Known as the Grand Dame of Cuba, Alicia Alonso was voted one of the most beautiful women in the world by Harpers and Queen Magazine in the 1950s. At 16, she got married and moved to New York, but determined to promote ballet in Cuba, she set up the Alicia Alonso Ballet Company in 1948. But by the mid-fifties, the company had run into financial difficulties and political problems. Alicia left Cuba once again to return after Batista’s government had been overthrown by the Cuban Revolution in 1959. With generous funding from the government, she founded the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. Cuban ballet, while inﬂuenced by Russian and Soviet styles, is now recognized the world over as having its own unique form.
Of mixed Spanish and African heritage, Carlos Acosta was the eleventh and last child of an impoverished family in one of the roughest areas of Havana. He grew up with no toys and didn’t even have a birthday cake until he was 23. Fearing his youngest hyperactive child would soon land in trouble, Pedro Acosta enrolled his son in a governmentfunded dance school hoping it would teach the boy discipline. He studied ballet at the Cuban National Ballet School, and before joining England’s Royal Ballet in 1998, Acosta had danced with esteemed dance companies in North America and Europe. At present, Carlos Acosta has his own company and his ballet Tocororo—A Cuban Tale has received worldwide plaudits.
Israel Rojas (lawyer) and Yoel Martínez (musician) formed Buena Fe in Guantánamo Province in 1999. Their music has a unique sound, with trova, pop and rock inﬂuences. Although experts classify their music as pop, they prefer to avoid categories. Their lyrics are a means for the authors to express their opinions on contemporary life. In the words of Israel himself, “We try to make an art that doesn’t silence truths, that doesn’t hide shadows, that points to the light. For that, you have to take risks.”
Revered as one of the world’s greatest jazz pianists, Jesús Dionisio “Chucho” Valdés has won three Grammy awards (1978, 2000 and 2011) and four Latin Grammy awards (1997, 2001, 2002 and 2011), and was nominated Good Will Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). His compositions are complex and can be described as narrations which could be summarized into a single story. According to Chucho himself, the kind of jazz that they play can be described as contemporary Cuban music.
The renowned director of the Teatro El Público theater company wanted to be an actor since he was a child. The first group he founded gave him the opportunity to experiment and begin to explore the path that his future company would travel. For Carlos Diaz, the most important thing in theater is communicating with an audience. He believes that theatrical art should be made to entertain the public. A carefully chosen repertoire and a consistent style of work are responsible for the long lines outside the Trianón theater.
Movie maker and screenwriter Fernando Pérez Valdés started out as an assistant director before directing his first documentary. His films Clandestinos (1987), Madagascar (1994), La vida es silbar (1998) and Suite Habana (2003) are considered masterpieces of the Cuban cinema, with the latter being regarded by some critics as the best Cuban film in decades. Martí, el ojo del canario premiered in 2010 and earned several awards in the Film Festival circuit. Also a writer, his book Corresponsales de Guerra won the 1982 Casa de las Américas Prize.
A former amateur heavyweight boxer, Félix Savón Fabré is considered a boxing legend, winner of three gold medals at the Olympic Games, six world titles, three gold medals at the Pan American Games and four gold medals at the Central American and Caribbean Games. During his career, in which Savón never turned professional, he held a record of 362 wins and 21 losses, with all of his losses avenged.
Currently the world record holder in high jump, Javier Sotomayor was the dominant high jumper of the 1990s. He is regarded as the best high jumper of all time and is the only person to have ever cleared 2.45 meters. At 19 years of age, Sotomayor was already raked No. 5 in the world. He set his first world record at 2.43 meters in Spain in 1988. Then raised it in 1989 and again in 1993, with the 1993 record taking him only four jumps. Only 12 men have jumped 2.40 meters or higher, with only three repeating the feat: C. Thränhardt did it twice, P. Sjöberg did it four times and Sotomayor did it 24 times. And of the 24 all-time best high jumps, 17 are his.
Former Director of Cuba’s National Weather Forecast Center, José Rubiera’s areas of expertise include weather forecast, hurricanes, early warnings and the impact of hurricanes on society. He is the author of some fifty scientific articles and reports, a textbook and several brochures on the weather in the tropics. He has also given lectures in over sixty scientific events and meetings both in Cuba and overseas. However, he is probably best known for his work as weather forecaster on national television. His life work has earned him numerous decorations from the Council of State and an Honoris Causa Degree in Physics from the University of Las Villas.
Leonardo Padura was born in the outlying Havana district of Mantilla where he still lives. He studied Spanish American Literature at the University of Havana, and in 1983 published his first novel. He spent considerable part of his life writing journalism, an experience that most probably led him to explore and understand the mentality of large audiences. To a considerable extent, Leonardo Padura has made significant contributions to the notion of rethinking the prototype of writer that has historically prevailed within our tradition. He is one of our intellectuals who have defended the right for Cuban writers and artists in Cuba to regain real prominence in public spaces so that their views and ideas do not continue to be diminished by different types of censorship.
Thanks to LaHabana.com for this article.