Destination: Caribbean

Cuba, Undistilled

Cuba, Undistilled (Chris Ryan)

Tired of hearing pundits pontificating about Cuba, Chris Ryan wanted to see the island for himself -- before the coming of Best Western and American Express

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Travel Movie Watch: ‘Chico & Rita’

This looks great. Nominated for a 2012 Academy Award for best animated feature, Chico & Rita is set in Havana, New York and Paris in the 1940s and ‘50s and features some great music by the likes of Bebo Valdés. A.O. Scott just gave it a rave review in The New York Times, calling it “an animated valentine to Cuba and its music.” He also notes that Havana’s streets “are exquisitely rendered and meticulously colored.”

It’s playing in select Landmark Theatre locations; in Los Angeles, it’s at the Nuart through Thursday.

Here’s the trailer:


R.I.P. Alberto Granado, Travel Companion to Che

The fellow Argentinian who joined Che Guevara on the Latin American road trip immortalized in The Motorcycle Diaries has died in Cuba at the age of 88.

On their journey:

As young medical students, they witnessed deep poverty across the continent, particularly Chile, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela, and their stay at a Peruvian leper colony left a lasting impression on the pair.

They parted ways in Venezuela, where Granado stayed on to work at a clinic treating leprosy patients.

In 1961, Granado moved to Cuba, where he taught biochemistry at Havana University.

Related: Will ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ Spawn a New Magazine: Condé Nast Revolution?


World Travel Watch: Hundreds Killed in Phnom Penh Stampede, Dutch ‘Coffee Shops’ Closing to Tourists

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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World Travel Watch: Tube Strike in London, Election Worries in Egypt and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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The Big Picture: Haiti, After the Earthquake

The Big Picture has another stunning photo essay from the island, now 10 months into its recovery from a massive earthquake. The pictures are sad, beautiful and—occasionally—uplifting.

World Travel Watch: Cholera Outbreak in Haiti, Tsunami in Indonesia and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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A Conversation With Fidel Castro

Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg recently got a personal invitation to visit Cuba—from Fidel Castro. His first dispatch from the trip is live, and it’s a fascinating mixture of traveler’s observations and quotations from the rarely-seen Cuban leader. Here’s a taste:

The morning after our arrival in Havana, Julia and I were driven to a nearby convention center, and escorted upstairs, to a large and spare office. A frail and aged Fidel stood to greet us. He was wearing a red shirt, sweatpants, and black New Balance sneakers. The room was crowded with officials and family: His wife, Dalia, and son Antonio, as well as an Interior Ministry general, a translator, a doctor and several bodyguards, all of whom appeared to have been recruited from the Cuban national wrestling team. Two of these bodyguards held Castro at the elbow.

...Fidel lowered himself gently into his seat, and we began a conversation that would continue, in fits and starts, for three days. His body may be frail, but his mind is acute, his energy level is high, and not only that: the late-stage Fidel Castro turns out to possess something of a self-deprecating sense of humor. When I asked him, over lunch, to answer what I’ve come to think of as the Christopher Hitchens question—has your illness caused you to change your mind about the existence of God?—he answered, “Sorry, I’m still a dialectical materialist.”

In the next installment, Goldberg tells the story of “one of the stranger days I have experienced, a day which began with a simple question from Fidel: ‘Would you like to go to the aquarium with me to see the dolphin show?’”

Hanging Ten with the Havana Surf Club

Hanging Ten with the Havana Surf Club Reuters

In an excerpt from his new book, "Sweetness and Blood," Michael Scott Moore tracks down the origins of surfing in Cuba

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Interview with Michael Scott Moore: ‘Sweetness and Blood’

Jim Benning talks with the author of a new travel book about the spread of surfing around the globe

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World Travel Watch: Violence on Guatemala’s Buses, Tourist Police in the Philippines and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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World Travel Watch: New Trekking in Kashmir, Dengue in Venezuela and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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World Travel Watch: Violence in Guadalajara, Dengue Fever in Puerto Rico and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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World Travel Watch: Striptease at Uluru, Ongoing Strikes in Greece and More

Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

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Cuban Folk Singer Silvio Rodrígues Touring U.S.

In 1999, two years before we created World Hum, Michael Yessis came back from a month-long trip to Spain and told me about a song he’d heard in a bar in Madrid. Two nights in a row, sometime well after midnight, the bartender played an anthemic folk song on the stereo called “Ojalá,” and as Mike recalled it, each time the song came on, the patrons erupted in singing, with dozens of locals joining in.

He wasn’t sure what the song was about, but he thought I’d like it, and sure enough, when I finally tracked down a copy of it, I did. I’ve been a big fan of its singer-songwriter, Silvio Rodríguez, ever since.

Finally, the Cuban folk singer, now 63, is touring the U.S. He has already played to a sold-out Carnegie Hall—this New York Times piece and this Christopher Baker blog post are well worth a read—and he’s scheduled to play Oakland, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Orlando.

Rodriguez is a controversial figure outside of Cuba. Many Cuban exiles despise him because he has, at times, defended the Revolution. I love him for his music, not his politics. Besides, as the New York Times put it, “Through the decades Mr. Rodríguez has become more poet than propagandist.” He sings about life.

How excited am I about this tour? I’m going to reschedule a flight and eat a hefty penalty fee so I can see him play.

Here’s a video of Rodriguez performing “Ojalá” in Madrid’s Plaza de Toros—you can hear the crowd singing along, line for line, and imagine the scene in that Madrid bar. I’ve since heard the song played by folk singers in cafes and bars from Mexico to Argentina. It’s wildly popular. Its meaning is the subject of great debate.

The version of the song below is available on the album “Mano a Mano”—an excellent live album that also features Spanish trovador Luis Eduardo Aute performing.