Welcome to our blog "All Cuba" where we provide updated information on all things Cuban as it pertains to the art scene in the New York City metropolitan area and beyond.  Please visit us often and send us your listings.  Theatre, art, music, film... read about it here!!!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ricardo Porro, Architect/Artist (Cuba 1925 – France 2014)

Ricardo Porro, Architect –Artist (Cuba 1925 – France 2014)
This December 25, 2014, passed away, in a deep peace of mind and mental clarity, the prominent Cuban-French architect Ricardo Porro, following heart failure in the Montsouris Hospital in Paris, France.

Born in the city of Camagüey, Cuba, in 1925, he graduated in architecture from the School of Architecture of Havana in the 40's. He made his first trip to Europe in 1948, when he studied at the Sorbonne and at the Institute of Urbanism of Paris. In the following years, Porro traveled to Scandinavia and Italy, where he took part in different courses at the CIAM School with the most important architects and theorists of the modern movement such as Rogers, Gardella, Franco Albini and Bruno Zevi.

Back to Cuba, in 1950, he conceived and made in Havana his first works of architecture: the Villa Armenteros (1950), Villa Ennis (1953), Villa San Miguel (1953), Villa Villegas (1953), la casa Garcia (1954), the house Abbot-Villegas (1954) and Timothy Ennis (1957). These residences are part of the most important works of the modern architecture movement in Cuba, along with those of other young architects of his generation such as Frank Martinez, Nicolas Quintana, Manuel Gutierrez, Emilio del Junco, among others.

In the second half of the 50s, Ricardo Porro moved to Venezuela, where he was recruited as a professor of urban planning and architecture in the newly opened (1954) Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of Caracas. He taught there along with the important Venezuelan architect and theorist Carlos Raúl Villanueva, as well as Wifredo Lam, who made in 1957, one of the murals of the University campus.

Back to Cuba, in 1959, he was called upon by the architect Selma Diaz to act as general coordinator of the National Schools of Art project, planned to be built on a former golf club in the district of Cubanacán, in the outskirts of Havana. Porro seized this opportunity and invited the Italian architects Vittorio Garatti and Roberto Gottardi, whom he had known in Caracas, to help him conceive and build what would be his masterpiece.

From 1961 to 1965, Ricardo Porro, directed the project and works of the School of visual Arts and Modern Dance, helped by a group of young students of architecture of the time. Nowadays, the Art Schools represent one of the most important works of architecture carried out in Latin America and, without doubt, the most well-known and published work of Cuban architecture in the world.

The fierce ideological struggles and extremist policies carried out by the Cuban revolution and, specifically, among Cuban architects and builders, forced him to emigrate permanently to Europe, settling in 1966 in Paris.

From his arrival in France until 1992, Porro taught and gave lectures in various schools of Architecture in France, such as Strasbourg, La Villette, Lille and, in the recent years, as a visiting professor in Berlin, Rabat, Gratz, New York, Havana, and Tel Aviv.

Since 1966, Ricardo Porro participated in important architectural competitions such as the Paláis de l'air et de l'espace (Paris), and the urban planning of the University of Villetaneuse, in collaboration with the Polish architect  André Mrowiec. His first work of architecture built in Europe was in 1969, when, at the request of Robert Altman, an important philanthropist and art collector, he conceived the L'Or du Rhin center in Vaduz, Liechtenstein.

Following this first work and in parallel to his work as a sculptor and painter, Porro began to work and achieve numerous projects of architecture and urbanism:
The Youth House, in Vaduz, as well as a Holiday Village on the Island of Vela Luka, Yugoslavia, and the Esfahan villa, in Iran, 1975.

Between 1975 and 1985, Porro, in association with the architects Philippe Louguet, Jean Robien and Jean-François Dechoux, carried out several projects for architectural competitions, such as the School Gonzalo in Marne-la-Vallée, 1976; La Forêt residences, in Cergy-Pontoise, 1978; Library of The Source, in Villeneuve d'Ascq, 1979-1980; the Dance School of the Paris Opera, 1983; the extension of the town hall, Saint-Denis, 1985.

He re-validated his bachelor of architecture in France in the School of Architecture of Versailles and in 1986 he associated, with the young French Architect Renaud de La Noue, to establish his architecture firm in Paris. In the following years, his work as an architect and urban planner takes off and develops without never taking a break, building in France about 20 major projects including schools, hospitals, parks, office buildings, hotels and homes.

His architectural models, made between 1961 and 1980, can be visited at the Museum Les Turbulences FRAC Centre (Fonds Régionaux d'Art Contemporain) of the city of Orleans, France.

Ricardo Porro was a member of the French Order of Architects and the Republic of France awarded him, for all his work as an architect, artist and urban planner, the titles of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, Chevalier of the Légion d'Honneur and Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres.

In 1991, the French Institute of Architecture organized the important exhibition 'Gros Plan 1: Ricardo Porro. Focus on his works, and architecture projects'. In 2008, the Cintas Foundation, based in the city of Miami, awarded him the Cintas Architecture prize as a recognition of his long career as an intellectual and architect.

