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Cuba

Tourists who have just disembarked from a cruise liner, talk to the driver of a vintage American convertible taxi, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. The Trump administration has imposed major new travel restrictions on visits to Cuba by Americans.
Ramon Espinosa / The Associated Press

American travelers will no longer be able to visit Cuba using a people-to-people license, after the Trump administration announced new restrictions eliminating the most common category for tourism. KNKX travel expert Matthew Brumley has led trips to Cuba dozens of times through his company, Earthbound Expeditions. He shared his reactions to today’s news with All Things Considered host Ed Ronco.

The New Cool: Cuban Jazz Meets American Pop

Dec 1, 2017
Eduardo Rawdriguez / billboard.com

I'm always suspicious of collections of modern pop covers. The songs of today don't normally equal the quality of the Great American Songbook. But the collaborations on the new album AmeriCuba from the Havana Maestros bring fresh energy and explore unexpected opportunities for improvisation.

Alaska Airlines is saying "Adios" to Cuba. The Seattle-based airline Tuesday announced it will discontinue flights to Havana after the holidays. Alaska joins a parade of other U.S. carriers who are trimming back flights to Cuba or dropping service entirely.

Paquito D' Rivera with clarinet
courtesy of the arist / paquitodrivera.com

The music of saxophonist/clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera and trumpeter/pianist Arturo Sandoval has been censored from Cuban airwaves for decades now,  since they both defected to the U.S.  

Band mates in the groundbreaking Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna and founding members of the legendary Cuban group Irakere, both musicians took advantage of world tours to make their escape.  Both have also gone on to make incredibly successful international careers, but still, it has to hurt to know that your name has been erased from your native country's cultural history.

Ernest Hemingway liked to get up early.

He did his best writing in the morning, standing in front of his typewriter, plucking the keys as fast as the words might come to him. This was fortunate, because by 11 a.m., the Havana heat began to creep into his rented room at the Hotel Ambos Mundos. He couldn't think in the swelter, much less write.

Alaska Airlines launches a daily flight Thursday morning from the West Coast to Havana. The new service comes as the Obama administration's opening to Cuba gives way to an uncertain future.

Rodrigo Abd / AP

The death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro topped international headlines this week. What happens now to Cuba? We called our friend Alejandro Infantes, a tour guide in Havana, for a look at what’s going on there right now, and what the future might hold for his country.

If the old real estate adage holds true — it's all about location, location, location — then about 100 miles off the tip of Florida, it's boom time. The real estate market in Havana, Cuba, is roaring.

The communist country is seeing its colonial-style mansions and Art Deco apartments selling in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Add a Caribbean sea view or a prized spot in a pre-revolution, exclusive neighborhood, and the price can top a million bucks. The prices are soaring, along with speculation in this budding and risky all-cash real estate market.

As of Monday, U.S. citizens who travel to Cuba will no longer be limited to bringing back goods worth up to $400 — including $100 worth of tobacco and alcohol. President Obama ordered the changes, which also clear the way for Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals to gain U.S. regulatory approval.

Instead of those special quotas, normal limits on Americans' importation of foreign products for personal use will apply.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published on Sept. 27, 2016, and is being republished with minor updates following the death of Cuba's Fidel Castro.

How's this for historical coincidence: Fidel Castro and his rag-tag fighters assembled in Mexico, navigated an overcrowded boat to Cuba, and unleashed a 1956 insurgency that spawned countless imitators in the decades that followed. On Thursday, Colombia and the FARC rebels signed a deal to end the last major leftist uprising in Latin America — one day before Castro died.

The first commercial flight from the U.S. to Cuba in more than half a century landed Wednesday in the Cuban city of Santa Clara, marking another milestone in the thawing relationship between the two countries.

The inaugural trip was a JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that took off Wednesday morning bound for Abel Santamaria International Airport in central Cuba. And as NPR's Scott Horsley tells our Newscast unit, two Cuban-American pilots were at the controls.

They call her Cuba's Julia Child.

You may not have heard of Nitza Villapol, but for millions of Cubans both on the island and abroad, her recipes offer an abiding taste of home. In many Cuban-American homes, dog-eared, decades-old copies of her cookbooks are considered family treasures.

The most compelling science fiction is the sort which holds weight beyond its sheer inventiveness or even its ingenuity. It takes more. The best in the genre have always functioned like corner prophets reporting from the fringe. They succeed in showing us, in a vision uniquely their own, what could potentially become of our planet should we continue down a particular path. Which is not to say one shouldn't devour the purely entertaining for its own sake. But surely the most evocative sci-fi is the stuff of warning shots.

When President Obama lifted the ban on U.S. weapons sales to Vietnam, he invoked one of his favorite themes — relics of the Cold War.

"This change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself and removes a lingering vestige of the Cold War," Obama said Monday in the capital, Hanoi.

He sounded a lot like the president who made a groundbreaking visit to Cuba in March:

The first cruise ship to sail between the U.S. and Cuba in more than 50 years can now carry passengers who were born in Cuba, after the island nation eased its ban against native-born Cubans returning by boat. The cruise ship, operated by Carnival, is set to depart Miami for Cuba on May 1.

