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ElTOQUE is an independent multimedia platform focused on the storytelling of Cuba
Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return
Laura Rique Valero

Forced Labor, Forced Exile: The Cuban Professionals Sent Abroad To Work, Never To Return

Noel, a Cuban engineer who had to emigrate to the faraway island of Saint Lucia, tells about the Cuban government's systematic intimidation techniques and coercion of its professionals abroad. He now knows he can never go back to his native island — lest he should never be allowed to leave Cuba again.

Daniela* was just one year old when she last played with her father. In a video her mother recorded, the two can be seen lying on the floor, making each other laugh.

Three years have passed since then. Daniela's sister, Dunia*, was born — but she has never met her father in person, only connecting through video calls. Indeed, between 2019 and 2023, the family changed more than the two little girls could understand.

"Dad, are you here yet? I'm crazy excited to talk to you."

"Dad, I want you to call today and I'm going to send you a kiss."

"Dad, I want you to come for a long time. I want you to call me; call me, dad."

Three voice messages which Daniela has left her father, one after the other, on WhatsApp this Saturday. His image appears on the phone screen, and the two both light up.

The girls can’t explain what their father looks like in real life: how tall or short or thin he is, how he smells or how his voice sounds — the real one, not what comes out of the speaker. Their version of their dad is limited to a rectangular, digital image. There is nothing else, only distance, and problems that their mother may never share with them.

In 2020, Noel*, the girls' father, was offered a two-to-three-year employment contract on a volcanic island in the Caribbean, some 2,000 kilometers from Cuba. The family needed the money. What came next was never in the plans.

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Le Weekend: Killers’ Georgian Apology, Portrait Photographer Of The Year, AI & Pink Floyd
In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Chloé Touchard

Le Weekend: Killers’ Georgian Apology, Portrait Photographer Of The Year, AI & Pink Floyd

👋 សួស្តី*

Welcome to Saturday, where we take a look back at what’s been happening in the culture world this week, from the Georgian apology of U.S. rock band The Killers to the AI reconstruction of a Pink Floyd song using brainwaves and the rediscovery of a long lost Korean artwork. For our special Summer Reads edition of Worldcrunch Today, we feature an article by Ana Narciso in Portuguese news website Mensagem — and three other stories from around the world on culture and tradition.

[*Susadei - Khmer, Cambodia]


• The Killers band apologizes for playing with Russian fan on stage: The American alternative-rock band The Killers issued an apology after bringing on stage a Russian fan and declaring their fans were all “brothers and sisters” at a show in Batumi, Georgia. The lead singer's comment was met with boos and whistles from the Georgian crowd. The band released a statement on their Facebook page, stating that “it was never [their] intention to offend anyone” in Georgia, a country that faced its own Russian invasion in 2008, and is overwhelmingly pro-Ukrainian in the conflict between Kyiv and Moscow.

• Iranian photographer rewarded for portrait series of Black women: Iranian-born photographer Forough Yavari won the International Portrait Photographer of the Year competition for a second time. The photographer was awarded the prestigious title for her “Salvation” series, inspired by Langston Hughes' poems, which features portraits of Black women enhanced by hand-crafted gold pigments.

• AI recreates Pink Floyd song using brainwaves: Scientists have managed to reconstruct Pink Floyd's “Another Brick in the Wall” using brainwave recordings. The team analyzed brain recordings from 29 patients and used artificial intelligence to encode a reproduction of the sound and words, resulting in a muffled but recognizable version of the British band's famous song. The breakthrough could be used to restore musicality of speech for people with neurological conditions and shed light on how our brains process music and rhythm.

• Family reunion after lost Korean artwork is rediscovered: After it went missing for more than six decades, the 1955 painting titled Family by renowned modern Korean artist Chang Ucchin has been rediscovered by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Korea. The long-lost artwork, last sold to a Japanese collector in 1964, will be showcased in the museum’s upcoming exhibition dedicated to the artist.

