My short bio:

Hi reddit! We’re Ruth Behar and Dafnis Prieto, two native Cubans who live and work in the United States and continue to be engaged in the cultural fabric of Cuba through literary projects and music. We’re also both MacArthur Fellows (#MacFellow). AUA! More about us: Ruth Behar: Dafnis Prieto:

My Proof:

UPDATE: Thanks everyone for your questions, but we have to head out right now! Really enjoyed the high quality of your questions and take care.

Comments: 63 • Responses: 17  • Date: 

chumbawumba728 karma

Hi all, quick question for you. How do you see the future of literature and music changing in Cuba with the new change in US-Cuba relations?

macfound4 karma

RB: I think there will be a lot more back and forth between writers and musicians in Cuba and the U.S. in the coming years. That has already begun to happen informally in the last two decades, but the number and range of exchanges will increase. There is growing interest in the U.S. in everything Cuban. More Cuban literature is being translated into English for circulation in the U.S. For example, the science fiction novel, "A Planet for Rent," has just been published by Restless Books and Cubanabooks is publishing works by women writers. I hope there will be more opportunities for writers and musicians and other artists in Cuba to circulate their work as U.S-Cuba relations move toward further normalization. I expect that writers will be addressing new and complex topics, engaging with the changes that are taking place.

macfound3 karma

DP, I think both countries have influenced each other culturally for a long time, this new change in US-Cuba relations will continue to do so, but most probably faster and without restrictions from the higher powers of legalization. In the overall I see it as a positive move.

Frajer8 karma

What do you think is the most important part of Cuban culture?

macfound5 karma

DP, when I think about Cuban culture I can't separate its elements because I see it and feel it as a whole. Music, Literature, Dance, Visual, etc..

golden_light_above_u5 karma

Dafnis, I think I saw you play with Wayne Krantz one night at 55Bar... am I remembering that correctly? Any plans to do something with WK again? You were great, btw.

macfound4 karma

DP, thank you. Yes I did played with Wayne about 7 years ago. At this moment I have no plans to do it again, but I'm always open to it. However, I'm now more focused on my own music, compositions and projects...

mpate174 karma

how often do you visit cuba, and if you do, does anything in particular surprise you at all?

macfound4 karma

I visit Cuba two or three times a year. I was there recently for the ceremony of the reopening of the United States Embassy in Havana. I feel there is a sense of hope about the future that I didn't always sense in the past. It's a cautious hope, with people often saying, "a ver que pasa"--let's see what happens. The rise in private entrepreneurship is changing things in ways I couldn't have imagined even five years ago--I saw fruit peddlers in Havana selling papayas across the street from a newly opened gelato shop; there are increasing numbers of art galleries and sophisticated private restaurants that look like they could be in Bushwick or Buenos Aires. And everyone seems to know someone who lives abroad--if not in the U.S., then in Europe, Latin America, somewhere else. Cubans on the island seem inextricably linked to all the diasporas of Cubans around the world... You have to remember that in the past those who left Cuba were considered "gusanos," traitors to the country.

macfound3 karma

DP, I try to visit Cuba once a year, or every two years. It surprises me the sense of humor despite the challenges they might confront in their everyday lives.

afroeko233 karma

What is life like as a MacArthur Fellow? How have you both used the award and the opportunities to further your work?

macfound4 karma

DP, The MacArthur has helped me to intensify my work and to concentrate more in what is meaningful to me as an artist. I have also been able to produce new projects and releases under my own company label Dafnison Music, and others that are on the way. e.g. An analytical and instructional book for drummers and lovers of rhythm that is coming up soon.. very exciting!!

macfound2 karma

RB: The MacArthur award was a blessing to me in the early years of my career. It allowed me to carry out research in Mexico and to begin my work in Cuba. The award provided support for me to initiate my Bridges to Cuba project, now expanded into a blog with inaugural poet, Richard Blanco. Have a look:

1tudore3 karma

How do you think this normalization of relations will impact this current generation of the Cuban community - including those of Cuban descent in America, emigrees, and life-long islanders?