Brumley: 'Something Big Is Happening' In Cuba

Mar 24, 2016
Ramon Espinosa / AP

 

During his historic visit to Cuba this week, President Obama met with Cuban President Raul Castro -- and ordinary Cubans, who are about to see big changes in their country. KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley has visited the country dozens of times. In fact, he returned from his most recent trip the day before Obama arrived.

"Everywhere in Havana, they were desperately trying to fix everything," he said. "Ernest Hemingway's house was getting a fresh coat of white paint."

Capping a historic visit to Cuba, President Obama delivered a sweeping speech about American ideals and reconciliation at the Gran Teatro de la Havana.

"I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas," Obama said.

The speech was carried live by Cuban state television, giving Obama a chance to speak directly to the Cuban people. Cuban President Raúl Castro sat in the balcony of the theater, where he heard Obama issue a tough rebuke of the Cuban regime's crackdown on dissent.

In the moments after the end of a historic press conference held by President Obama and President Castro in Havana, Cuba, what began as a regular handshake morphed into ... something else. The Cuban leader raised Obama's limp arm above his head and held it there for a few seconds.

The move most closely resembled a wrestling referee announcing the winner of a wrestling match. Only way more awkward.

On Sunday, as President Obama's plane touches down in Havana, Cuban-Americans will be watching. Many of them have endured periods of separation from their families since the early 1960s.

Award-winning author Margarita Engle is one of those people. She is the first Latina to win the prestigious Newbery Honor, for her 2008 book, The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle For Freedom. She is also the author of Enchanted Air, Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir, a 2015 autobiographical book of narrative poetry.

In a cramped ground floor office in Madrid, Alejandro Gonzalez Raga recalls the day of his arrest in Cuba, 13 years ago.

There was a knock at the door. It was Cuban state security.

"They said, 'You are detained in the name of the people,'" he recalls. "Well that's one I'd never heard before — 'in the name of the people.' Then they took me away."

When Obama walks off Air Force One onto the red carpet at Jose Marti airport in Havana Sunday, he'll be taking another big step towards normal relations with the island, and kicking another hole in the wall of isolation that the U.S. spent decades trying to build around Cuba.

"The Cold War has been over for a long time," Obama said, before his historic handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro in Panama last year. "I'm not interested in having battles that, frankly, started before I was born."

Ahead of President Obama's landmark trip to Cuba later this month, the U.S. is loosening sanctions regulations against Cuba.

The changes make it easier for U.S. citizens to travel to the island and allow nonimmigrant Cubans who are in the U.S legally to earn salaries.

"Normalization means not just normalization between governments, it means normalization of our relationship with the Cuban people. And that is what this change really aims to advance," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters as he announced the changes.

More than 50 major players in the U.S. publishing industry are petitioning the White House and Congress to end the Cuba trade embargo as it pertains to books and educational materials.

Calling the book embargo "counter to American ideals of free expression," the petition — endorsed by publishing companies, authors and agents — says "books are catalysts for greater cross-cultural understanding, economic development, free expression, and positive social change."

When President Obama heads to Havana later this month he is expected to take in a baseball game featuring the Cuban national team against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays. Cuba has long been a hotbed of the sport and more than a dozen Cuban-born players are now on major league rosters. That number could grow by a lot and soon, if Major League Baseball has its way.

Miguel Fraga

An official from Cuba’s embassy in the U.S. is visiting Seattle for the next few days. Miguel Fraga is the First Secretary of the newly re-established Cuban Embassy in Washington D.C. Fraga is in town to tell people about his home country.

After more than a decade, Major League Baseball is coming back to Cuba and it will have a very important spectator.

The White House announced on Tuesday that President Obama would be on hand in Havana to watch an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team on March 22.

The Rays will be the first MLB franchise to play on the island since the Orioles played an exhibition game in 1999.

Havana will meet the Rolling Stones later this month.

The band has announced they'll play a free open-air concert in the Cuban capital on March 25.

That will make them "the most famous act to play Cuba since its 1959 revolution," the Associated Press reports.

U.S. operation of the Guantanamo Bay military detention center in Cuba is "contrary to our values" and is seen as "a stain on our broader record" of upholding the highest rules of law, President Obama said Tuesday as he announced plans to close the facility.

When President Obama travels to Cuba next month — the first visit by a sitting U.S. president in nearly 90 years — it will mark a historic step on the path to normalizing relations with the island nation.

While Obama is in Havana, two U.S. businessmen are hoping the president might spend some time with them — or even take a seat on a prototype of the tractor they plan to assemble and sell in Cuba.

Andrew Harnik / AP

President Barack Obama plans to visit Cuba next month. The trip is expected to be officially announced today – part of multi-nation trip through Latin America. His visit there would be historic. The last time a sitting president went to Cuba was Calvin Coolidge in 1928.

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