• Leonard Bernstein’s family defends Bradley Cooper in biopic controversy: The family of Leonard Bernstein has come to the defense of actor Bradley Cooper amid controversy surrounding Cooper’s biopic of the late composer. The first trailer of Maestro, released earlier this week, drew criticism for displaying offensive Jewish stereotypes, due in particular to the size of Cooper’s nose, who used makeup to enhance his appearance as Leonard Bernstein. “It breaks our hearts to see any misrepresentations or misunderstandings of his efforts,” said the composer’s family members in a statement posted online. The movie is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September, before being released on Netflix in December.


Marchas Populares, A Great Lisbon Tradition Is Missing Men

The Marchas Populares, Lisbon's summertime carnival parades, are a spectacle of dancing and music — but a shortage of money, free time and men who want to dance are endangering this midsummer tradition, report Ana Narciso and Inês Leote for Portuguese news website Mensagem.

With evictions in the city's “soul” neighborhoods and the aging of residents who have carried on traditions, it sometimes seems that a basic sense of community in Lisbon is fading away.

Nine years shy of their 100th year, Lisbon's traditional Popular Marches — nighttime carnival parades through the city's neighborhoods — are having a hard time finding participants to join the march, especially men.

Meanwhile, just across the river from Lisbon, in nearby municipalities Setúbal and Charneca da Caparica, the solution is to take marchers from one bank to the other.

For many of the participants in this traditional choreography, it no longer matters whether they dance for the neighborhood São Domingos de Benfica, Bica or Campo de Ourique. What they want is to keep going every year, and to save the future of this tradition, which for years has been struggling with a lack of men.

The tradition started in 1932, sparked by journalist José Leitão Barros, who launched it in Notícias Ilustrado, in partnership with Diário de Lisboa. Luís Pastor de Macedo, a councilor responsible for culture, sponsored the first march and included it in the program of festivities in the city of Lisbon.

This year, Frazão is the marshal of the marches in the São Domingos de Benfica district. Everything from the costumes to the marches and lyrics will be created by him.

Frazão explains that it is not difficult to find women to participate. In São Domingos de Benfica, 38 showed up, but they could only take 25 – each march is limited to 25 men and 25 women. In Setúbal, they don't even open registration any more, he says: "They have been marchers for many years, and when there has to be a replacement, the daughter or a cousin usually comes to take the woman's place.”

With men, there is always a greater concern, both in Lisbon and in Setúbal.

“Many think that this is a woman's thing, and others that dancing is not very masculine. There are collectives that already choose to have only 10 men. The rest are women," he says.

So why has the shortage of men only become a problem recently? In the past, marches were seen as a place to find a partner. This is less common today — although there are still some, like Carmen and Nuno Jones, who find love at the marches.

“They were born from the march and have it in their blood,” says Carmen Jones, pointing to three children walking a little further ahead, towards the rehearsal field. When she was about 14, she started going to the March of the Cosmos, an extinct collective in Setúbal. Then, in 1997, she joined the Independente march, where she met Nuno. She was 19 and he was 17. “He's the one who messed with me! He stole my first kiss before the presentation in the bullring. He told me it was for good luck,” she says, smiling. They met on the march, fell in love, got married and had three children. Carmen didn't stop marching even while pregnant.

“Joana, my eldest, was born in April. I didn't miss a rehearsal. One day I was rehearsing; the next day she was born and the next rehearsal I was here again. I left her with my sister and spent the rehearsal calling home to ask if everything was okay. For Alexandre, the middle one, I also marched while pregnant. On the day of the presentation, I had to fix the skirt with rubber bands because my stomach was so big that I couldn’t put the buttons together any more.”

This is the first year for Inês, the youngest, as a marcher. The 12-year-old has been part of the march since she was four, first as a mascot – the child who accompanies godparents in the parade. Too old to be a mascot and too young to be a street vendor, Inês stopped last year, but still went with family to rehearsals. [...]

Read the full Mensagem article, translated into English by Worldcrunch.


Image of people checking their phone on the subway.

People checking their phone on the subway.

