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

  • Bottom 90% worse off than in 1987
    Washington Post - Once upon a time, the American economy worked for everybody, and even the middle class got richer. But this story has only been a fairy tale for almost 30 years now. The new, harsh reality is that the bottom 90 percent of households are poorer today than they were in 1987.This is actually a much more dramatic statement than it sounds. While […]
  • US deporting asylum seekers
    immigration Impact -Human Right Watch  issued a report last week documenting serious flaws in the procedures used to deport noncitizens apprehended at or near the border—flaws that are resulting in the deportation of Central Americans who face serious harm in their home countries. The report is based on interviews of 35 noncitizens detained in the United Sta […]
  • How Watergate almost didn't happen
    Sam Smith - The passing of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee has brought back memories of the 1972 break-in at the Watergate and, for me, a story I learned about how the incident almost didn't happen. The Washingtonian Magazine reported a few years ago: Across the street in the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge, a “spotter” for the burglars, Alfred C. Baldw […]
  • Word
    Paul (Race Horse) Mitchell, 57, of one address right after another, died on the street here yesterday, unexpectedly, and after a long illness, but mostly from two bullet wounds in his chest... The grief, if it may be allowed to pass for that, was dry-eyed enough but it had those overtones of sincerity which lend a definite, if indefinable, dignity to the hum […]
  • September 11, 2001
     From 50 years of our overstocked archivesSam Smith, September 12, 2001 - Throughout the day came contrasting images of Americans. The indefatigably courageous rescue workers - turned gray and white by pulverized matter. The innocent survivors resourcefully joining hands to follow the one flashlight out of a building or using a cell phone to locate themselve […]
  • Urban farming in Singapore
    NPR […]
  • Climate change could affect the fall scene
    Think Progress - The phenomenon of brilliant red and gold autumn foliage might change due to the large amount of carbon dioxide we put in the atmosphere, and the resulting warmth that carbon traps inside.The higher concentration of carbon dioxide itself might actually make fall colors brighter, Howard Neufeld, a professor of physiological plant ecology at Ap […]
  • Links: Young America
    Young news Colleges & universities Generation gap Statistics Student loans & debt Groups CENTER FOR CAMPUS ORGANIZING EDUCATORS FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBLITY STUDENTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY STUDENT ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION COALITION Academic Freedom AD HOC COMMITTEE TO DEFEND THE UNIVERSITY FNDTN FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS IN EDUCATION Student Debt Student Debt […]
  • Pocket paradigms
    To accept the full consequences of the degradation of the environment, the explosion of incarceration, the creeping militarization, the dismantling of democracy, the commodification of culture, the contempt for the real, the culture of impunity among the powerful and the zero tolerance towards the weak, requires a courage that seems beyond us. We do not know […]
  • Recovered history: The real Clinton story
    Things the media forgets to tell you about the Clintons and the state that made them.1960s A federal investigation concludes that Hot Springs has the largest illegal gambling operations in the United States. Clinton goes to Georgetown University where he finds a mentor in Professor Carroll Quigley. Quigley writes: "That the two political parties should […]
  • Leading German journalist claims he was forced to write CIA propaganda under his name
    RT, Russia -  German journalist and editor Udo Ulfkotte says he was forced to publish the works of intelligence agents under his own name, adding that noncompliance ran the risk of being fired. “I ended up publishing articles under my own name written by agents of the CIA and other intelligence services, especially the German secret service,” Ulfkotte told R […]
  • Winners in Afghanistan: Corruption and the drug trade
     Paul Shinkman, US News - Corruption is tearing Afghanistan apart, fueled largely by an illegal drug trade that has reached new highs despite billions spent in U.S. counternarcotics efforts. And the U.S., leading up to a full withdrawal in 2016, does not have a plan to fight it.These are the findings of two new reports released over the last few days by the […]
  • What's happening
    Colorado health officials want to ban marijuana brownies @yesmagazine reports that the European Union sets the poverty level at 60% of median income. That's $30,832 in US. […]
  • Links: Words & Writing
    Words & writing news   ESSAYS ON WRITING Post literate America Words & meaning The missing predicate in my life SomeRulesForWriting L.L.C. (SRFW)! A few thoughts about writing Words and cruelty The rise of "fuck" What's a humanities? Cliche challenge Harder to read than Ulysses Just words on words     OTHER Pocket paradigmsQuotations   […]
  • Recovered history: The real Clinton story
    Sam Smith - One of the ways that politicians running for election handle embarrassing stories is to get them out of the way early.  This may explain Monica Lewinsky, after nearly twenty years of quietude, suddenly coming out with a speech in which she essentially blames it all on the media.  But as the conservative commentator Ben Shapiro correctly notes: Wh […]