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"Magical" mud attracts visitors to Batabanó Beach

By Vladimir de Cardenas Campos
Special to A.M. Cuba

Cuba's Batabanó Beach will never be as popular with tourists as the sun and fun beaches in the north. Batabanó has no white sand, fancy umbrellas or waiters eager to please. What it does have is something dark, mucky and medicinal:


Vladimir de Cardenas Campos
Elena Rodriguez Fernandez applying Batabanó Beach mud on her sunburn.

What it lacks in aesthetics, this Batabanó medicinal mud more than makes up in healing properties, according to its believers.

Located on Cuba's south shore only 27 miles from the Havana area's José Martí International Airport, the mud of this sea bed is supposed to have unique healing properties that can relieve bone pains related to arthritis. It also allegedly helps with skin diseases and even skin discolorations.

These "magical" properties of the mud were first noted by aboriginal people who would take long mud baths to alleviate pain and cleanse the skin. Many of today's health practitioners recognize the detoxification effect of mud due to its complex mix of minerals that are purported to draw toxins from the body and nourish the skin.

"Lots of people from everywhere come for mud therapy," said Jesus Reyes Felico, manager of La Playita Recreation Center. "These people are often sent to receive this unique treatment by dermatologists who believe the mud cure is effective due to its high content of sulfur."

Felico said mud in different places varies in chemical composition. The high sulfur content of the Batabanó Beach mud is especially suited to help with rashes, sunburns and even psoriasis.

Felico said people have been known to collect the mud from the beach and send it to family members with skin issues.

Elena Rodriguez Fernandez, a recent visitor to Batabanó Beach, has been very impressed with the results of the mud to help heal a severe sunburn. Ms. Fernandez said after a daily strict treatment of mud therapy, the injuries she received from sunburn have nearly disappeared.

In addition to mud, visitors to Batabanó Beach will find memorable landscapes, lots of different seafood like king lobster and fishing excursions on water an unusual deep blue color from the mud of the sea bed.


                                                                                                                              — May 24, 2016

                                                                                                                                                            Yankier Paz
The National Ballet of Cuba performs Swan Lake.

Visitors dance night away in Havana's Central Park

Cuban dance a cultural jewel coveted globally

By Yankier Paz
Special to A.M. Cuba

Cuba is more than sand, beach and sun.

It's also dance.

Combining centuries of influences from Spain and Africa, admirers of Cuban dance say there is something deep, puzzling and magnetic about its myriad styles ranging from cha-chas and African rumbas to danzón. In many ways, Cuban dance styles reflect the temperament of the Cuban people themselves: soft, warm and often explosive.

Then there's performing dance. The National Ballet of Cuba, managed by living legend of dance Alicia Alonso, is one of the most acclaimed dance companies in the world. Its rise to prominence is largely due to an original style that melds the universal language of classical technique with the idiosyncrasies and cultural expressions of Latin American culture.

Cuban ballet has a storied past, launching toward the end of the 18th century but not taking its current form until 1940 when Ms. Alonso founded the Pro Arte Musical Society of Havana and then the Academy of Ballet. In 1959 she and her partners left prestigious ballet companies in the U.S. like the American Ballet Theatre and the Washington Ballet to return to Cuba and create a new ballet for the Cuban people, today's National Ballet of Cuba.

Over the years, Cuba's National Ballet has produced many acclaimed performers including the "four jewels of Cuban Ballet" Josefina Méndez, Loipa Araújo, Aurora Bosch and Mirta Plá. Cuban ballet star Jose Manuel Carreño performed as a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Carlos Acosta, known for his athleticism and grace, still performs worldwide and has won many awards for his performances, which combine traditional ballet with Cuban fizzle.

Cuban dance is now a much sought commodity with students as well as people who just like to dance.

Foreign students can receive special training in the education department of the National Ballet of Cuba at its Havana headquarters. Intermediate and advanced courses are structured in accordance with the interests of the applicants and include ballet, pointes, classical duets, Cuban popular dances and Spanish dances.

There's also training available for visitors who are serious about learning non performing dances like salsa, rumba and guaguancó. There are dance academies in Havana as well as individual instructors working out of their homes. Abel for instance is an art instructor who teaches dance in the exclusive Miramar neighborhood of Havana. Ofelia, a retired ma
ître of Spanish dance, now teaches Flamenco out of her house in Centro Habana.

If you just want to have some dancing fun for a day or evening, tourists can experience plenty of salsa action in Havana's Central Park. This is an informal open air party-like area where everyone is encouraged to have fun, enjoy the music and dance--whether you can or not.

                                                                                                                              — May 16, 2016

                                                                                                                                                                              Othmar Kyas via Wikimedia Commons
Cubans gather in Havana wherever they can find Wi-Fi signals.

Internet access brings new problem to Cuba: scams

By the A.M. Cuba staff

Capitalism seems to go hand-in-hand with scams.

Cubans who use the Revolico website, the country’s unofficial online classifieds, are suspicious. They have been bitten by fake classifieds that ask for money up front.

That happens off the island, too, but Cubans in the United States and elsewhere except Cuba, probably learned quickly that the Internet is seething with frauds. Internet buying still is new here.

Cubans on the island are vulnerable to job frauds. One who answered an employment classified Sunday said up front that he never sends money to anyone so if the classified was a fraud, the scammer should not waste his or her time.

Revolico says it gets in excess of 8 million page views a month. The readership is much more. Because Internet access is so expensive in Cuba, store operators download the latest Revolico post and then sell it cheaply to customers offline, mostly to cell phones.

The Revolico website is based in Spain, and the Cuban government tries to block it because the black market website shows up the failings of the official economy. Prices usually are lower for products advertised on Revolico (http://www.revolico.com/ ).

And there is the problem. There is no guarantee that cash paid in advance will result in the delivery of a product.

Foreigners have to be on the alert, too. Automobiles are advertised heavily on Revolico, and plenty of U.S. motor vehicle enthusiast would love to buy a 1956 Chevy for a low Cuban price. That is possible, but also possible is that the seller owns no vehicles and simply seeks a fat deposit.

This would be another example of scammers playing on the greed of those who wish to exploit the Third World.

                                                                                                                                — May 9, 2016

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