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                                                                                                                                           Peter de Ruiter via Wikimedia Commons
                   A Cuban man sells newspapers, but for how much longer as a new
                   generation explores news on the Internet.

Cuba's mass media evolving as digital pathways open

By the A.M. Cuba wire services

Digital journalism has arrived in Cuba but it's still just turning the corner.

This is, after all,  a country that is playing catch up in technological advances. Only 5 percent of households have an Internet connection and it is estimated that only 27 percent of the population has access to the Internet by using public Wi-Fi on their mobile phones. Information flows through the transfer of material from hand to hand. DVDs, flash drives and links through internal chat (WhatsApp is prohibited) circulate at the speed of light.

The mass media is a group of outlets divided into three camps:
  • State controlled - Hundreds of outlets controlled by the Communist Party.
  • Non-state alternative media - These are Internet-based and divided between opponents of the Communist Party and non-opponents who criticize the system but are more or less in favor of socialism.
  • Foreign - International mainstream (Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse) and media financed by Cubans abroad.

However, the majority of Cubans are influenced by a much smaller core of mass media consisting of the daily newspaper Granma, Radio Reloj and Radio Rebelde and Televisión Cubana. That's it.

But change is in the air, or rather the air waves. With the new detente, Cubans have been getting a taste of First World media connections and have made it clear they want more.

In September 2015, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. was willing to invest in telecommunication in Cuba. President Barack Obama reiterated that sentiment during his visit to the island six months later in March 2016. Both Obama and Kerry detected something increasingly evident: there is a demand for change in the media in Cuba, in terms of infrastructure and content.

Cubans want to know what's going on in the world, and they are turning to digital sources created by young entrepreneurs who live both on the island and off it.  And it would appear that a whole new generation of Cubans will eventually get what they crave.  As political scientist Daniel Wizenberg puts it:

"The new media are a result of a generation that argues with what has been established and that strives to create good journalism."

That and the thawing of political ideology is apparently creating a new order that is increasingly tolerant of criticisms aimed at Castro-era revolutionaries.

— July 22, 2016

 

Flights to other Cuban destinations were approved in June

US approves flights to Havana

By the A.M. Cuba wire services

The Obama administration tentatively approved Thursday eight airlines to start nonstop flights from the United States to Havana, Cuba, advancing President Barack Obama’s effort to re-engage the communist country.

“Today we take another important step toward delivering on President Obama’s promise to re-engage Cuba,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement posted on the Department of Transportation’s website. 

The U.S. approved flights to nine other Cuban cities, including Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba, in June.

Having regular air service for the first time in more than 50 years “holds tremendous potential to reunite Cuban American families and foster education and opportunities for American businesses of all sizes,” he said.

Foxx said the decision would not be final until after a 30-day public comment period.

Eight U.S. airlines - Alaska, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United - will begin a total of 20 round-trip daily flights to Havana later this year.

The departure cities to Havana include Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Houston; Los Angeles; Newark, New Jersey; New York; and four in Florida, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa. Flights from Chicago, Philadelphia and Minneapolis to Cuban cities other than Havana had already been approved.

— July 7, 2016

Matajíbaro: endangered Cuban dish but still kicking

By Indira R. Ruiz
Special to A.M. Cuba

Wild pig hunters knew about matajíbaro as well as Cuban cowboys and even fugitive slaves. But ask for it in a Havana restaurant and you are likely to be met with befuddled looks.

TheCubanHistory.com
Matajíbaro, hard to find but worth the search.

Matajíbaro is a traditional Cuban food that has lost its way in modern times. Similar to Costa Rica's picadillo de platanos con carne, matajíbaro is made by smashing fried plantains together with garlic and grinded pork chips. This puree mixture is then rolled into balls the size of plums and placed in folded banana leaves where it can be stored for days. This ability to keep is why matajíbaro was the only food wild pig hunters would take with them in the hunting season, and why it was a favorite among cowboys who needed to move their cattle through the Cuban Eastern Savana for several days. Additionally, matajíbaro's simplicity to prepare and extraordinary spicy bitter sweet taste made it a natural choice for those who needed to be away from home for extended periods of time.

Today, matajíbaro is considered a traditional plate for popular festivities in eastern provinces like Camag
üey and Las Tunas. But it's rare to find in other places away from the eastern area. Most likely, people who live in places like Havana or Pinar del Rio would very rarely have tasted such a peculiar food.

Visitors to Cuba might also be hard-pressed to find matajíbaro on menus. However, there are enough traditional restaurants in Havana that it's not impossible to have a matajíbaro encounter.

One of these restaurants is Castas & Tal located on the corner of San Lázaro and Galiano streets in Habana Centro. The restaurant holds a certificate of excellence by TripAdvisor.

"The original making of matajíbaro came to Cuba with the African slaves during the Spanish Colony period," said Castas & Tal chef Zenén Herrera. "That is why it can be found all over the Caribbean, sometimes with other names or with a slight variation in the ingredients or preparation."

Offering matajíbaro was the idea of Castas & Tal owner and head chef Rancys Valdés, a member of the Cuban Chefs Association. She instructs the plate be made with pork chips and plantain balls that are deep-fried then set on top of a chard leaf accompanied by barbecue sauce on the side.

You can find recipes with varying ingredients on the Internet or in the social media. But you might like to try the traditional recipe first, taught to me by my father, a Las Tunas born guajiro (native) who learned it from his grandpa's hunting habits in the deep swamp.

Ingredients

      
·   One cup of pork lardy meat (barrigada) if you want to do pork chips yourself. Otherwise
            you can just buy them.
      
·   Two banana plantains (one green and one ripening) per person.
      
·   Garlic.
      
·   Salt.

After chopping it off, the pork meat needs to be deep-fried. You will do so with the plantain, previously cut into 1 inch portions. When fully cooked all ingredients will be ground in a mortar along with the garlic and the salt. Finally little matajíbaro balls are made by hand and served. You might find the taste a little too dry at first, but you can put some oil in it until it gets a tasty consistency, or you can increase the ripening banana proportions for a sweeter flavor.


— June 21, 2016

 



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