Cubans are incredibly sentimental
Here are several items about Valentine's Day in Cuba, from
Jose Marti, to NBC television's Mary Murray and yours truly.

Walter Lippmann

Jose Marti and St. Valentine's Day
By Pedro Pablo Rodriguez

Cubanow.- The traditional St. Valentine's celebration didn't exist in Latin American countries late in the 19th century. That's why, in one of his first chronicles about life in the United States, Cuban patriot and intellectual Jose Marti described it for his Venezuelan readers.

The practice of sending love messages on February 14 has a pagan origin and, according to some sources, it establishes the moment when birds choose their partners.

Marti explained that the tradition was taken to the US from England. He wrote about the British maidens who pinned four leaves on the corners of their pillows and one in the middle to attract the man they wanted for their husband.

Likewise, how the young man chosen as Valentine should give his lover an expensive gift; and how the female shepherds chose the first shepherd she met that day as her boyfriend.

In America, the practice was to send anonymous verses with drawings depicting the flaws or traits of the people in love. Already in those times, they used to send postcards jeering the physical or moral flaws of the recipient.

Marti described some of these Valentines, like one received by a maid who was showing off her jewels and silks on her day off –her postcard showed a lady with a great bucket for a hat, a kitchen boy's apron for a dress, forks for earrings, a skimmer for a fan, and a spoon for a broach.

However, the chronicler explained that the fashion wasn't popular. “But the Valentines still in vogue are homemade drawings, made by a friendly hand, to make a good friend curious; or with charming figurines, tender and funny, in such a plentiful and rich variety that Valentines in stores are as abundant as the sand of the beaches”.

The Cuban journalist gave vivid details of the postcards to his readers of La Opinion Nacional in Caracas, Venezuela. “They're made of fine Bristol lined with lace or trimmings; there are pink and blue cushions in which an innocent boy smiles with his French cap; there are angels, lovers, wild flower bouquets: lilies, daisies... or sunflowers, that are in fashion now because they are the flowers of the esthetes; or tulips, which are the flowers that have been paid for here at prices used to buy stocks”.

And Marti, who was a poet himself, couldn't avoid making a comment about the words in the postcards and delivered an interesting appreciation regarding poetry at different times of life.

“And at their feet, smiling verses, daytime bird poems, blue poems, those that are written before life hits you, and not red like they are written later on, and not black, as they are usually written, until then the good years take on the white color of the light of the hair and the soul”.

March, 2005


February 14, 2006

Love in Mansehra

Two stories from Pakistan, where there is room as well for human passion.

By Alina M. Lotti, JR special correspondent
Photos: Roberto Suárez,  special correspondent

A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann.


That love can conquer all things is a certainty as undeniable as it is universal. Who doesn’t drink from its fountain, follow its light or long to be among the chosen ones?


Love believes in no impossible deed, geographic distance or physical separation. Fortune arrives when love knocks at the door, and when life stumbles upon fright, emotion, discovery and the assurance that the sun comes out every day.


Pakistan is no exception to such feelings. Hundreds of youths, many of them newly graduates, have come to this place on the other side of the world carrying the most noble of all illusions: saving human lives. And a few are numbered among the most privileged, since life has provided them an opportunity to share unique, matchless emotions with a loved one in a generous land very far from their Homeland.


Tied up under the sign of the chosen, these two stories introduce four youths currently working in a Cuban Integrated Field Hospital in Mansehra, province of North West Frontier, where day after day –also in the name of love– a life is saved and a smile is rescued.




That day at the train station in Holguín province, Euclides Ricardo felt that something important was to happen with his life as soon as he saw Yanisleydis Ledea (both had just graduated).


They were headed for Havana, where they would attend a special training on Intensive Therapy before going to fulfill an internationalist mission together with thousands of other young people.


Although they had seen each other more than once in Medical School before, they were yet to exchange any words, so Euclides didn’t even know the name of the girl who that day awaken such illusions in him.


At first he had bad luck, for Yani, as her friends call her, had been assigned to another car, not to mention that during the 36-hour-long trip they only passed by each other twice, and very briefly at that.


Once arrived in the capital city, life paved the way for them to get trained at the same hospital, and there a deep friendship was born from their common studies and job-related obligations.


Being away from their families for over three months, and their eagerness to get to know Havana much better, laid the foundations of a passion that these two members of the Internationalist Contingent ‘Henry Reeve’ are now strengthening in Pakistan.


