This Cuban Fashion Shoot Dazzles Prior to Chanel’s Event

This Cuban Fashion Shoot Dazzles Prior to Chanel’s Event

Karl Lagerfeld, head designer and creative director of the fashion house Chanel, is in Havana this month to present Chanel’s 2017 resort collection. The Chanel fashion event begins tomorrow with its new Cruise Ship Collection. Previously the company held its traditional parade in other exotic places like Dubai, Singapore and South Korea. Also, today marks the … Read more

Cuba As Depicted in 19th Century Cigar Box Art

Cuba As Depicted in 19th Century Cigar Box Art

Cigar manufacturing in Cuba was in turmoil in the final years of the nineteenth century.

Cuba’s long war of independence forced Spanish cigar manufacturer Vicente Martinez Ybor to move his Principe de Gales (Prince of Wales) operations from the cigar manufacturing center of Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida.

[See images below]

Other manufacturers followed the move, and Key West became another important cigar manufacturing center. In 1885, Ybor moved again to Tampa, Florida and built the largest cigar factory in the world at the time – it was located in the new company town of Ybor City, Florida.

Thousands of Cuban and Spanish tabaqueros came to the area from Cuba, Key West and New York to produce hundreds of millions of cigars annually. Friendly rival and Flor de Sánchez y Haya owner Ignacio Haya built his own factory nearby in the same year, and many other cigar manufacturers soon followed – especially after an 1886 fire that gutted much of Key West.

The US consumed about 300 million cigars by the mid-19th century. Cigar output peaked in 1929, when workers in Ybor City and West Tampa rolled over 500,000,000 “clear Havana” cigars, earning the town the nickname, “Cigar Capital of the World.”

There were about 80,000 cigar-making operations in the US around 1905.  Most of them were small, family-operated shops where cigars were rolled and sold immediately. 

By 1900, four out five men smoked cigars and box design became an important way to differentiate among the multitude of brands on display in stores around the country. Cigarettes would soon enter the market and eventually dominate demand for tobacco products.

Here are some cigar box designs from the era that traded on a Cuba cigar connection that was likely non-existent other than for marketing. Notice the boxes that depict the “New Cuba” and the positive relationship between Cuba and the US after Cuba’s war of independence.

Here is What Cuban Baseball is Like

Here is What Cuban Baseball is Like

The first thing you’ll notice is the sound. Or the lack thereof.

There is no Jumbotron, no between-inning giveaways, just bat, glove and the voice of the umpire.

Indeed, it’s usually the umpire who motions to the stadium operators to turn off the music between the inning.

In the stadium, cheers commingle with the din of horns.

Baseball in Cuba is pure, it is simple and it is raw in a way that professional baseball in America has not been for some time.

And baseball is still Cuba’s most popular sport.

It is played by cane workers, school children and baseball professionals in every corner of the island nation and is a symbol of national identity.

Baseball isn’t just a sport — in many ways, baseball is Cuba.

Cuban baseball closely resembles American baseball in both style and level of accomplishment.

The Cuban National Series generally runs from November through April with a schedule of 90 games per team in the regular season.

The series is then followed by 3 playoff rounds culminating in a championship, a series that has been played each winter since 1961-62. There are 16 teams organized in a West League and an East League. The top four teams from each league advance to a playoff, with the winner crowned in April. Two teams have dominated the National Series in recent years: Industriales and Santiago de Cuba.

These teams have combined to produce some of the best players in baseball in recent years, through a pipeline of defectors that has produced stars like Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman, among others.

In 1999, the Cuban national baseball team played a two-game exhibition series against the Baltimore Orioles of Major League Baseball.

This marked the first time the Cuban national team played against an MLB team, and the first time an MLB team played in Cuba since 1959.

The Orioles won the first game, which was held in Havana, while the Cuban national team won the second game, which was held in Baltimore.

Since the US and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred entered into discussions to hold an exhibition game between an MLB team and the Cuban national team in 2016, and on Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rays will play the Cuban national baseball team, with President Obama set to attend.

The news comes as MLB looks to address and structure the way Cuban players come to the United States.

Will Cuban baseball ever be the same?

On Location: A Cuban Fashion Shoot

On Location:  A Cuban Fashion Shoot

I was visiting the famous Hotel National in Havana, Cuba when the piercing light of a camera’s flash shot in rapid succession across the eclectic, Art Deco interior.  A small group of plain-clothes people formed a semi-circle around a woman in a sequined red dress as she cast a skyward gaze into nowhere.  The bulwark, 1930s hotel completed the scene by providing the tension present in Cuba’s visible frontiers in a dance she has performed many times in the past.

Built on a promontory overlooking the sea in the Vedado (“prohibited”) section of Old Havana, Hotel National exhibits an eclectic architectural style, reflecting Art Deco, Arabic references, features of Hispano-Moorish architecture, and both neo-classical and neo-colonial elements.

A number of rooms occupied by the famous have been preserved – several having been declared historic (those of Nat King Cole, Compay Segundo, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, María Felix, Johnny Weismuller, the Mafia bosses, Bola de Nieve, Tyron Power, Gary Cooper, Agustín Lara, Jorge Negrete, Mario Moreno, Stan Musial, Paul Casal, and Errol Flynn). On display in each are photographs and a biographical profile of their celebrated former occupant.

In December 1946, the hotel was the venue for a major gathering of the Mafia, closing its doors to the public while accommodating the heads of the most notorious (American) Cosa Nostra families.  The hotel was the also setting for the formation of the ’26th July Movement’ (M-26-7) revolutionary cell led by Fidel Castro.

On this day, I witnessed Cuba:  old vs new, youth vs wisdom, Castro’s Cuba vs the New Cuba.