Cuban authorities consider athletes who defect traitors and Saturday's documentary marked the first time in recent memory players who fled the island have been seen on official airwaves. The island's film institute financed the movie, but had refused to distribute it given its sensitive subject matter.
"I am not a traitor. I am an Industrial," Hernandez says during the documentary, referring to Havana's Industriales, Cuba's most-famous team and the squad he played for before fleeing to the United States in December 1997.
"I have had the opportunity to play for the two best teams in the world: Cuba's Industriales and the New York Yankees," says Hernandez, who this season will enter the second year of a two-year, US$12 million deal he signed with the Mets in 2006.
Â«The Forging of WillpowerÂ» is the title of a unique book. It portrays the importance of will and the value of determination in this first-time compilation on the history of physically challenged athletes in Cuba.
The presentation of the book was held on Tuesday afternoon at the José Martí National Library in Havana. Its author, the photographer/reporter Armando Hernández López, expressed his gratitude for having been able to make his dream of writing the book come true.
A panelists, including the president of the Cuban Association for People with Disabilities and the deputy head of the National Association for the Deaf, referred to the many programs existing in Cuba for the physically disabled and the importance attached to their integration into society.
Arnaldo Rivero, chairman of the Teaching Department of the Cuban National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), mentioned the possibility of writing a second volume covering the history of this sports movement prior to the Revolution and during its first decade, since the present book only covers from 1973 to the present day.
Â«We are very grateful for the publication of this book without which the work in sports by the physically challenged would be almost unknownÂ» said Enrique Cepeda, the six-time triple jump and long jump champion, multi-Paralympics champion and glory of Cuban sports.
During the 1970s, Dr. Rodrigo Alvarez Cambra, by then Chief of the National Group of Rehabilitation and Director of the Frank Pais National Orthopedic Hospital, expressed his interest in seeing physically challenged people taking part in sports as therapy for their rehabilitation and for their moral and psychological recovery.
Therefore, as written by Alvarez Cambra in the foreword of the book, the physically challenged started to train in the hospitals fields, beginning with paraplegics and amputees; later a gymnasium was opened to help make them fit.
The support of Celia Sanchez was also important for the achievement of this goal. She provided two Giron omnibuses that were upgraded with two elevators for wheel chairs and the basketball court was refurbished.
Â«Step by step,Â» as it is pointed out in the foreword, Â«bow and arrow, table tennis, shot putting and various track and field events were included. With the cooperation of INDER participation in the Pan-American Games of México and Peru was possible. People who were blind or had other visual or hearing problems participated in the Toronto Olympic in 1976.
South Africa, continued Alvarez Cambra, participated in this event, where apartheid was seen at its lowest when only white athletes from that country participated, as black servants helping them with their wheel chairs and other equipment. During the inaugural parade there were various protests by several African countries which walked out of the event. The Cuban delegation also abandoned the competitions in an act of solidarity.
Â«Upon our return, it was clear that INDER had to take action with regard to this activity. The Sports Federation for physically challenged people was then registered by the Cuban Olympic Committee for it to support it and expand it. History has shown that was the right decision,Â» said Cambra.
The final score was 3-0 (25-15, 25-21 and 25-23), giving them the ticket to the semi-finals of the NORCECA pre-Olympic Tournament.
Rolando Jurquín guided the Cuban offensive by scoring 15 points, escorted by Robertlandy Simón and Raydel Corrales, who scored 11 points each. Meanwhile, only two Dominicans stood out in the game: José M. Cáceres with 20 points and Víctor Batista, with 11.
With this victory, the Cuban team won their ticket to the semi-finals and will today face to the favored United States squad. A victory may be in the cards, but the Cubans will have to play well. Otherwise, the Beijing Olympic Games will seem even further.
Last night, Puerto Rico beat Mexico 3-0 (25-23, 30-28 y 25-22). The Boricuans will now go against Canada in the semi-finals.
Three off to Europe
In the Turkish city of Izmir, the Spanish mens volleyball team advanced to the semi-final of the European pre-Olympics after defeating Italy in a tie breaking match: (25-21, 13-25, 19-25, 25-19 and 15-12).
Today, the Spanish "who have had two victories in a row" will go against the Netherlands. The Italians lost their chance to win a ticket to Beijing and now will have to go to the other three remaining world classifications.
In Pool A, the Netherlands also won over Poland in tiebreaker: (19-25, 25-23, 25-19, 16-25 y 15-13). The Polish team ended tied with the Italians (1-2), but with a better point average. The Netherlands, however, stands at 1-1 and could move up if they defeat Spain today, since the first place winners in each group go on to the semi-finals.