Hugh Han

A simple tale from Italy of a hundred strangers in a waiting room, and the limits of our modern obsession with privacy, written by journalist Concita De Gregorio for Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Read the full story: How I Lost My Smartphone And Found My Neighbors


Image of fishermen on Lake Kivu.

Fishermen on Lake Kivu.


Rwandan fishers dive into the silent waters of one of Africa's largest lakes. The rhythms are relatively calm, but a lifetime of hard work rarely adds up to much where earning even a euro a day is a long shot, as journalist Alfonso Masoliver writes for Spanish newspaper La Razon.

Read the full story: Fill My Nets, Row Me Home: The Fleeting Fortunes Of Lake Kivu Fishermen


Image of Alsogaray smoking a cigar at her shop in Buenos Aires.

Alsogaray smoking a cigar at her shop in Buenos Aires.


For the first time, Cuba's prestigious annual cigar festival recognized a woman, Alsogaray, owner of an iconic cigar shop in Buenos Aires, as the top representative of this celebrated lifeline of the Cuban economy, as journalist Mariana Iglesias writes for Argentine newspaper Clarín.

Read the full story: Meet Blanca Alsogaray, The First Woman To Win Cuba's "Oscar Of Cigars"

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Chloé Touchard

Let us know what’s happening in your corner of the world!


Yadira Rachel Vargas, the founder of Rizo Libre
Rachel Pereda

Free Curls In Cuba: An Afro Hairstyle Revival Of Identity And Politics — And Fashion

In the island nation, Rizo Libre (free curl) seeks to rescue Afro-descendant roots on the island.

Talking about Afro hair is not just a matter of aesthetics and fashion.

Oral histories suggest hairstyles braided by Black slaves had coded significance, and some people are said to have kept wheat seeds in their hair to sow later. For this reason, when they were forced to cut their hair, or straightened it with chemical products, in a certain way they also cut part of their identity and roots, part of their culture.

During the 1960s and the Black Power movement in the United States, embracing Afro hair became a symbol of resistance, an act to rescue Black self-determination and "Blackness as an identity."

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This Happened — July 31: Fidel Castro Hands Over Power
This Happened

This Happened — July 31: Fidel Castro Hands Over Power

Fidel Castro officially handed over power to his brother Raúl Castro on this day in 2006.

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Why did Fidel Castro decide to transfer power to his brother?

Fidel Castro's decision to transfer power to his brother Raúl Castro was prompted by his declining health. Fidel underwent intestinal surgery in July 2006, leading him to temporarily delegate presidential responsibilities to Raúl. Eventually, Fidel made the decision permanent due to his health condition.

What role did Raúl assume after taking over from Fidel?

After assuming power from Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro became the acting president of Cuba. He held this position until February 2008 when he was formally elected as the President of the Council of State and the President of the Council of Ministers.

How did Raúl Castro's presidency differ from Fidel Castro's rule?

Raúl Castro's presidency marked a period of gradual reform in Cuba. Under his leadership, the country experienced some economic changes and openness to limited market reforms. Raúl implemented measures such as allowing more private enterprise and initiating diplomatic discussions with the United States, leading to the restoration of diplomatic relations in 2015.

Image of Nearly 4,000 migrants from Central America walking the roads of Chiapas in the Migrant Stations of the Cross Caravan.
eyes on the U.S.
William Ospina

The U.S. Badly Needs Friends In Latin America — It Should Start Acting Like It

If the United States insists on treating Latin American countries as unruly neighbors rather than partners, then it must expect problems from them in the form of fugitives, drugs and crime.


BOGOTÁ — There isn't a border on this planet as tense and heated as the U.S.-Mexico border. It isn't a bilateral frontier, but a line drawn through an entire continent. Every day it must keep thousands of migrants, who are filled with dreams of a life of work and prosperity, at bay as they push to get in.

Without a concerted strategy of productivity, job opportunities and strengthened markets between these countries, the migrant problem will inevitably become less manageable and more explosive.

