Categorized | Media, Scene

Skating for Peace

 

Cuba Skate

**Award-Winning VIDEO**

 

Skippy Massey
Humboldt Sentinel

 

 

Sport has the ability to change the world, the power to inspire, the power to unite in a way little else can.

It speaks to the youth in a language they understand.  Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.  It is an instrument for peace.

-Nelson Mandela

 

It’s a movement in motion.

In a country where a sport that represented social rebellion was unlikely to be tolerated, a small group of skaters created their own gear with whatever materials they could find– and started a small revolution.

Traffic is a playground.  Darting between smog-choked ’58 Chevys, Havana’s sidewalk surfers are both fluid and elusive, emerging long enough for passersby to catch a glimpse before dissipating into the waves of afternoon haze.

But, in the land of baseball, rum, and Castro (in that order), spotting these mercurial figures isn’t as hard as it used to be.  They are present more than ever, attached to four rackety wheels clattering over rutted pavement and ruptured sidewalks.

They are the faces of a sport on the rise:  the newest generation of Cuban skateboarders.

While skateboarding has been in Cuba for over three decades it has remained underground during the touchy political climate of the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Around the world, the sport has always represented a level of social rebellion.  Its attitude wasn’t tolerated during the era that saw Castro tighten his political grip to keep his nation afloat.  

This was the atmosphere when Che Alejandro Pando Napoles began
skateboarding at age 10.

“I’ve been skating for 30 years,” says Napoles, a popular Havana tattoo artist and considered one of the founding members of skating in Cuba.  “In the beginning it was very difficult because there weren’t many materials…. No one had anything to skate with so they’d just invent things—boards, wheels, those kind of things.”

Slowly these little ingenuities birthed a small skate culture, and skaters like Che, as his boarding brethren know him, took to the streets of Havana.

They adopted the mantra, Patinar o Muerte (skate or die)—a clever play on Che Guevara’s famous call, Patria o Muerte (homeland or death)—and started hitting the small ledges, stair sets, and concrete structures around the city, and trying their hands at amateur filming.

Welcoming anyone wanting to skate, the pack frequented a public square that featured three small ledges and some park benches.  The spot, at the corner of the capital city’s 23 and G avenues, became a gathering spot for skaters and the namesake of Godfather Che’s 23yG posse.

“I began skating because one day I came here to 23rd and G and saw a lot of people skating, Che, and others,” says 23yG member Carlos Yandri, 17.   “I liked it, and ever since, skating has been part of my life.”

With the influence of the 23yG squad, the sport continued to gain a foothold on the island.  In the mid-2000s the crew built a skate park in Havana, the first in all of Cuba.

Though it could hardly be considered anything but graffiti on concrete with a few handrails and ramps, the park represented a major step forward for a community that for many years had been entirely invisible.

“I like to go to the skate park with my friends,” says skater Orlando Rosales. “We share tricks and skate styles with each other.”

But despite the increased interest, the most daunting fact remains: Cubans have no domestic access to skate gear.

While at first glance skaters dress and act much like their American and European counterparts, a closer look reveals ripped, blown-out footwear and boards sporting fault-line cracks patched with old bumper stickers.  Some even forego footwear altogether, sacrificing comfort and economy for a little more grip.

The recent relaxation of borders and an influx of tourists have helped.  The situation brings in a slow trickle of skate supplies from the outside world but Che describes the aid as, “just a small drop in a big ocean.”

Organizations like American-born Cuba Skate and its parent organization, Skating for Peace, along with private contributors like pro skaters Ryan Sheckler and Bob Burnquist, have landed boards and supplies in Cuba.

But the process is difficult.  

According to Che, packages must be small to get through strict Cuban customs offices, so there is no chance of delivering the mass supply of goods needed by skaters in the Caribbean nation.

Still, the sport has made inroads on the island.  For one, it no longer sits in the shadows.  The skate culture is young, vibrant and full of energy.  In many ways skaters embody the Cuban mentality: adapting to less-than-ideal conditions, and skating on whatever they have and wherever they can.

“SK8,” as it’s commonly referenced, has become engrained in the nation’s sport culture, a necessary place for the sport’s survival into the future. 

And it has a mission.  Cuba Skate says on their Facebook page:

We are Americans and Cubans.  We are skaters, surfers, and BMXers.  We are brothers who love and support each other in every facet of life.  

We will change the relations for the better between our two countries and we will do many other great things.

 

For many, including 23yG videographer Robert Gomez, a university student, skating is more than just a pastime. 

“If I didn’t skate,” Gomez says like any American youth, “I really don’t know what I’d do.”