“I came on November 9,” says Euclides, “while Yani was still back in Cuba, and was assigned to Danna hospital, one of the northernmost and coldest camps. On November 26 I could check my mail in the Internet for the first time. I had lots of messages from my sweetheart, and shortly after when I called home I found out she was here already, but I didn’t know where”.


Takia, one of Mansehra’s communities more than two kilometers away from camp, witnessed their encounter. Euclides and Yani, as well as other newly graduates and specialists in General Integrated Medicine, are in a house where they see tens of patients, including many children.


“We work as a pair,” she remarks, “when we are on call, consulting patients or doing the field, and we are happier since December 24 when we managed to join each other in this camp. My friends tell me I look more cheerful and they’re right, though initially neither knew the other was around. I’m very glad to be here and have this chance, for we have just graduated and this experience is fruitful in every way”.


Immediate plans? “As soon as we go back to Cuba we’ll get married, because it’s hard to be alone in the world knowing there’s someone waiting for you. We want to be together forever!”, said Euclides.




Alexei Proenza was already a doctor when Katherine Mitjans was still studying. She was then in Gynecology and Obstetrics as part of her rotation while he was focused on graduating as an Integrated General Doctor.


“We had a patient in common,” Katherine told us, “a pregnant woman who belonged in his office but had been admitted. Then when Alexei visited her at the hospital we would meet somewhere along his round. He has even confessed to his remembering me from when we were students –albeit in different grades– in the Vocational Pre-university Institute of Exact Sciences”.


Several years have gone by and today this couple shares in Pakistan the satisfaction of being members of the ‘Henry Reeve’ Contingent, just like their compatriots Euclides and Yani, working together and learning from one another.


“Pakistan has meant a lot to me,” she adds. “I never thought that, being so young, I was capable of fulfilling a mission like this, from which I have learned to be more humane than I am and improve myself. Personally speaking, I have grown used to being far from my family and relate to people as humble and kind as these who have taken us in so wonderfully.

I have been able to appraise more what my country is doing as a function of medical care. Seeing a doctor in Cuba costs nothing, whereas here, however, is quite difficult. A single injection, just one, costs more than one dollar!”.


Alexei points out that sharing his medical work in Pakistan with his wife has been like a dream. They had been apart for 21 months while he had been posted in Venezuela. “This has happened by chance, we’ve always wanted to work together and life gave us the opportunity. Having met her is the best thing that has ever happened to me, since she really is a great woman with whom I share similar likings and interests.


“Back then when she was still studying, I would pass by in my rounds and told her: ‘Not all of us have been fortunate to have an angel nearby and enjoy such a pleasant company. And luckily I was right. She’s one of the most important people in my life. I still have to finish my assignment in [Venezuelan president] Chávez’s land, and would love to do it with her. After that we’ll have children and spend our lives together”.

Cubans pierced by Cupid's arrow
On Valentine's Day, Castro's capitalist foes would approve

HAVANA, Feb. 14 - Four decades of May Day parades, the hammer and sickle and anti-American demonstrations can't hold a torch to Cupid and Valentine's Day in Cuba.

Regarded almost as an unofficial holiday, Feb. 14 ranks right up there with anniversary celebrations of the 1959 Cuban revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power. And since romance is a national pastime, there's a bit of madness in the air as Cubans celebrate Valentine 's Day, known here as "Lovers' Day."

Not even Castro's archenemies would find anything stodgy or socialist about the way the island treats hearts and flowers.

For weeks, the island has been gripped in a Valentine's Day frenzy as Cubans shopped for that perfect gift. Traditional chocolate and roses also sell well in Cuba, along with novelty items bought at outdoor markets. For $2, customers can buy a bottle of perfume containing the fragrance of Cuba's famous cigars; $5 buys a bootleg copy of the Backstreet Boys latest CD, "Black and Blue"; and $3 buys a flashy car ornament to dangle from a rear-view mirror.

February sales were up in all the boutiques in Havana's fancier hotels. An invasion by upscale female consumers depleted the limited stock of male fashions imported from Spain and Italy.


Who needs Hallmark when you have the Cuban state media? Romantic boleros have virtually knocked salsa, Cuba's dominant dance beat, off the air. TV show hosts have been serenading their audiences with love poems written in the most baroque Spanish imaginable. And forget any advances made by Cuban women over the last 40 years. They became easy targets for comediennes whose Valentine's Day repertoires feature hen-pecked husbands and unfaithful wives.