In Pool B, Germany is still unbeaten with 2-0 after having defeated Serbia 3-2 (25-22, 24-26, 22-25, 25-19 and 15-11). The Serbs (1-1) are tied with Finland, and Turkey closes the pool with 0-2.
Group A will play at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, where Cuba will debut against the US at 8:00 p.m. March 11; then take on Honduras (5:30 p.m.) March 13 and Panama (4:30 p.m.) on March 15. Group B, made up of Mexico, Canada, Guatemala and Haiti begins action on March 14 in Carson, California.
The semifinals and finals are scheduled for March 20 and 23 in Nashville, Tennessee. The two finalists will earn tickets to the Beijing Olympics.
Cuba has played in two Olympics, Montreal 1976 and Moscow 1980, both as last minute substitutes for other teams that declined to send their teams. In 1992, the Olympic tournament was fixed at the under-23 age category; following it was agreed that each qualified team could include three players of any age.
Antonio Garces, of the National Soccer Commission, said the under-23 team will begin practicing on January 11, although players will continue to play in the Cuban league which renews on January 5.
Many martial art practitioners in Cuba have to pay for their membership. Some see this as normal. However, motivated by comments about the illegality of this issue, I decided to delve deeper.
Â«Charging for martial arts classes is not justified because practicing sports is a right of the people. The National Karate Do Federation has the right to charge a membership fee for being a Non-Governmental Organization, but up to this moment, no consensus has been reached, and martial arts are instructed free of charge,Â» told Salvador Pérez, president of the National Karate Do Federation, to JR.
Carmen Aispurua, a national karate do commissioner, said, Â«INDER (the National Institute of Sports and Recreation) offers support to all variations of the martial arts, and to those that are practiced and are not registered. They were 51 disciplines, but these decreased to 35 after an evaluation process. They are all recognized by the world organization to which they belong. This was done to avoid illegalities.
Â«There are teachers who invent a 'martial art and begin to charge for the classes right after, but in Cuba sports instruction is free; so, this cannot be done. Even those who are recognized cannot charge for the lessons because no membership fee has been established up to now. But sometimes even parents themselves are the ones who come to an agreement with the teacher to pay, and they start a business out of nowhere.Â»
Currently, this organization has 35 registered styles. In Havana, INDER has 39 active sports disciplines. As it can be seen, the number of martial art styles is very similar to the overall number of other sports, with Shotokan, Jujitsu, Joshimon and Wado Ryu being some of the main ones.
According to the commissioner, currently there is a great struggle against illegalities, but they are so many that it is difficult to control all of them; thats why there are those who charge, mainly in Havana.
María, from the municipality of Playa, assures that while her son practiced martial arts, she paid ten pesos per month Â«for the tatami.Â» Thats what the teacher told her. Tests cost 20 pesos and the child received the diploma that accredited him to pass to the next level. Medals in a competition also cost 20 pesos.
Â«Somehow, I dont complain about asking for money for medals and diplomas because thats something the child will remember. However, parents should contribute with what they can, and not be forced to pay 20 pesos per child. If the child wins, its fine, but if not, you loose your money,Â» the mother said.
María also told us that Â«karategies (combat uniforms) are sewed by freelance sewers who charge depending on the size of the uniform. For example, my sons cost 12 CUC.
One day in the 1990s, Ernesto Guzmán decided to struggle to create a school that would teach Okinawas traditional karate do, without mercantilism or violent competitions. To this end, he needed to contact the original source, the Japanese school of Shorin Ryu.
Â«This school has distanced itself from the commercialization of Japanese karate imposed by Western culture, which has created more than 400 different styles since World War II,Â» said the Cuban master.
Guzmán founded the first dojo to teach Matsubayashi Ryu in Cuba on May 4, 1999, in Celimar, in east Havana. It was functioning from 1989, but was devoted to the practice of the Joshinmon Shorin Ryu style.
Â«For work reasons, I arrived in Okinawa, on November 2002, during celebration of the fifth anniversary of the death of the creator of Matsubayashi Ryu: Great Master Shoshin Nagamine. There were practitioners from all over the world, and the event became a great fiesta and an exchange. This and other trips helped me to acquire a huge amount of knowledge. I took lessons directly from Nagamines son, who continued his work in Okinawa along with Master Eustaquio Rojas,Â» Guzmán said.
Karate Do, which literally means Â«the path of the empty handsÂ», actually means renouncing material possessions and searching for knowledge "with a clean and free-of-evil heart", which is always in a constant dialectic relation of change. The term Â«DoÂ» is added because it expresses the iron will of the art is cultivated within itself. The term Â«karaÂ» (empty hand) has a close relation with Zen Rough Void, a train of thought of the Zen philosophy, represented with a circular form, which stands for the blood cycle, the moon cycle, the Earths annual orbit around the Sun, and the life cycle in general.