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You cannot open frontiers to capital flow and raw materials while shutting out people and production. Latin America is an immense market and a vast supplier. It should be treated as a partner, not a rowdy neighbor — in that respect, we have problematic neighbors on both sides.

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This Happened — June 14: Ernesto “Che” Guevara Is Born
This Happened

This Happened — June 14: Ernesto “Che” Guevara Is Born

Che Guevara was born on this day in 1928. He was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, guerrilla leader, and diplomat. He played a key role in the Cuban Revolution, serving as one of Fidel Castro's top lieutenants.

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What was Che Guevara's childhood like?

Che Guevara's childhood was relatively privileged compared to many others in Argentina at the time. He was born into a middle-class family of Spanish-Irish descent. His father, Ernesto Guevara Lynch, was an architect, and his mother, Celia de la Serna, came from a well-to-do family. During his early years, Guevara was exposed to a leftist and intellectual environment. Guevara developed a passion for literature and sports, particularly rugby and swimming.

What were Che Gevara's political beliefs?

Che Guevara was a committed Marxist-Leninist and believed in the principles of communism. He advocated for armed struggle and believed in the necessity of armed revolution to overthrow capitalist systems and establish socialist societies. Guevara was critical of imperialism, capitalism, and the exploitation of the working class. He sought to export revolution to other countries and played a role in various revolutionary movements in Latin America and Africa.

What were Che Gevara's contributions to the Cuban Revolution?

As a guerrilla leader, he led a column of fighters in the Sierra Maestra mountains, engaging in armed confrontations with the Cuban government forces. Guevara's military strategies and tactics were instrumental in the overthrow of the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. After the revolution, he held various positions in the Cuban government, including Minister of Industries, and contributed to the country's economic and social policies.

What happened to Che Guevara after the Cuban Revolution?

Following the Cuban Revolution's success in 1959, he eventually became disillusioned with the direction of the Cuban revolution and sought to export the revolution elsewhere. In 1965, he left Cuba and embarked on revolutionary activities in Africa and South America. In 1967, Guevara was captured by the Bolivian military and executed on the orders of the Bolivian government.

Photo of a woman smoking a cigar.
food / travel
Mariana Iglesias

Meet Blanca Alsogaray, The First Woman To Win Cuba's "Oscar Of Cigars"

For the first time, Cuba's prestigious annual cigar festival recognized a woman, Alsogaray, owner of an iconic cigar shop in Buenos Aires, as the top representative of this celebrated lifeline of the Cuban economy.

BUENOS AIRES — Cigars are traditionally reserved for a man's world. But this year, for the first time, a Latin American woman has won one of three awards given at the 23rd Habano Festival in Cuba.

Every year since 2000, the Festival has gathered the top players in the world of Cuban cigars including sellers, distributors, specialists and aficionados. A prize is given to an outstanding personality in one of three areas: production, communication and sales. The latter went to Blanca Alsogaray, owner of the Buenos Aires shop La Casa del Habano. She says these prizes are not unlike the "Oscars of cigars."

"It's a sexist world for sure, but I won," she said of a prize which was called "Habano Man" (Hombre habano) until this year, when the word was changed for her.

"It recognizes a lifetime's work, which I consider so important as Argentina isn't an easy place for business, and less so being a woman." She was competing with two men. "In truth," she added. "I really do deserve it."

Alsogaray opened her shop in 1993. At the time there were only two sellers anywhere of Cuba's premium, hand-rolled cigars, the other one being in Mexico. Now habanos are sold in 150 outlets worldwide. "I want to celebrate these 30 years, and the prize. We're going to have a big party," she said. The firm celebrated its 30th anniversary on May 16.

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This Happened - April 22: ​A Child Held At Gunpoint
This Happened

This Happened - April 22: ​A Child Held At Gunpoint

Elian Gonzalez is a Cuban national who became the subject of an international custody battle. He was five years old at the time. On this day in 2000, federal agents raided the Miami home where Elian was staying with his relatives and forcibly removed him, holding him and his relatives at gunpoint.

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