In 2009, the American director Robert Wilson made an opera based on the life of Ricardo Porro during the construction of the Schools of Art in Havana. In the year 2012, the president of the Italian Republic awarded him the Vittorio De Sica prize for Architecture, for the project of the School of Art, Havana, along with Vittorio Garatti and Roberto Gottardi.
Currently had finished painting a new series of paintings in large format, on a proposal for presentation by Michael Connors to exhibit at the MOLAA (Museum of Latin American Art) in Los Angeles USA, whose working title of the exhibition I proposed "Myths, Symbols and Visions."
The MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York will include original drawings of their projects The Schools of Art and Dance in Havana in his upcoming exhibition "Latin America in Construction: architecture 1955-1980" from March 29 to July 19 2015 among other important Latin American architects.
In Cuba, Ricardo was already part of the pantheon of the great Cuban intellectuals. His work and thought, extremely prolific as well as controversial, represent, beyond dispute, an important part of the universal contemporary architectural heritage.

Without a doubt, Ricardo Porro will remain in our memories as the great teacher, professor and inspirer of numerous generations of architecture and art students in the entire world, as well as one of the greatest intellectuals and architects who lived in Europe and Latin America between the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

All my condolences to Elena Freyre de Andrade, his beloved wife, dearest companion and friend throughout his life, as well as the rest of their family and friends.

Juan Luis Morales Menocal
Architect, Artist. Atelier Morales
Paris, December 26th, 2014

Translated by Fernan Morales

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

US brokers deal with Cuba

Breaking News!!!

Today history was made when President Obama addressed the Nation to deliver the message that US and Cuban relations will take a brand new course.

Office of the Press Secretary

Fact Sheet:  Charting a New Course on Cuba

Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people.  We are separated by 90 miles of water, but brought together through the relationships between the two million Cubans and Americans of Cuban descent that live in the United States, and the 11 million Cubans who share similar hopes for a more positive future for Cuba. 

It is clear that decades of U.S. isolation of Cuba have failed to accomplish our enduring objective of promoting the emergence of a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.  At times, longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba has isolated the United States from regional and international partners, constrained our ability to influence outcomes throughout the Western Hemisphere, and impaired the use of the full range of tools available to the United States to promote positive change in Cuba.  Though this policy has been rooted in the best of intentions, it has had little effect – today, as in 1961, Cuba is governed by the Castros and the Communist party.

We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result.  It does not serve America’s interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse.  We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state.  With our actions today, we are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities.  In that spirit, we should not allow U.S. sanctions to add to the burden of Cuban citizens we seek to help.
Today, we are renewing our leadership in the Americas.  We are choosing to cut loose the anchor of the past, because it is entirely necessary to reach a better future – for our national interests, for the American people, and for the Cuban people.
Key Components of the Updated Policy Approach:
Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has taken steps aimed at supporting the ability of the Cuban people to gain greater control over their own lives and determine their country’s future.  Today, the President announced additional measures to end our outdated approach, and to promote more effectively change in Cuba that is consistent with U.S. support for the Cuban people and in line with U.S. national security interests.  Major elements of the President’s new approach include:

Establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba-
·         The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, which were severed in January 1961.
·         In the coming months, we will re-establish an embassy in Havana and carry out high-level exchanges and visits between our two governments as part of the normalization process.  As an initial step, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs will lead the U.S. Delegation to the next round of U.S.-Cuba Migration Talks in January 2015, in Havana.
·         U.S. engagement will be critical when appropriate and will include continued strong support for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba and other measures aimed at fostering improved conditions for the Cuban people.

·         The United States will work with Cuba on matters of mutual concern and that advance U.S. national interests, such as migration, counternarcotics, environmental protection, and trafficking in persons, among other issues. 

Adjusting regulations to more effectively empower the Cuban people-
·         The changes announced today will soon be implemented via amendments to regulations of the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce.   Our new policy changes will further enhance our goal of empowering the Cuban population.

·         Our travel and remittance policies are helping Cubans by providing alternative sources of information and opportunities for self-employment and private property ownership, and by strengthening independent civil society. 

·         These measures will further increase people-to-people contact; further support civil society in Cuba; and further enhance the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people.  Persons must comply with all provisions of the revised regulations; violations of the terms and conditions are enforceable under U.S. law.

Facilitating an expansion of travel under general licenses for the 12 existing categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law-
·         General licenses will be made available for all authorized travelers in the following existing categories: (1) family visits; (2) official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; (3) journalistic activity; (4) professional research and professional meetings; (5) educational activities; (6) religious activities; (7) public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; (8) support for the Cuban people; (9) humanitarian projects; (10) activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; (11) exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; and (12) certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines. 

·         Travelers in the 12 categories of travel to Cuba authorized by law will be able to make arrangements through any service provider that complies with the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations governing travel services to Cuba, and general licenses will authorize provision of such services. 

