Friday, January 2, 2009

Celebrating Cuba

Every day this past week, I have been hearing and reading news reports about Cuba or coming across various Cuban connections.
This year, 2009 marks Cuba's 50 years of Independence. With the weakened Fidel Castro no longer in power, President Obama has hopes of creating new, positive US ties with Cuba. There has been talk of lifting the old embargo to allow free trade and open travel. This would be wonderful, especially for those who have not seen their relatives for years.

Someday I would love to visit Cuba myself. One of my favorite artists, Elsa Mora (aka Elsita) hails from Cuba. I love to read her blog and childhood stories about growing up in Cuba.

Oye, Celia! A Song For Celia Cruz, a picture book by Katie Sciurba is a fun celebration about being Cuban and of course about Celia Cruz. It's an easy read for little ones, not too autobiographical. The brightly colored pastel illustrations are by Cuban born artist Edel Rodriguez. They are full of energy and are paired perfectly with the lively story. Here's an excerpt:

"You mix Azucar! into the sounds of Rumba, jazz, hip-hop and guaguanco." "It becomes a blend, a salsa, just like us- African, Carribbean and European."

Celia was known for adding her trademark "Azucar!" into her songs. Although she is no longer with us, her music is very much alive.

Another fun picture book (and Pura Belpre Award Winner) based on a Cuban folktale is The Bossy Gallito by Lucia Gonzalez. It's about a little rooster in Cuba who goes off to attend his uncle's wedding and runs into some trouble along the way. The story has lots of repetition which makes it perfect for little ones and the book is bilingual. Amazing artist Lulu Delacre is responsible for the gorgeous illustrations. She also sells art on her site. Just email her and tell her about your favorite work from one of her books and chances are she will have it for sale...or one that is similar.
Here's a great clip of Celia Cruz doing Guantanamera:


  1. Hi Kim! So fun to find you musing on Cuba. I sang with the Seattle Peace Chorus at an international choral festival there nine years ago. It was a sanctioned trip, and we visited hospitals, schools, farms -- just amazing. We'll have to chat about that sometime. Hope you had a great holiday season. We're back to green here after the longest snow run anyone can remember. Happy New Year!

  2. Deb!!! It's so nice to hear from you. Wow! I'd love to hear some of your Cuba stories or look at photos from your travels. I hope we will all meet up again soon.
    I've been seeing lots of beautiful snow photos of Oregon and Washington. I hope you are enjoying a cozy holiday break. I'll bet it's nice to finally see a little green! Happy New Year to you and your beautiful family!

  3. I'm Cuban-American, too. I wouldn't call it 50 years of Independence, but I certainly agree that Cuba has a rich musical and literary heritage; thanks for pointing it out! We love The Bossy Gallito!

  4. Thanks Anamaria! I love reading the Newbery Project about all the Newbery Medal winners. Such a GREAT blog!! Yes, I agree with you that Cuba has a very rich and unique artistic heritage and the Bossy Gallito is BOSS!


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