On November 12, 2001 the Matsubayashi Ryu is officially recognized by the Cuban Federation of Karate Do. Today, this art has 47 training centers in Cuba, especially in the western and central regions. According to a census conducted in September 2005 of those people practicing this sport, there are 955 active disciples of Karate Do.
With more than five years in the Cuban Federation of Karate Do, the Matsubayashi Ryu has become a viable alternative for average Cubans. Â«Although it is true that it is beautiful to see kids and youngsters at the end of training with their diplomas and certificates that will remain memories, the educational, sports and ethical rules of the Revolution cannot be violated to satisfy demands and concerns that are not essential in learning an art so serious and deep in knowledge.Â»
Â«Our kids and youngsters should know they belong to an organization that respects and loves them, where they are treated as beloved students and not as clients who buy techniques, ribbons and diplomas,Â» he said.
Violence vs. patience
Â«We didnt want children to practice a violent martial art. We wanted it to be different from the movies. We found that in the Akichi Arakaki Sensei Dojo, located on 5th Avenue and 88th in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana, children were taught a style that did not force them fight one another; so we decided to sign up our older son there.Â»
This was Elizabeth Quinteros first approach to Matsubayashi Ryu. Today, in addition to Danielito "her older son" her younger son, Guillermo, her husband and she also practice Karate Do.
Â«The Matsubayashi Ryu is not practiced by age group, everybody receives the classes at the same time, Â» Zoraida Torres Leal says. Â«This art does not instill aggressiveness or competitiveness at any moment. It is purely defensive and not to show off your knowledge. We practice modesty, simplicity, solidarity and ethics.Â»
One of the principles taught to everyone initiating in martial arts is that there is no first attack. Â«Children practice karate naturally. If they are explained from the beginning that this is a purely defensive technique "together with the complementary knowledge about their peers, the knowledge of world and Cuban history, and the need for solidarity with their peers" the children become non-violent,Â» Ernesto Guzmán explains.
However, opinions about matches are divided. Salvador Pérez Quevedo agrees that the martial arts are purely defensive but he thinks that matches Â«do not generate violence at all.Â»
Â«In Cuba, children begin to participate in matches after they reach 10 years of age. Before, they only perform in exhibitions of physical ability. However, the matches are conducted from the sports point of view and with all the protections required. If a child is in a match, we have to be very careful and make sure that they are wearing all the needed protection.Â»
For Eustaquio Rojas, a teacher of Matsubayashi Ryu with 40 years of experience in Japanese martial arts, children are not aware of danger and they do not know how to avoid it. Sometimes, in the heat of a match, parents and teachers scream inappropriate words that have an influence on the childrens behavior towards society. They scream at the children things like 'Beat him or 'Kick his ass, and if one of the children comes out of the match with a bruise, they are told to get revenge.Â»
Â«The matches among youngsters are rougher, and most of the time they study together and then the 'revenge come in the streets. Parents send children to these schools because they believe it guarantees their future defense, but they ignore the psycho-physiological consequences of these matches,Â» he said.
The rules of martial arts are clearly defined, Carmen Aispurua says, and the violence it generates falls on the teacher all the time. If the teacher yells at the child or hits them, or if they are afraid to fight in a match and their parents goad them, the children assume this is Â«properÂ» conduct, and this creates aggressive patterns in their behavior.
Â«INDER is promoting the rescue of martial ethics, based on rules and not on aggression. This has the influence of the president of the group, who picks all the teachers. The parents who take their children to the dojo approve of those attitudes,Â» he says.
The tradition of practice without fighting seems to show results. Â«Ive changed a lot, Michel Ramos said, I now face problems with more decision and analysis. I used to be very aggressive; I could explode over anything and start arguing. Now I respect and help people, so that they treat me the same way.Â»
According to the website of the event, the Cuban attack was led by Henry Bell and Raidel Corrales, with 12 points apiece.
The United States and Puerto Rico, fourth and sixth-place finishers at the World Cup last year in Japan, are Cuba's main rivals on this occasion.
In other results on Sunday, the Americans swept the Dominican Republic in straight sets and Canada did the same with Trinidad and Tobago also in three sets.
Eight teams are taking part in the event divided into two groups. Pool A is comprised of United States, Dominican Republic, Barbados and host Puerto Rico while Pool B includes Cuba, Canada, Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago.
Cuba faces Canada on Monday and Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday in the last day of the preliminary round.
Cuba did not participate in the World Cup last year and placed third at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Up to now, over 60 reflections have been published by the national and foreign press, the Cuban people have been informed of the political-ideological and cultural problems of the world and his perspectives.
