The first TEDx in Cuba: An event in Habana, two years in the making

TED Blog

A rooftop view of Habana, Cuba, which just welcomed its first TEDx event. Photo: Courtesy of Andres Levin A rooftop view of Habana, Cuba, which just welcomed its first TEDx event. Photo: Courtesy of Andres Levin

By Jenny Groza

Habana, Cuba, which was called “the rich man’s playground” before World War II, now evokes an air of mystery—a giant question mark. Are there still midcentury cars roaming the streets? Blighted neighborhoods with broken windows and collapsing roofs? Citizens eking out a living after years of oppression?

These, says Andres Levin, the organizer of TEDxHabana, are common misconceptions about what life in Cuba is actually like. “There’s a thriving arts and music scene, and people are figuring out how to use technology, considering the obvious limitations,” he says. “The TEDx format is allowing us to bring these like-minded people together.”

In 2012, Levin and and his wife, CuCu Diamantes, applied for a TEDx license to hold an event in Habana, Cuba — the first TEDx event in the…

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New Immigrants Bring Opportunities to Small Towns

New Immigrants Bring Opportunities to Small Towns

According to the Center for Rural Affairs:

“Immigration is reshaping the landscape of rural America. A rapidly growing Hispanic population is driving the trend. New immigrants are offsetting population loss, a challenge faced by many small communities.  In our home state of Nebraska, the Hispanic population will triple by 2050, accounting for 25% of the state population. More than 40% of this growth is happening in rural communities. The majority population in several Nebraska small towns has shifted to Hispanic.”

Two areas to focus on include:

  1. Building inclusive and welcoming communities
  2. Small business development

Experience in Self-Reflection

This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a seminar on place, culture, home, and identity in New Mexico. I was one of about 15 people who joined the conversation.

We learned much about ourselves and how culture and identity are impacted by place. I struggled with how to explain what I learned and how I feel, but below I will highlight some of the key reflections I’m taking home:

1. Life is in all forms. Your ability to eliminate the distance between you and anything else brings greater harmony and allows relationships to flourish.
2. Identity and life transitions are deeply affected by place and space.
3. Sharing a story is so often not valued but it is immensely important to understanding any other person. Not only are you sharing in the words for that instant, but in fact you are sharing in their experience.
4. We should strive for more intentional conversations. Instead of shying away from difficult and important topics, we should embrace the opportunity and learn to see the world through another’s eyes.
5. We share a common humanity and are all connected through a lifeblood provided by the universe.
6. Nothing is perfect. Nothing is permanent. And nothing is ever finished.
7. “Being face to face, you cannot see the face. You must step back to see.” (Russian proverb)
8. We find our own meaning in everything we see, feel, hear, say, and experience. We are the authors of our lives, and meanings and interpretations can change as we change or reflect.
9. We are all only a path of greater understanding. It’s a journey, not a destination. It might be slow and tough, but there’s no parking along the way.

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The many deep, intentional conversations, the beauty of nature, and open mindfulness shaped this experience of a wonderful, peaceful place. I can’t wait for next time!

Cuba, Cuba, Cuba!

In February 2011, I was privileged to be able to visit Havana, Cuba for a week as part of a medical health research team.  We had the wonderful opportunity to work with artists, musicians, dancers, and many other people that form part of the arts, culture, and health sectors within Cuba.  We had got the chance to talk with many of these artists and work with them to improve their immediate workplace surroundings to improve their occupational health and safety practices.

In the Ceramics Lab at La Escuela Superior de Arte (ISA)

We visited some world-renowned people and places including: Jose Fuster, Instituto Superior de Arte, Lester Campos,

Painting by Jose Fuster

Callejon de Hamel, National Hotel, Lizet Allonso Ballet Folkorico, Old Havana, the International Film School, Casa de Amistad, and much much more.  Cuba was definitely a beautiful place filled with so much history.  I am happy that I had an opportunity to see Cuba first-hand, and I hope to be able to establish some partnerships with organizations and individuals so that I can go back again soon!