·         The policy changes make it easier for Americans to provide business training for private Cuban businesses and small farmers and provide other support for the growth of Cuba’s nascent private sector.  Additional options for promoting the growth of entrepreneurship and the private sector in Cuba will be explored.

Facilitating remittances to Cuba by U.S. persons-
·         Remittance levels will be raised from $500 to $2,000 per quarter for general donative remittances to Cuban nationals (except to certain officials of the government or the Communist party); and donative remittances for humanitarian projects, support for the Cuban people, and support for the development of private businesses in Cuba will no longer require a specific license.

·         Remittance forwarders will no longer require a specific license.

Authorizing expanded commercial sales/exports from the United States of certain goods and services-
·         The expansion will seek to empower the nascent Cuban private sector.  Items that will be authorized for export include certain building materials for private residential construction, goods for use by private sector Cuban entrepreneurs, and agricultural equipment for small farmers.  This change will make it easier for Cuban citizens to have access to certain lower-priced goods to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state.

Authorizing American citizens to import additional goods from Cuba-
·         Licensed U.S. travelers to Cuba will be authorized to import $400 worth of goods from Cuba, of which no more than $100 can consist of tobacco products and alcohol combined.

Facilitating authorized transactions between the United States and Cuba-
·         U.S. institutions will be permitted to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions to facilitate the processing of authorized transactions.

·         The regulatory definition of the statutory term “cash in advance” will be revised to specify that it means “cash before transfer of title”; this will provide more efficient financing of authorized trade with Cuba.

·         U.S. credit and debit cards will be permitted for use by travelers to Cuba.

·         These measures will improve the speed, efficiency, and oversight of authorized payments between the United States and Cuba.

Initiating new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate freely-
·         Cuba has an internet penetration of about five percent—one of the lowest rates in the world.  The cost of telecommunications in Cuba is exorbitantly high, while the services offered are extremely limited.

·         The commercial export of certain items that will contribute to the ability of the Cuban people to communicate with people in the United States and the rest of the world will be authorized.  This will include the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices, related software, applications, hardware, and services, and items for the establishment and update of communications-related systems.

·         Telecommunications providers will be allowed to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and internet services, which will improve telecommunications between the United States and Cuba.

Updating the application of Cuba sanctions in third countries-
·         U.S.-owned or -controlled entities in third countries will be generally licensed to provide services to, and engage in financial transactions with, Cuban individuals in third countries.  In addition, general licenses will unblock the accounts at U.S. banks of Cuban nationals who have relocated outside of Cuba; permit U.S. persons to participate in third-country professional meetings and conferences related to Cuba; and, allow foreign vessels to enter the United States after engaging in certain humanitarian trade with Cuba, among other measures.

Pursuing discussions with the Cuban and Mexican governments to discuss our unresolved maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mexico-
·         Previous agreements between the United States and Cuba delimit the maritime space between the two countries within 200 nautical miles from shore.  The United States, Cuba, and Mexico have extended continental shelf in an area within the Gulf of Mexico where the three countries have not yet delimited any boundaries.

·         The United States is prepared to invite the governments of Cuba and Mexico to discuss shared maritime boundaries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Initiating a review of Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism-
·         The President has instructed the Secretary of State to immediately launch such a review, and provide a report to the President within six months regarding Cuba’s support for international terrorism.  Cuba was placed on the list in 1982.

Addressing Cuba’s participation in the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Panama-
·         President Obama will participate in the Summit of the Americas in Panama.  Human rights and democracy will be key Summit themes.  Cuban civil society must be allowed to participate along with civil society from other countries participating in the Summit, consistent with the region’s commitments under the Inter-American Democratic Charter.  The United States welcomes a constructive dialogue among Summit governments on the Summit’s principles. 

Unwavering Commitment to Democracy, Human Rights, and Civil Society
A critical focus of our increased engagement will include continued strong support by the United States for improved human rights conditions and democratic reforms in Cuba.  The promotion of democracy supports universal human rights by empowering civil society and a person’s right to speak freely, peacefully assemble, and associate, and by supporting the ability of people to freely determine their future.   Our efforts are aimed at promoting the independence of the Cuban people so they do not need to rely on the Cuban state.

The U.S. Congress funds democracy programming in Cuba to provide humanitarian assistance, promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, and support the free flow of information in places where it is restricted and censored.  The Administration will continue to implement U.S. programs aimed at promoting positive change in Cuba, and we will encourage reforms in our high level engagement with Cuban officials.

The United States encourages all nations and organizations engaged in diplomatic dialogue with the Cuban government to take every opportunity both publicly and privately to support increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba. 

Ultimately, it will be the Cuban people who drive economic and political reforms.  That is why President Obama took steps to increase the flow of resources and information to ordinary Cuban citizens in 2009, 2011, and today.  The Cuban people deserve the support of the United States and of an entire region that has committed to promote and defend democracy through the Inter-American Democratic Charter.