Isbel Diaz Torres
The holding of the annual “Love-in Festival” has now become a tradition here in Havana. Every year it has a different theme, and on this occasion it was celebrated as a “Festival for the Environment.”
The young men and women of “Love in” are somewhat reminiscent of the hippie aesthetic that shocked American society at the end of the ‘60s. Those anti-war hippies of those times were anarchists who rejected the materialism produced by thriving capitalism (on its way toward globalization), defended the environment and held art at the center of their lives – acts that formed a disturbing counterculture to the elites in power.
From what I’ve been able to tell, this is not the case with our contemporary tropical hippies. As I’ve had the fortune to get to know some of them personally and to even collaborate with them, I can say that this new incarnation is perhaps a little lighter. Their retro wave draws more from the Beatles “vibe” than Pink Floyd’s, as one might say.
They see themselves as “a group of young professionals who have as their overall objective the promotion of concern for the environmental, cultural development and a culture of peace.” The reality is that not all of them are professionals, but that’s not so important (especially given what it’s worth being a professional these days).
Among their specific objectives are:
– to encourage reflection and dialogue around the issues of their activities.
– to encourage people’s respect for the environment.
– to advocate a consciousness of peace, doing so in an interpersonal and educational manner.
– to benefit society by working for socio-cultural development.
The reality is that it’s a delight to see them working, filled with a spirit of enthusiasm and the willingness to collaborate. In mere seconds they’ll put up their tents or give an event a light-hearted atmosphere with their painting. This year the festival included art exhibitions, talks, and theatrical stagings.
Thanks to the sponsorship of the famous La Tropical entertainment complex, there was a mobile planetarium; an area for Japanese bonsai, ikebana and origami art; and body decoration with tattoos, dreadlocks, body piercing, “green fashions” and body painting.
On each night of this weekend featured a big concert with groups playing reggae, rock, blues, hip-hop, electronic music, bagpipes, flamenco and tango. It should be noted that the legendary popular dance music orchestra Aragon was included in the performances.
While for non-Cuban readers it may all seem a bit nonsensical, it seems appropriate to publish the list of public, private, community and diplomatic institutions that the young people of the “Love-in” managed to bring together for the festival:
The participating organizations included: The Metropolitan Park System, the Cuban Audiovisual Association, the British Embassy, the International Committee for the Development of Peoples, the Open Space Project, the Animal Health Project, Bayer Pharmaceutical Corporation, the Civil Heritage Society, Community and Environment Project (PCM), the Experimental Paper Workshop, La Quinta de los Molinos Park, the Havana Province Red Cross, the Dog Training Project, Pronaturaleza (a NGO), Green Roofs, Pioneer Explorers, the Children’s Circus of Marianao, the Marti Forest of Ariguanabo, the Paulita Concepcion School, the Green Grasshopper Group, “Osmel Francis and His Guayaberas,” Plan C Art and Design, and “Mi Programa Verde” (with the State Forestry Service).
An unlikely sponsor
This attempt to integrate art and community work in support of environmental education is highly commendable. Nevertheless, I haven’t managed to understand how a company like Bayer could be invited to participate in this kind of undertaking.
Up until World War I, Bayer produced heroin (a registered trademark of Bayer). It went on to collaborate with the Nazis in committing their war crimes and still hasn’t adequately compensated the victims. That company can also has to its “credit” the creation of chemical agents such as “mustard gas” (the chemical weapon) and “tabun” (a nerve gas).
More recently, in the 90’s it funded unethical clinical medical tests on humans, and in 2001 it tried to sue the South African government for passing a law allowing the treatment of AIDS patients with inexpensive medicines.
On top of all this, as demonstrated by experts at the UN, Bayer bought certain minerals in the Congo for the production and marketing of metallic and ceramic substances that are key in the manufacture of mobile phones and computers. Such purchases have been pointed to as helping to sustain the inhumane conditions in that country and contributing to maintaining a war that has resulted in the deaths of 2.5 million people since 1998.
But that’s not all. Bayer also produces highly dangerous herbicides that have caused harm to people and animals. In early 2011, the company began its sales to the public of the Mocap and Nemacur pesticides, described by the World Health Organization as “extremely dangerous.”
It currently has 120,000 employees worldwide in its chemical and biomedicine-based business.
This information doesn’t require extensive research. Typing in “BAYER” under a simple wikipedia search will reveal this and more.
Therefore, to me it seems that the inclusion of such a partner in the festival is contradictory. It would be good if the friends of the Love in — who have nothing to do with the atrocities committed by Bayer — would continue expanding the scope of their activities but without the need for such “dangerous liaisons.”
It’s a shame I wasn’t able to participate and learn at this year’s activities. I wasn’t able to make it in the past either, though I contributed to the effort by donating a ceiba tree from the Guardabosques (Forest Rangers) organization for planting. I also worked prior to the opening of the festival with a cool crew of volunteers to prepare box lunches for those who would be attending.
They are young, beautiful, smart and talented people who have been working on this project since 2009. I hope they can choose wisely among the many options offered to them from all over.