How will it impact the next, who will not have personally lived what came before?

macfound2 karma

Great question--We are seeing history in the making right now, and that's what makes Cuba so exciting to observe at the moment. There are three key generations to think about-- the elderly generation of revolutionaries in Cuba and exiles in Miami, few of whom remain, but whose vision continues to be powerful; then there is the middle generation, those of us who were children of the revolutionaries and the exiles; and then there is the younger generation, the grandchildren, who've grown up hearing stories about their history. Normalization is already bringing about necessary conversations and dialogues about the past, the present, and the future. I have observed many Cuban exiles--who said they'd never return to Cuba until a regime change-- finally going back to Cuba to share their memories of Cuba with their children and grandchildren. And on the island, there is much more openness to the immigrants than there ever was before. Bridges are being built between the generations and between Cubans on the island and in the diaspora, and that will be an important foundation for the future of Cuba and Cubans everywhere.

jetblackcrow2 karma

What is your favorite type of sandwhich?

macfound2 karma

DP, Cuban Sushi.

PintSizedJacob1 karma

Hello both! My question is for Dafnis however. With an impressive career in Music, what is your approach to success in the music industry?

macfound2 karma

DP, That's a great question. In the root of this also reside two other questions: what is it that we are calling success, and what is it that we call music industry?. The music industry has many branches, publication, publicity, distribution, music presenters, and others.... I have always felt that I could do much better in the music industry if I had the complete answer to your question. For example, so far I always find myself doing everything: I write, play, produce and release all my works on my label Dafnison Music. "I decided not to wait for any magic deal from a mayor label because it just has not happened to me." In other words, my approach is to keep the strength and desire alive so that I can concentrate in delivering an honest and sincere message while still making a living from it.

1tudore1 karma

What would you define as the most significant recent trends in Cuban culture (in general, and/or in music & literature specifically)?

macfound1 karma

RB: Cubans have been engaged in a religious revitalization over the last twenty years, responding to the enforced atheism of revolutionary culture with a search for spirituality. It is striking to see the wide number of Cubans who are involved in the religion of Ocha, popularly known as Santería. It is common now to see recent initiates dressed completely in white, especially in Havana. The African roots of Cuban culture have left a major imprint on Cuban music and continue to do so, now with even greater vitality. There are also growing numbers of Cubans who practice the religions of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism. Those involved in religion build strong ties with communities outside of Cuba and in this way not only receive charitable aid from American religious communities but also are connected to news and information from beyond the island.

1tudore1 karma

What are the consequences of this increased spirituality?

Is there expanded mutual support within religious communities?

What are the consequences of connection with outside co-religionists? Doctrinal diversification?

What do those charitable contributions facilitate? Do they help people overcome isolated crises or are the sufficient for building stronger institutions (be they formally religious institutions, or programs/businesses that support the community)?

macfound1 karma

RB: Thanks for these questions. Not sure I can answer quickly enough. The consequence of increased spirituality in Cuba is that people have been thinking deeply about the relation between political power and divine power and this has led to many of the economic and social changes that have taken place. There is mutual support within the religious communities--medications, for example, are often provided by these communities to those who need them, through the donations that come from U.S. religious missions. The consequences of connection with co-religionists are many, but perhaps the most important is a sense of belonging to a wider, global community.

1tudore1 karma

What resources/tools would you recommend to someone who is unable to travel, but is still interested in learning more about the island as it is today?

macfound2 karma

RB: These are also great sites: (Public scholarship about a changing Cuba) (Cuban art and culture worldwide) (An advocate for U.S-Cuba policy that is in the best interests of both the American and the Cuban people)

macfound1 karma

DP, the internet is a great platform for information. Also books, music, and so forth.

1tudore1 karma

Do you see the various segments of Cuban society benefiting evenly from this normalization? If not, how do you think the benefits will be distributed?

macfound2 karma

RB: This is a worrisome issue. The benefits of normalization will be unequal. Already now, as the tourist industry grows in Cuba, there are class divisions that will only increase over time. Remittances are helping people in Cuba to raise their standard of living and open up private businesses, but those who have family abroad with significant capital are often white Cubans. As a result, class divisions are very racialized, making the future of black Cubans on the island more uncertain. Those at the bottom of the social ladder are very concerned about losing the educational and medical safety net they depend on, as well as the rationed foods that, though minimal, do help to round out their diet. Hopefully these concerns will be heard, so that the positive social accomplishments -- literacy and a highly educated population, most of all, aren't lost in coming years.

macfound1 karma

DP, evenly?. This is going to be a very long process, and I'm hoping that whatever benefit comes from this relationship will have a set of human and social priorities like health, education, food, housing, and culture in general.