Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro Ruz’s ashes were encased in a large granite boulder at the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery in southeastern Cuba on Sunday, December 4, 2016 in a ceremony that capped nine days of public mourning and was the final act in an elaborate and well thought out series of events and actions to celebrate the life and achievements of this historic figure.
Fidel governed the Republic of Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 until 2011. Whatever his precise role, until illness forced him to hand over power in 2006, he dominated Cuban politics, defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and holding onto power longer than any other living national leader, except Queen Elizabeth II.
Since his death on November 25 at age 90, hundreds of thousands of Cubans lined the streets and plazas to bid farewell to ‘El Comandante’ with a combination of tears, vows to sustain socialism and choruses of “I am Fidel!” as the funeral cortege carrying his ashes traversed the country.
There has also been a perhaps more significant internal realignment that is a very much personal and emotional one: The patron and father of the nation is no longer here to determine which path to go down. It is a historic time that marks the definitive end of era.
Our December issue is dedicated to Cuban cinema in recognition of Cuba’s infiuence in the film culture of the American hemisphere. Every year, the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema serves as a launch pad for Latin American cinematography and has become one of the leading film festivals in the region.
ICAIC in the sixties led to the formation and consolidation of filmmakers and film professionals. Names like Tomás Gutiérrez, Alea (Titón), Humberto Solás and Santiago Álvarez, among others, contributed to the prestige that the Instituto Cubano del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC) internationally obtained from the first years of its creation.
The 1960s were the ICAIC’s Golden Age. Memorable films of the decade include Memorias del Subdesarrollo (1968) by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea and Lucía (1969) by Humberto Solás. Also the documentaries made by Santiago Alvarez, who also directed the Latin American ICAIC News, which was as much anticipated as a feature-length film. Other filmmakers have continued in their footsteps, like Fernando Pérez, Pavel Giroud or Ernesto Daranas, just to name a few.
This issue features articles on the state of Cuban cinema and the film festivals that take place throughout the year in different cities in Cuba. Also featured are animated films, the independent film industry in the Island, low-budget films and documentaries.
We have also included a review of El acompañante, which has garnered multiple awards in the Americas and Europe; a Chronology of Cuban cinema; and a forecast for the Cuban film industry in 2017. Rounding out this issue is our pick of 10 must-see Cuban Films of all time.
Outside of cinema, December is packed with both cultural and historic events: Cuba’s Jazz Plaza Festival, with a first-class lineup, including the multi-talented instrumentalist and composer, Rachel Flowers; the International Crafts Fair at Pabexpo; and, if you’re interested in Cuban customs and traditions around Christmas, the wonderful Parrandas de Remedios are a must.
Meanwhile, to see the fascinating fusion of Afro-Cuban Santeria with the Catholic Church, join the Pilgrimage to Rincón for the feast of San Lázaro on December 17, the largest popular religious event in the Island.
Tradition-wise, Margaret Atkin’s article “Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Cuba” will shed light on how Cubans celebrate these two commemorations.
And as 2017 draws near, the LaHabana. com Team wishes all of its readers a joyous holiday season and a New Year filled with peace, health, happiness and prosperity! Abrazos!
The LaHabana.com Team