Still, if it were not for the U.S. trade ban on Cuba, Hallmark would be enjoying bonanza sales. Today, everyone exchanges cards, store bought or homemade, for the buzon. Secretaries and schoolteachers invested hours in decorating these cardboard mailboxes. The missives they contain, funny or serious, signed or anonymous, are delivered and read aloud at afternoon school and office parties.


Even normally drab industrial lunchrooms have been spruced up with fresh flowers, paper streamers and a special Valentine's Day meal. Last Saturday, Cuba's top scientists at the Biotechnology Institute, better known for developing vaccines than for romantic cavorting, celebrated early at an invitation-only Valentine's Day luncheon.

While Cubans usually jump at any excuse to spend a night on the town, it's almost obligatory for any couple to do so on Feb. 14. Theaters, movie houses, cabarets and restaurants all have special Valentine's Day offers.

People can easily run through a month's salary on this one night. However, many will make do with just a moonlight walk along the sea and a bottle of rum to fuel Cuba's most romantic day of the year.


NBC's Mary Murray is based in Havana.

Portia Siegelbaum contributed to this report.


Mexico City, February 13 (RHC)--One of Cuba's most popular singers and composers, Pablo Milanes, will offer a special Valentine's Day concert tomorrow at the National Auditorium of Mexico City. According to reports from the Mexican capital, Pablo Milanes will perform together with Mexican singer Eugenia Leon.

During a joint news conference on Tuesday, the two singers said they would entertain their audience with songs by Silvio Rodriguez, Joan Manuel Serrat and Mercedes Sosa.

Referring to the special Valentine's Day Concert, Pablo Milanes told reporters that he firmly believes in love -- which he divided into three facets: a woman's love, a mother's love for her children and the love of humanity.

Following their concert in the Mexican capital on Thursday, Pablo Milanes and Eugenia Leon will take their show on the road to other cities, offering a total of nine concerts in northern and central Mexico.

The History of Valentine's Day

Taken from

Every February, candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. But who is this mysterious saint and why do we celebrate this holiday? The history of Valentine's Day -- and its patron saint -- is shrouded in mystery.

 But we do know that February has long been a month of romance. St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.
So, who was Saint Valentine and how did he become associated with this ancient rite? Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. 

While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial -- which probably occurred around 270 A.D -- others claim that the Christian church may have decided to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to 'christianize' celebrations of the pagan Lupercalia festival.

In ancient Rome, February was the official beginning of spring and was considered a time for purification. Houses were ritually cleansed by sweeping them out and then sprinkling salt and a type of wheat called spelt throughout their interiors. Lupercalia, which began at the ides of February, February 15, was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus. 

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at the sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would then sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification.   

The boys then sliced the goat's hide into strips, dipped them in the sacrificial blood and took to the streets, gently slapping both women and fields of crops with the goathide strips. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed being touched with the hides because it was believed the strips would make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage. Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The Roman 'lottery' system for romantic pairing was deemed un-Christian and outlawed. Later, during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of February -- Valentine's Day -- should be a day for romance. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. The greeting, which was written in 1415, is part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England. Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois. 

One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men -- his crop of potential soldiers. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.    

 According to one legend, Valentine actually sent the first 'valentine' greeting himself. While in prison, it is believed that Valentine fell in love with a young girl -- who may have been his jailor's daughter -- who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter, which he signed 'From your Valentine,' an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories certainly emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and, most importantly, romantic figure. It's no surprise that by the Middle Ages, Valentine was one of the most popular saints in England and France. 

In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the seventeenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth century, it was common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes. By the end of the century, printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings. Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began to sell the first mass-produced valentines in America.  

According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)  

Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women. In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. 


[Sounds great for those who can afford it -  Walter]

Valentine's Day at the Tropicana Night Club February 12 to February 19 Republic of Cuba


February 12 Depart Cancun, Mexico via Aerocaribe (Mexicana) Airlines at either 12:05 PM or 7:20 PM (50 minute transit time). (You must be in Cancun, Mexico no later than two hours prior to departure. Private transfer to the classic, five star, Hotel Nacional De Cuba. Welcome buffet, cocktail and cigar reception. (Please inquire about our Cancun overnight option available for those who want to take the early flight to Havana on February 12th.)

