Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

Sept. 1, 1999.

NEWS ABOUT CUBA...THROUGH AN AMERICAN MAGAZINE By Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press, as translated by volunteer "CB."

HAVANA - A Cuban with some working knowledge of English can take a free trip through the most hospitable places on this island by reading the June 1999 issue of "Cigar Aficionado," a publication dedicated to Havana-cigar smokers and published in New York by M. Chanken Communication, Inc.

The June issue, of excellent design and content, created a controversy in Miami when the assistant director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Aviation, Mayra Bustamante, prohibited its sale at the Miami International Airport. When the public official leafed through the magazine and saw the magnificent photos of hotels and other tourist sites, she thought of her relatives and friends who live in Cuba, her country of origin.

"It is hard to assimilate looking at these photos and knowing that your family does not have this kind of life over there," Mrs. Bustamante said.

The magazine cover also contributed to the controversy: Castro and Clinton appeared framed by an interrogation, "Cuba, is it time to end the embargo?" Interviewed were Republican Senator Jesse Helm and Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd. The "political balance" is maintained with two articles, one written by the president of the Cuban parliament, Ricardo Alarcón, and the other by American businessman Dwayne O. Andreas of Archer Daniels Midland Company, one of the world's greatest oilseed processing companies.

The section dedicated to faces of Cuba showed those of Raúl Castro, Carlos Lage, historian Eusebio Leal, writer Leonardo Padura, athletes Ana Fidelia Quirós, Teófilo Stevenson and Javier Sotomayor, musicians Carlos Varela and Manolín ("The Salsa Physician"), as well as Roberto Robaina, whose photo in the magazine does not correspond to the face of the former chancellor, this being one of the few inaccuracies of this issue of "Cigar Aficionado."

The historical section is illustrated with a map of Cuba and a map of Havana, marking sites visited by the team of journalists that traveled to the island to produce this report, taking most of the 280 pages of the June issue.

An American might be interested in the paragraphs dedicated to the tobacco plantations in Vuelta Abajo and Pinar del Río, the nights in Havana and the golf courses in the capital. But for a native, the most novel information comes from the list of suggested dining places, which includes four "paladares" (literally "palates") which are private restaurants run by Cuban families.

One of them is "La Guarida" (den, lair, hideout), a "paladar" on the third floor of an old building at 418 Concordia, between Gervasio and Escobar streets in downtown Havana. It is singled out by the "Cigar Aficionado" team for its excellent food. This place served as location for the filming of "Fresa y Chocolate" ("Strawberry and Chocolate"), nominated for an Oscar in 1995.

Another private restaurant mentioned is "Le Chansonier," at 306 15th Street, between H and I Streets (in the neighborhood of El Vedado), which specializes in French cuisine.

"La Casa" (house, home) is another paladar that offers a Cuban cuisine menu (at 865 30th Street between 26th and 41st Streets in the Nuevo Vedado neighborhood). And the owner of "La Cocina de Lilliam" ("Lilliam's Kitchen" at 1311 48th Street, between 13th and 15th Streets, in the Miramar neighborhood) has become famous for her dishes based on fresh fish.

These four paladares figure side by side with state-run restaurants like "El Aljibe" (spring or well), "Don Cangrejo" ("Sir Crab"), "Floridita" (a name), "La Torre" ("The Tower"), "La Bodeguita del Medio," "La Ferminia," "La Finca" ("The Farm"), "La Torre de Marfil" ("The Ivory Tower"), and "La Terraza Florentina" ("Terrace in Florence") among others.

There also is a list of those that "Cigar Aficionado" recommends against visiting because what they charge does not correspond with how good the food or service are: "Le Select," "El Tocororo" (name of a local bird species), "La Cecilia" and "Pedregal."

In the broad and varied selection of color pictures, the one on page 203 stands out. Fidel Castro can be seen in it wearing a well cut and luxurious dark blue suit and surrounded by beautiful smiling models. Even though Castro is not laughing, the photo impacts Cubans who are used to seeing the ruler wearing a military uniform and attacking globalization and "Yankee imperialism."

This graphic 'testimony' was taken during the "Habano 2000" ("Havana Cigar 2000") Festival, a celabration that took place in this city in February 1999 and which with its (commercial) squandering had nothing to envy from similar celebrations in capitalist societies, which the Communist leader calls on others to despise.

Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press.

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