive-green regime planned to transform music. To bury guaguancó, toque de santo, and jazz.

But he couldn’t. In addition to inventing parameters to measure the quality of a music, in the medias sent to censure the greats like Mario Bauzá, Celia Cruz, or such a Lupe, only because they chose to observe from the distance the ideological folly established in the island.

And the music, like poetry, doesn’t let you break. The trumpeter, pianist, and composer Arturo Sandoval (Artemeisa, 1949), knows this very well. In the flesh has lived the holy war that political and cultural commissioners, scribes and historians, unleashed in 1990 when he decided to move away from the Communist madhouse. According to official decree, Sandoval was to die.

It’s rained a lot since then. The times are different. It’s been 24 years, indignant Berliners in the night demolished the wall that divided a same nation. Castro had to change politically. He spoke of socialism or death on a Havana platform, but from the sewers of power, sent especially trying to make negotiations with magnates of capitalism. He had to make accords. With the Catholic Church, the Afro-Cuban religion and with the selfsame devil. He cracked the social discipline and the fear was lost.

And in full view you could find blacks on a Cayo Hueso lot, in downtown Havana, between rounds of rum and dominos, daring to listen, at full volume, to Celia Cruz, Willy Chirino, Paquito D’Rivera. or A Time for Love, disco from 2010 by Arturo Sandoval. I was a witness.

On November 6th the Cuban trumpeter turned 64. On the 21st of this month his name may be announced in Las Vegas as the winner of a Grammy, the tenth in his career, to go along with 6 Billboard Awards and an Emmy. Although the most moving of all will be the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which will be presented to him in December by Barack Obama, along with fifteen other figures, including former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Mexican scientist and Nobel Prize winner in chemistry Mario Molina. Despite his busy schedule, Arturo Sandoval graciously answered a questionnaire from Diario de Cuba.

Arturo, I was a boy when your name rang out with force on the island. I remember you taking complete notes on the trumpet while Irakere was making Bacalao with bread. Would you be able to summarize your artistic trajectory?

“I have to give thanks to God every day because in my career I’ve been able to accomplish my dreams. Look, coming from a dirt-poor family, where nobody was linked to art, and me having been able to be in the best situations and share with the musical greats. I think that sums up my trajectory: a dream come true.”

He doesn’t say it out of modesty, but another dream come true is the Arturo Sandoval Institute, proud institution of Cuban music on two shores.

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Cultural Exchange Sin Culture: Cuban Women Filmmakers in LA

A Cuban friend and I attended the USC portion of the Cuban Women Filmmakers U.S. Showcase tour last night. It was a mammoth display of shameless hypocrisy, the very pinnacle of castrolandia’s atheist, godless twisted revolutionary culture, wrapped up in an ugly radical feminist package for dissemination in the U.S.

On display were three Cuban women filmmakers, all playing their orchestrated roles to perfection. Marina Ochoa, as the older, kindly motherly figure, sharing her struggles back in the day—hint, hint pre-Castro Cuba, where there were no film schools, opportunities for women, and now of course it’s all free! There was Milena Almira, a recent grad of the Onelio Jorge Cardoso Literary Training Center, as the ingénue, no doubt for the comfort of young women in the audience, and in the lead, Claudia Rojas as the avant-garde decadent, the Andy Warhol want-to-be. (More on her later in the post.)

Before they turned off the lights and rolled the film, they informed us that there would be some violence, that some might find disturbing, or some such words. I’m not prudish, but nothing in my life experience prepared me for this deeply disturbing display. It was the most hateful, violent conclave of anti-male radical feminist, anti-American, anti-Judeo-Christian tradition she-fest imaginable. We witnessed scenes of horrific human depravity, and sadly, I think an ad. An ad for atheist ideology, for the most depraved sex tourism conjured up by dark forces, and in referencing the Afro-Cuba Yoruba tradition, for the most sinister proclivities of racism. This should have come not with a general warning of violence, but a triple-X alarm. One of the shorts, contained horrific images in the style of slasher pornography. I found all but one short in the hour-long compilation boring, amateurish, and pointless, and that one not for artistry, but shock value, La Bestia.

An excerpt from the synopsis of La Bestia provides a clue, but it doesn’t prepare you for the nightmare portrayed:

“From that moment on, an uncontrollable thirst of revenge takes hold of her body and soul. A combination of magic realism, eroticism, and extreme terror that explores dark spaces of human nature.”

Dark spaces indeed, so dark no normal person would ever imagine it, much less choose to view such horror. The cast of La Bestia includes a child actress, a girl of about 7 or so, as just a child of the family, crying out for her mother, she is with ears and eyes, not a participant in the worst, however she too takes her revenge in the final scenes. (One more example of the terrible abuse of children allowed by the Castro regime.) I can’t imagine how they were allowed to show this on a college campus, after all, it’s not every day that one is able to view “slasher porn” screened at the USC School of Cinema. As a parent, I would not be pleased to know that this is what the almost $60,000 a year in tuition and other costs pays for.