February 13 Breakfast. Private visit to the Partagas cigar factory and enjoy a cigar and cocktail in the new, Partagas Club Salon with Partagas' President, Sr. Abel Diaz. Lobster lunch at Hemingway's other famous "haunt," Restaurante El Floridita (where the daiquiri was invented). Afternoon tour in vintage automobiles through some of Havana's most historic neighborhoods. Afternoon cocktails in the top floor lounge of the Focsa Towers. Dinner in the garden court Mansion La Ferminia.

February 14 Breakfast. No schedule. Day's activities may include: Golf at Havana's historic Diplomats Golf Club; Scuba or snorkeling at Club Havana; Skeet shooting; Horse back riding; Marlin fishing or just sitting by the pool or beach with a drink and cigar "in hand!" Transfer in vintage automobiles to the private Jardines dinner club at the legendary Tropicana Night Club. Dinner will be followed with a special presentation of the original Tropicana Review.

February 15 Breakfast. Departure to the incredibly romantic, island of Cayo Las Brujas. The lodge consists of (20) five star, ocean front cottages (seeing is believing) on a nearly deserted (7) mile long beach. Casual but excellent food and service! Optional activities include: Touring keys or area on the lodge's mopeds; World class fishing; snorkeling; scuba reef and wreck diving; world's largest flamingo population and birding; drinks on an offshore ship wreck or just sitting on the beach with a tropical drink "in hand." All meals at the lodge. There is a new all-inclusive Melia del Sol resort across the island which features dinner and dancing if you are seeking a more active night life.

February 16 Breakfast. No schedule. Just a day to lounge and "do what you want!" Pre dinner cocktails on a 1920s era ship wreck called "Barca San Pasqual" followed by a moon light BBQ on the beach (weather permitting).

February 17 Breakfast. Return to Havana. Check back into the Hotel Nacional De Cuba. Dinner in the beachfront restaurant at the elegant and historic, Club Havana (formerly the Biltmore Yacht Club). After dinner cocktails and cigar in the "roof top" lounge of the Hotel Sevilla.

February 18 Breakfast. No schedule so you can sleep in. Then a late afternoon visit to the incomparable, rain forest lodge of La Moka (one hour drive) situated amidst the ruins of an early, 19th Century, French coffee plantation. We will have a very romantic, moonlight dinner at the restored cottage of "Las Ruinas del Cafetal." Then back to Havana.

February 19 Breakfast (Depending on departure time). Depart for Cancun, Mexico at either 8:00 AM or 3:50 PM. Depending on your flight connections out of Cancun, Mexico. End of services.

Price: $2,699.00 per person on double occupancy $2,799.00 per person on single occupancy

Bob Walz President, Last Frontier Expeditions & Safaris


La consulta Infidelity, a Topic Discuss at La Consulta  

By: Melvis Sarduy Castellanos 

Infidelity in the couple, a problem which not only affects Cubans but to people in different latitudes, it’s the topic that La Consulta brings this month under the spotlight. With the candid intention of answering questions like these: Is it the same infidelity and adultery? What is infidelity in a couple? Is infidelity a negative or positive experience? Which could be its possible causes? Which are its consequences? Is the infidelity a way of infection? Why does it have more social acceptance in men’s case? 

Doctors Yamira and Elvia, at the address could answer these and other questions with the sensibility the topic requires.   


Dr. Elvia de Dios Blanco 

Master in Sexuality. 

Coordinating Attendance Medical Provincial Group of Sexual Education. 


Dr. Yamira Puentes Rodríguez 

Teacher Instructor of Psychiatry. 

Coordinator Educational Provincial Group of Sexual Education. 


Cuba welcomes over 65,000 foreign tourists on Valentine’s Day
   02/24/2006 -- 11:34(GMT+7)  

Havana (VNA) – The Cuban Tourism Ministry has announced that the country received 65,280 foreign tourists on Valentine’s Day, breaking the previous record of 64,956 foreign arrivals.


The achievements recorded by Cuba’s tourism sector in recent years are encouraging despite the United States’ tightened embargo against the island country and a series of natural disasters in many localities, the ministry said.


Cuba sets a target of welcoming 2.53 million foreign tourists this year, a year-on-year rise of 10 percent. Last year, the country welcomed 2.32 million foreign tourists, earning more than 2 billion USD, or a year-on-year rise of 10.7 percent.-Enditem