CA Great Report on Cuba - WVRC on March 9th
GENE PRINDLE led us in the Pledge. JACK and LENNY did the honors with our song, America the Beautiful. HANK HEUER (Did you know that Hoyer rhymes with Lawyer?) provided a thoughtful Invocation. “Oh heavenly Father, We thank thee for food, and remember the hungry. We thank thee for health, and remember the sick. We thank thee for friends, and remember the friendless. We thank thee for freedom, and remember the enslaved. May these remembrances stir us to service, that thy gifts to us be used for others.” Succinct and well done, HANK!
We had no visiting Rotarians, but there were several guests. MAX LICHTENBERGER was accompanied by his son, Francis, and they brought Anita. CHRIS BRADFORD had Sharon with him, no doubt for moral support during his talk. President DON announced Community Service meeting coming up in two weeks 11:30 on the 23rd. And allow me to inject a quick report on the Santa Monica Blvd Project: Construction will continue into August ’06, followed by another six months to complete the landscaping which brings the final completion to a year from now March 2007!
Chris Bradford and Sharon
Birthdays were next, with the first order of business being to catch up with those heinous criminals who failed to show up during their regularly scheduled month, thus subjecting themselves to the usual storage fee fine of ten smackers. Among the culprits were KEVIN KOMATSU, who chose Fullerton on the 13th of February and PDG BILL GOODWYN, who came along ten days later on the 23rd of February in Louisville.
Now Hear This let these humongous fines remind all future birthdayers to BE THERE when your BD gifts are presented! For March, PP MICHAEL NEWMAN was first in line, arriving on the 3rd in Santa Monica. WALLY FISCHMAN liked the 3rd also, but preferred St. Louis. TERRY R. WHITE was on the following day, the 4th, in Oceanside, while BRUCE HARRIS liked the 5th, in Chattanooga. PP CHRIS GAYNOR returned us to familiar territory in LA, on the 11th, while PP JOHN SINGLETON felt that Salt Lake City was more appropriate on the 14th. Honorary Member URI HERSCHER also liked the 14th, but chose Tel Aviv, Israel. Keeping us in Clergy Territory, SHARON RHODES-WICKETT picked La Grande, Oregon on the 20th. PDG ANDY ANDERSON liked the next day, the 21st, and arrived in Buffalo, NY. Our favorite Invocator, MYRON TAYLOR elected Goodwill, WV on the 26th, and last was Mrs Adell Quilico, coming into Glendale on the 29th.
KACY ROZELLE reported on our Corazon Project of this last weekend. We all drove down to the Ramada Inn in Chula Vista, spent the night, and at 0600 were leaving for Tecate this is a border town east of Tijuana. There were 21 Rotaract Members, and 22 Rotarians and family members. Those who attended and everyone worked, believe me - included KACY ROZELLE, RON LYSTER, ERNIE WOLFE, STEW GILMAN, RUDY ALVAREZ, TIM SMITH (a newly proposed member), NICK KAHRILAS and his son, COLE, MIKE GINTZ and his daughter, WHITNEY, REZA BUNDY, STEVE LORE (his SEVENTH trip!), MARK ROGO, PETER TOMARKEN, HANK HEUER, KEVIN KOMATSU, ED WRIGHT and his daughter, HANNAH, JOHN ANDERSON (Warren Dodson’s grandson), ANN SAMSON, and STEVE DAY, along with his son, JEFF.
The Retract contingent, along with their guests, included JASON STAGLIANO, BRUCE KRYSIAK, JOHN SHIPLE, JASMINE AHDOUT, JULIANNE AHDOUT, STEVEN BULLER, STEPHANIE CAPPIELLO, WHITNEY CARLTON, VINCENT CASSOTTI, CANDICE DANESHVAR, ANA ESTRADA, LIZ HARDY, KATIE MARTINEAU, AVANI OSWAL, SEEMA PATEL, SASHA PETCAVITCH, YURY POLNAR, TINH-AN TRAN, GABRIELA TUNZI, KATIA VAISBERG and AMANA YORK.
The concrete pad, 16 by 20 feet, was poured and waiting for us. We built the four walls, hoisted them into place, added the sloping roofs, painted the walls and tar papered and shingled the roof, , then put in a 160 square foot loft platform, installed three windows and a lockable front door and handed the new owners the keys at 5 pm! It was a very worthwhile experience, and I recommend it to everyone for next year.
