Poet Richard Blanco Talks About Cuba and His New Literary Project

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This month, Bridges to/from Cuba—a writing blog with the goal of ending the “emotional” embargo between the U.S. and Cuba—launched. Soon after, cofounders and writers Ruth Behar and Richard Blanco took a week long tour of the island to spread the word and introduce each other to friends, relatives, and locals interested in the project. New Times spoke with Blanco about their trip, the blog, and the new era of U.S.-Cuban relations.

New Times: Where in Cuba is your family from?
Richard Blanco: I have family in Cienfuegos and spread around all of that area in small sugar mill towns. [His parents are from El Espartaco.]

Where did you go during your visit to Cuba?
We were in Havana for a few days, Cienfuegos for a couple of days, then out to two of the small towns where my parents are from. We also went to Matanzas—where I had never been—and then circled back to Havana.

Where did you hold readings in Cuba?
We met with two chapters of a writers’ collective in Cuba. We did two readings—one in Havana and one in Cienfuegos—and that was very informal, to connect them with the project of Bridges to/from Cuba. We also met with Casa de las Americas, which is a cultural center where a lot of exchange students stay.

How are you planning to recruit writers for the blog?
Between my partner Ruth [Behar] and myself we already have a list of over a hundred people that we want to use. For the original project we thought it would be more of a guest blog, but we’ve had such a great response from people who want to share their stories who aren’t necessarily writers or don’t want to write an 800-word blog, so we’re thinking that as it evolves we’ll have a chat space where people can sort of drop in and share something.

How often will you post on the Bridges to/from Cuba website?
For now the big piece will probably be once a month. We also want to do mini posts because there is so much going on in the news and so many interesting things in terms of projects.

Are you planning to have any readings in Miami?
Actually, yes. Nothing is set in stone, but Mitch Kaplan [co-founder of the Miami International Book Fair and founder of Books & Books] who is such a wonderful icon of South Florida and of the book world, told me to let him know if I wanted to do something at Books & Books. I think it’d be good once we have a few blogs in to have sort of a live blog event.

You and Ruth have said you want to keep the project non political. How do you plan on doing that?
We’re trying to avoid any hysterical rant on one end or the other. One of the reasons we wanted to do this is because there are so many layers and nuances that weren’t in the news and people don’t hear about. We’re just trying to avoid being affiliated with any overtly political organization or media. You know, there’s a saying in Spanish: Hablando se entiende todo, hablando se entiende la gente.

What we hope to do is to provoke a little bit, and have people think a little bit deeper than they have in the past. I’ve had to think very deeply over the past few months about how I feel about all of this [the lifting of the embargo] and I realized that it’s a lot more complex than I ever thought.

For more information visit learn more visit bridgestocuba.com.

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