Cuban Heroine Vilma Espin Passes Away.
Cuba was shaken on June 18th with the sad news of the passing away of Vilma Espin, Heroine of the underground movement and the Sierra Maestra, the tireless fighter for the rights of women and children.
The following day, millions of Cubans across the island mourned the lost of the exemplary revolutionary.
Her ashes were placed in the in the "Frank Pais" Eastern 2nd Front Mausoleum alongside others that were part of that rebel group during the war of liberation.
Record Number of UN Members Condemned Washington's Blockade.
Ever since 1992, once again the UN General Assembly condemned the genocidal US economic blockade against the island, but this time a record number of 184 backed the Cuban resolution.
Such decision by the international community has a special significance, having occurred only a few days after President George W. Bush urged the governments of the world to join its anti Cuba policy.
The economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed against Cuba for over 45 years by the United States was characterized in 2007 as stronger, affecting all spheres of Cuban society to the tune of over 89 billion dollars.
Historic Speech by First Vice President Raul Castro on July 26.
Defense Minister Raul Castro spoke during the main ceremony commemorating the 54th anniversary of the attack against the Moncada Garrison, which included a profound analysis of the complex international situation in which the Revolution moves ahead with its social programs and strongly criticized the mistakes, errors and other
subjective matters in the construction of socialism and which hurt its development. The Cuban official urged the population to debate and look for proposals and solutions to improve the socialist system.
Praiseworthy Results of the Energy Revolution.
The third year of the Energy Revolution brought praiseworthy results and at the end of 2007, 75 percent of the Cuban families that cooked with kerosene now use electricity.
The year was marked by the installation of a number of fuel oil and diesel generators increasing the generating capacity and making its distribution much more secure.
During the period close to one million connections were renewed, as were 18,000 circuits in urban and rural zones, gradually eliminating the areas of low and unstable voltage. Over four and a half million electrical appliances were substituted at a value of close to 10 billion pesos.
Personalities from 27 Countries Demand the Rights of the Cuban Five.
A significant moment in the campaign in favor of the five Cuban anti terrorists incarcerated in the United States was the creation in December of an International Commission for the Right of Visits of Olga Salanueva and Adriana Perez, wives of Rene Gonzalez and Gerardo Hernandez.
Over 100 personalities from 27 countries, among them Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel (Argentina) and Rigoberta Menchu (Guatemala) are working to get the truth out to the international public opinion on the case and demand that the US government respects the rights to family visits for the Cuban Five.
Gerardo and Rene, together with Fernando Gonzalez, Ramon Labañino and Antonio Guerrero were all sentenced to long unjust prison terms during a biased trial in Miami totaling 4 life terms and 77 years in prison.
40th Anniversary of the Death in Combat of Ernesto Che Guevara The 40th anniversary of the death in combat of Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara turned into an international commemoration of profound ideological content, While the city of Santa Clara was hosting the main central activity in Cuba for that important date, later Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez aired his weekly Alo Presidente program from that central Cuban city dedicated to the Heroic Guerrilla for the first time since July 31st, 2006 when President Fidel Castro spoke live on the program.
(Cuban News Agency)
Guerra and Gonzalez headed the world classification in their respective modalities.
Guerra has 22 points in the 500 meters counterclock competition, after being second in Sydney, Australia, and first in Beijing, in the initial stages of the World Cup, followed by Simona Krupeckaite (Lithuania) with 17, and Natalya Tsylinskaya (Belarus) with 14 points.
Guerra became the second woman who gets less than 34 seconds in her modality, with 33.994 seconds in Beijing.
Only World and Olympic Champion Anna Meares (Australia) had been the one achieving such a mark, and beat the Cuban athlete for the gold medal in the World Championship in Palma de Mallorca, Spain in January.
Guerra is also classified among the first 10 athletes in the speed modality, with a silver medal in the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Yumari Gonzalez became the World Champion in Palma de Mallorca, and now she has a first and a third place in the two stages of the World Cup, with a first place in the scratch classification with 20 points, followed by Belinda Goss (Australia) with 16 points and Italian Annalissa Cucinotta (13 points)
Gonzalez became the Pan American Champion in the individual road race event followed by Mexican Belem Guerrero and Venezuelan Daniely Garcia.
For her part, Yoanka Gonzalez (Cuba) got the Pan American title in the race by points and is now the fourth best woman in the world, with 10 points in the World Cup.
El General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, viajó este martes de regreso a Cuba, luego de una visita de tres días a Uruguay, donde participó en la toma de posesión del presidente Tabaré Vázquez, quien por segunda ocasión asume esta responsabilidad como representante del Frente Amplio.Continue reading