SHANE WAARBROEK was asked to bring us up to date on Membership. He reminded us that our target was a net increase of a dozen new members, and we have eight so far this Rotary year. They are ED WRIGHT, who is associated with NICK KAHRILAS. REZA BUNDY is starting Right Trade, and was sponsored by KACY ROZELL, PETER TOMARKEN, who was sponsored by District 5280, does Real Estate. FLORENCE SAMPSON, in Personal Management, was sponsored by CHRIS BRADFORD and ELLIOTT TURNER. There was a minor interruption here, since it was obvious to all that bring sponsored by ELLIOTT might not get you in so CHRIS was added to the team, or so I understand these machinations. MARK ROGO is in real Estate, and was sponsored by ED GAULD. WARREN DODSON, in Tire Distribution, was sponsored by President DON NELSON. RICK CULLEN is in Asset Management with First Regional Bank, and he was sponsored by GORDON FELL. Our newest member is TIM SMITH, who is an Executive Recruiter, and he was also sponsored by KACY. We lost one member by death, and another moved out of the state, so our net is six. Let’s recognize that SHANE has done yeoman work here eight good recruits! Your hard work certainly shows.
Story, attributed to Mr. TURNER a fleeing Taliban was trudging across the Afghanistan desert. He was desperate for water, and spotted a lone man ahead. Turned out to be a Jew, who was seated at a card table, which was covered with new neckties.
Our Taliban friend sagged against the table, and asked for water. The Jew said he didn’t have any water, but would his new acquaintance like to buy a necktie, for $150 bucks?
“You idiot, I don’t need an overpriced tie I need water”, he shouted back!
“It does not matter if you do not wish to buy a tie. I will show you that I have not been offended. Over that hill, about two miles from here, you will find a lovely restaurant that has all the water you need”. The Arab staggered away toward the hill, and eventually disappeared.
Hours later, he came crawling back to where the Jewish man was sitting at his table.
The Jew said, “I told you about two miles over the hill. Could you not find it?”
“I found it all right but your brother wouldn’t let me in without a tie”!
SEAN McMILLAN introduced our Speaker, CHRIS BRADFORD. SEAN took this opportunity to note that Chris was his Mentor, and also the person who kept giving him jobs to do like sitting over in the corner by himself during the meetings. It was truly touching…But he got CHRIS on, and that was his main job anyway.
CHRIS began by pointing out that he really didn’t control everything Sharon has that position well covered! His title today is Cuba Revisited, which he chose since PP JIM COLLINS gave us a Cuba report a couple of years ago. Also, SLOSS VIAU and Marge were there in the 50’s, while PP RALPH WOODWORTH and Bettye honeymooned there in 1953. Our own PP RUDY ALVAREZ attended the 20th Anniversary of their Revolution, in 1979.
CHRIS spent the first week of this past December in Cuba, as part of a group of 27 Lawyers from the BH Bar Association. They were there on an Official Visit, licensensed by the U.S. Treasury Department. to do “Professional Research”. They met with attorneys, Law Professors, members of the Communist Party a good variety of residents, and also had considerable free time. While there, he shot over 250 photographs, and whittled them down to just 60 for his talk with us. I had earlier told him that the definition of a professional photographer is a man with a big wastebasket and he made a good selection, certainly.
Cuba’s population today is about the same as it was during the Revolution in 1959 and ELLIOTT opined that the reason was they had all moved to Miami! Havana has about 2.2 million residents, and La Habana Vieja was first settled in 1515. The average Cuban earns between 10 and 20 dollars a month, and most food is free but of course tightly rationed. They visited the University of Havana, walked the Malecon, and generally saw much of the city.
The first ever non-English speaking Rotary Club was chartered in Havana in 1916. They hosted the 31st International Convention in 1940, with 3,713 attendees. Our group’s hotel was on the Central Plaza, and the view showed the Capitol building, which was copied from the US Capitol. They will tell you it is 7 inches taller than the U.S. Capitol, which is a source of some local pride. The view overlooking Havana shows a badly dilapidated city, since almost nothing is allowed to be spent on rehabilitation. The post-Revolution emphasis was on developing the countryside, and so all older cities were allowed to fall into disrepair.