 

 

Via Skating for Peace/Cuba Skate/Vimeo

 

Please share this and us with others
and we would love to have you join us
on Twitter and Facebook

Leave a Reply

HumSentinel on Twitter

RSS Progressive Review

  • Jazz break
    Billie Holiday: "Trav'lin' Light"       […]
  • Scientists find direct link between fracking and earthquakes
    Think Progress - A team of scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have found evidence “directly linking” the uptick in Colorado and New Mexico earthquakes since 2001 to wastewater injection, a process widely used in the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and conventional drilling.In a study to be published in the Bulletin of th […]
  • Who cares who was a communist?
    From 50 years of our overstocked archivesSam Smith, 2006 -  Who cares who was a communist?Reading about Arthur Miller's alleged Communist connections brings to mind some unfinished business for American historians: a fair account of American Communists. Even today, the image projected by the media is heavily tilted towards the FBI version of the tale, a […]
  • Department of Good Stuff: Media
    Alternet Common Dreams Counterpunch Firedog Lake Guardian Information Clearinghouse Intercept In These Times Make It Plain Popular Resistance Portside Progressive Magazine Progressive Review Raw Story Truthdig Truthout […]
  • US Jewish organizations funding US police officers' training In Israel
    Center for Invesigative Reporting - At least 300 high-ranking sheriffs and police from agencies large and small – from New York and Maine to Orange County and Oakland, California – have traveled to Israel for privately funded seminars in what is described as counterterrorism techniques.... In many places, the image of the friendly cop on the beat has been re […]
  • Largest city in Vermont now gets all its power from wind, solar and biomass
    Think Progress - The 42,000 people living in Burlington, Vermont can now feel confident that when they turn on their TVs or power up their computers they are using renewable energy. With the purchase of the 7.4 megawatt Winooski One hydroelectric project earlier this month, the Burlington Electric Department now owns or contracts renewable sources — includin […]
  • America's first big success in war against ISIS
    Daily Mail, UK -  More than 6,000 new recruits have joined ISIS since America started targeting the terrorist group with air strikes last month, it has been claimed.Of those radical Muslims flocking to ISIS' ranks, at least 1,300 are foreigners who have arrived from outside the vast swaths of Syria and Iraq currently under the group's control, acco […]
  • Two thirds in capital want to legalize pot
    DCist -A majority of D.C. voters want marijuana legalized in the District, according to a Washington Post-NBC4-Marist poll.Of likely voters polled, 65 percent are in favor of Initiative 71, which would legalize the growing of no more than six cannabis plants and possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. That number goes up to 71 percent when just looking […]
  • 47 states have poverty rates above pre-recession
    Off the Charts - Poverty remained above pre-recession levels last year in 47 states plus the District of Columbia, our analysis of Census data shows.  In some states, the increase was substantial — in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, and Nevada, poverty rates were four to five percentage points higher in 2013 than in 2007.  The stubbornness of high pov […]
  • New study projects population in 2100 two billion higher than former predictions
    Slashdot - Using modern statistical tools, a new study led by the University of Washington and the United Nations finds that world population is likely to keep growing throughout the 21st century. The number of people on Earth is likely to reach 11 billion by 2100, the study concludes, about 2 billion higher than widely cited previous estimates. The paper pu […]
  • Word: Spanking has a negative effect
    Child Trends - Use of corporal punishment is linked to negative outcomes for children (e.g., delinquency, antisocial behavior, psychological problems, and alcohol and drug abuse), and may be indicative of ineffective parenting. Research also finds that the number of problem behaviors observed in adolescence is related to the amount of spanking a child receiv […]
  • US marriages at 90 year low
    The Census Bureau reported Thursday that the nation’s marriage rate is the lowest since 1920, and the first-time inclusion of same sex married couples did little to reverse the decline.According to Pew Research Center analysis, the marriage rate of Americans 18 and older hit a bottom of 50.3 percent in 2013, down from 50.5 percent in 2012. In 1920, the first […]
  • Arthur the polar bear suffers through climate change
    Daily Mail, UK - His shaggy white coat is perfectly ­suited to icy conditions as low as minus 40C in his Arctic circle habitat. But it is hell in this concrete enclosure at Argentina’s Mendoza Zoo, where the temperature can reach 40C (104F).Tragic Arturo – Spanish for Arthur – has been a sad tourist attraction at the zoo for around 20 years.He is thought to […]
  • Pocket paradigms
    Neo-liberal: Someone who thinks the Constitution's commerce clause is more important to defend and expand than the 1st or 4th Amendments. - Sam Smith […]
  • Word
    Contrary to common belief even among the educated, Huxley and Orwell did not prophesy the same thing. Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley's vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore th […]