The filmmakers took turns giving their spiel, each of course reminding the audience of how poor Cuba is—no money you know—but how as artists they struggle and strive out of love for all the high noble causes; justice, equality for women, an end to paternalism, etc. Anti-paternalism in the cult land of Fidel, or is it now Raul, or still Che? Whatever. The horror of these shorts should drive any sane person, women especially, running, screaming back into the arms of protective paternalism, but no of course it’s twisted… this is all the fault of that tradition. Never mind the facts, the statistics on family and health, crime, etc., that say otherwise. Sadly, my impression was that for the most part, I think the audience bought what they were selling.

I’ll single out Claudia Rojas since it’s obvious she wants to be a star. She described in detail an afternoon with her friend Queen Nzinga Maxwell, Womb Warrior, (whatever the hell that is) an artist who paints with her menstrual blood, (yes, that sick) and some connection with Assata Shakur (revolution?). I haven’t figured that out yet. I couldn’t keep up with her hedonistic narrative, but got that it’s about freeing yourself; take your clothes off, morph into, please forgive me for repeating this… La Caridad Del Cobre, then into whoever the Orisha goddess of Yoruba is. All of this delivered with a teasing smile and breathlessness to encourage the audience, and to remind us of how uninhibited and hip she is, leading us to the finale, no graphic detail necessary, as the audience gets it, the one word that will conquer all and bring world peace and justice…wait for it… LOVE, sweet love… you know, that’s what it’s all about.

They allowed three questions, I was chosen for one of them. I began citing human rights violations in Cuba, and the panel and audience immediately tried to shout me down, but I persisted and finished my statement and question, asking if there were plans to document the human rights violations and political prisoners in Cuba.

The collective reply was a non-answer, not worth repeating.

It was a sickening, orchestrated display. Pure evil. Their purpose, unspoken, was clear. Come to Cuba, come to Cuba where anything, anything you desire can happen; just bring money—no God of morality imposing rules of restraint here. This is what the Castro regime has done to the once great civil society of Cuba; they are now slaves, servicing, quite literally, the lowest human depravities.

I gained one invaluable affirmation from this event: my belief that communism is an evil, godless ideology, and that we must fight against it with everything we have.

More on the tour here.

LA mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti sponsors Cuba propaganda event

Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti, a candidate for Mayor is endorsed by the LA Times, La Opinión, a long list of activist and labor organizations, politicians, entertainment industry professionals, and the California Director of Obama’s re-election campaign.

It’s one thing when Sean Penn, a private citizen supports brutal dictators, but quite another when an elected official of a free and democratic society does so. As an elected official, voters assume Mr. Garcetti adheres to the City’s Code of Ethics and supports the U.S and California Constitutions. We also assume that he supports human rights and the rule of law, both absent in Cuba. So why is he sponsoring a propaganda event for a brutal totalitarian dictator? Is this who we want heading Los Angeles City Government?

Friday, 15 February 2013 00:00

For Immediate Release

The Tri-City Screenings are an unprecedented cultural and professional exchange between Cuban and U.S. Film Communities

(Los Angeles: March 6–12 – New York: March 13–17 – Miami: March 18–25)

Los Angeles, CA, February 19, 2013…. The Women In Film International Committee, the Cuban Women Filmmakers Mediatheque, the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematograficos (ICAIC) and the American Cinematheque, in collaboration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, NewFilmmakers Los Angeles, New York Women In Film & Television, MNN El Barrio Firehouse Community Media Center,Women Make Movies, Miami Beach Cinematheque, and Coral Gables Art Cinema, will showcase a selection of short, documentary and feature films directed by Cuban women. The Showcase includes presentations at USC School of Cinematic Arts, Brooks Institute and Miami International University of Art & Design.

The Cuban women participating in the U.S. Showcase represent the island’s preeminent female directors, writers and actors. They are award-winning filmmaker and head of the Cuban Women Filmmakers Mediatheque, Marina Ochoa; award-winning Afro-Cuban documentary filmmaker, Gloria Rolando; award-winning feature filmmaker Milena Almira and one of Cuba’s most internationally acclaimed film and theater actresses, Claudia Rojas.

Honorary hosts include: Annette Bening, Laura Bickford, Jackson Browne, Lisa Cholodenko, Isabel Cueva, Benicio Del Toro, Hector Elizondo, Naomi Foner, Brad Horwitz, Penny Marshall, Mike and Irena Medavoy, Rick Nicita and Paula Wagner, Sean Penn, Shervin and Anahita Pishevar, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Sarandon and Andy Spahn.

Sponsors include Shangri-La Entertainment, Sean Penn, the Shervin & Ana Pishevar Foundation, Brad Horwitz, Cuba Travel Services, SDI Media Group, Aris Anagnos, Hector Elizondo, Harvey Vechery, Councilmember Eric Garcetti,, and other generous individuals. KPFK Radio is a media sponsor for Los Angeles.