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Cuba Nostalgia Convention Under Way With a Jab at Spain

Fidel and his good buddy King Juan Carlos of Spain

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Anyone who has been to Cuba knows that the country of Spain plays a huge role in the island’s tourism sector.

Because of relaxed foreign investment rules, Spanish companies have sunk mucho dinero into Cuban hotels -- $75 million as of 1995. Many of the country’s top resorts, most notably the Sol Melia chain, hail from Spain. And Cuba is a top tropical destination for Spaniards, who can travel to the island for an all-inclusive vacation that costs only a few hundred Euros.

This collaboration infuriates Miami Cuban exiles, who say that instead of lining Fidel’s pockets, the Spaniards should boycott the place.

A group of bloggers is taking their anger about this issue to the streets, in the form of protest advertising and online posts. Bloggers United For a Cuban Liberty will place giant outdoor posters in front of the Spanish Consulate and the Spanish Cultural Center, both in Coral Gables. “Spain: Exploiting Cubans for over 500 years,” read the posters. “End Spanish support of apartheid in Cuba.”

The effort was announced Friday at the Cuba Nostalgia Convention, in front of the www.babalublog.com exhibit.

Henry Gomez, a Miami Cuban blogger, said that Spain encourages “modern day slavery” by employing thousands of Cubans in hotels on the island – Cubans who take home only eight percent of their wages, can’t unionize, and have no say in their working conditions. Under Cuba law, those same Cubans are prohibited from taking vacations in those very hotels.

“Spain certainly has more leverage to advocate change for Cuba but less incentive to do so,” Gomez said.

The protest against the Spanish investments coincides with the 105th anniversary of Cuban Independence Day, which is Sunday (that’s the day Cubans celebrate their liberation from Spanish rule).

Even if you’re not interested in Cuban exile politics, this weekend’s Cuba Nostalgia Convention is a pretty unique way to spend a few hours. The convention runs through Sunday night; cost is $12 for adults and $6 for kids.

Held at the Miami-Dade County Fair and Exposition Center off Coral Way and SW 112 Avenue, the convention highlights the Cuba of ayer.

There are tributes to Cuban baseball teams from the 1940s, a replica of a Havana cemetery arch, and various antique depictions of la Virgen de la Caridad, among other things. It’s also a great place to buy Cuban music and books – there are several vendors selling both throughout the convention hall. Several Cuban art galleries have set up shop, showing works by Wilfredo Lam and other famous island artists. Tasty music and food are scattered throughout (make sure to check out the caja china demonstration).

One highlight is a replica of the famous Malecon, the sea wall that graces Havana and serves as a meeting point, lover’s lane and impromptu party spot for Cubans of all ages.

There’s one thing that the convention’s Malecon has that the real one doesn’t, however: graffiti that says “Abajo Fidel,” or “down with Fidel.”

That’s a sentiment permissible only in Miami, not the real Cuba.

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