The view along the Prado shows what was the wealthiest street in Havana. Now, each former mansion houses families of four or five generations and again, no upkeep is allowed. Paint is not available, and if you do find a way to renovate, the chances are that your property will be confiscated. CHRIS felt the buildings reminded him of Berlin after WWII. He showed the Monument of General Maximo Gomez, a hero of the War against Spain in 1905 their first Revolution!
The former President’s Palace is now the Museum of the Revolution. One of the most frequently seen busts is of Jose Marti, considered to be the Father of modern Cuba. And across from this bust is Abraham Lincoln! He was very much revered by the Cuban people, for what he stood for. Statues and busts of Marti are everywhere, but there are very few of Castro. We saw some uniformed school children and the CARS. They are all over 1950’s models, used now for taxis, which the tourists seem to enjoy. They have all been converted to Russian Diesel, since their original motors either gave out or there were no replacement parts to be found. There are also quite a few luxury cars BMWs, Mercedes and they are usually driven by foreigners (Germans, Dutch; British) who are working in Cuba.
They visited the University of Havana, founded in 1728. Fidel Castro was a student here in 1945. They visited with numerous students, and found their concerns to be much the same as students anywhere. They all spoke excellent English, which is taught in all the schools. They visited the Plaza de Armas, and found lots of books for sale not what you would find in the U.S. but not many buyers, either. The Museum of the City of Havana is located in a beautifully restored Colonial Building, and the major statue is of Christopher Columbus who did discover the Island of Cuba.
CHRIS had some free time at the end of his visit, and looked at the National Hotel in some detail. To get there, he walked along the Malecon, once the prime oceanfront area in Havana, and it is badly dilapidated today. The Hotel National is the twin, built at the same time, of The Breakers in Palm Beach. It houses dignitaries when they come to Havana, since it is, far and away, the best hotel in Cuba. They were hosting the 28th Annual Latin American Film Festival when CHRIS’S group was in town.
One of his last shots was of the Hotel Riviera, which was owned by Meyer Lansky, of Mafia fame. It is still in use as a hotel, but Mr. Lansky isn’t involved…He had a photo of a Soviet-style hotel (they are distinctive, and always ugly). Again, nothing has been painted since the 1950’s, and it shows, of course. There is a cruise terminal, but today only foreign ships come in, since they are barred from the U.S. for six months after visiting Cuba (Part of our stupid Embargo).
Q&A LENORE MULRYAN, What were the people like happy, sad? The locals will talk freely they love Americans, but hate our Embargo. They are desperate, and most have no thought that it will ever get better. But remember, everyone you talk to has a message, some of which is formed by the single dimension of the news and views they receive. STEVE LORE Do they have a free press there? In their first briefing, their hosts pointed out that we in the U.S. cannot have a free press, since our news is not controlled by the government, but by private interests. (This’take’was greeted with some incredulity by his guests). PETER TOMARKEN, Is there any sense that the beginnings of a popular revolution could be stirring? No, none at all. As you enter the country you go through a metal detector, and your luggage is also checked. It would be impossible to bring in anything resembling a weapon. Would the impoverished poor rise up? No, there are police everywhere, both uniformed and disguised. These security police are not from Havana, but from the countryside so they don’t know anyone, or have family within the city. YOE, Do you have any idea of the number of these security people? No, but there are quite a few of them. No Cubans are allowed to go up to any hotel rooms which was the way it used to be in Russia when YOE was a tourist there.
And now, a challenge Prostitution is legal, but pimping isn’t. How does one work without the other? Anyway, the most affluent people are the prostitutes, because there are lots of foreign tourists visiting all the time. SHANE WAARBROEK, with Florida nearby, does that provide an escape? No, it is 90 miles away, and that’s Key West, only.
ELLIOTT TURNER, What’s your opinion if the U.S. dropped the Embargo what would happen to Cuba? They blame all that is wrong on the U.S. so they would have to find another scapegoat and it is politically difficult to deal with the Cuban exiles in Florida, of course. The last picture CHRIS showed was of two buildings in Havana, each held up by leaning on the other via scaffolding.
CHRIS, thank you for an excellent and informative report on Cuba today.
Whatever happened to Preparations A through G?