Emphasis on culture and the restoration of historic buildings
On the first day the delegation visited the Capitolio, the former Cuban parliament, which is currently undergoing restoration and the Fabrica de Arte Cubano, a former vegetable oil factory which has been transformed into a cultural centre. This enchanting location hosted three Brussels exhibitions, as part of the Belgian week, paving the way for future collaboration.
The next day, the delegation met with the Cuban Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as Eusebio Leal Spengler, Havana’s famous City Historian, who is also tasked with the restoration programmes of Old Havana. They signed an addendum to the cooperation agreement between the BRC and the Cuban capital, which sets out the modalities for the cooperation between the Oficina del Historiador (the Offices of the City Historian) of Havana and our region’s Directorate of Monuments and sites for the years to come.
Brussels and Havana, comic strip cities
Minister Guy Vanhengel also visited the Vitrina de Valonia, where he inaugurated an exhibition titled “Drawings on rails” by the Belgian comic strip designer François Schuiten as well as a commemorative plaque on the building’s façade. The plaque emphasises the efforts of the various Belgian entities for the restoration and running of this space, which showcases the best of Cuban and Belgian comic strip design.
On Tuesday 13 November, the delegation participated in a conference on the scenographic concept of François Schuiten’s Brussels-based Train World museum, which was also attended by the initiators of Havana’s future Railway Museum. The Brussels designer’s wonderful scenography definitely is a source of inspiration for this new museum.
Academic meetings and partnerships
The programme for Tuesday 13 November also included meetings with the Cuban Minister for Higher Education and His Excellency Alberto Navarro, the EU’s Ambassador to Cuba.
On Wednesday 14 November, the delegation participated in a meeting of the partners of the Belgian development cooperation in Cuba (universities, NGOs and so on) in the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, a magnificent building which was restored with the support of the European Union and UNESCO.
After this meeting, the delegation exchanged ideas with the Vice-President of Cuba’s National Bank on the country’s difficult economic situation.
Photographic and culinary encounters
On the afternoon of 14 November, the delegation attended the inauguration of an exhibition titled “Expérience photographique internationale des Monuments”, featuring 25 photos by the young winners of the competition that was organised by the Directorate of Monuments and sites of the Region. Havana is considering organising a similar photo contest for young Cubans in 2019, with an exhibition of the best photos in Brussels in November.
The day ended with a tasting session of some typical Brussels specialities (beer, chocolates, chips and waffles) at the residence of the First Secretary of the Belgian Embassy. The event, which was jointly organised with the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba, was attended by members of the Belgian and Cuban business communities and was a great success!
Celebration of the King’s Feast
On 15 November, Minister Vanhengel met with the Vice-President of the People’s Provincial Assembly of Havana and the Director-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Information Science (UCI) in Havana. In the evening, Belgian and Cuban guests gathered for a reception at the residence of Her Excellency Jehanne Roccas, the newly-appointed Belgian Ambassador to Cuba, to celebrate the King’s Feast.
2019, a year of intense collaboration
On 16 November, the delegation’s last day in Cuba, they visited a cigar factory and a school for children with physical and mental disabilities. They also met with the Cuban Culture Minister. Our minister proposed to strengthen the collaboration established in the framework of the Belgian Week in Cuba even more. For several years, many of the activities of this prestigious event have been organised by the Brussels-Capital Region. Jazz bands from Cuba will travel to Brussels and vice-versa and the Cuban minister will be in Brussels next January to participate in the Cuban cultural activities at Halles Saint-Géry.
This marks the start of a new year of intense collaboration, as we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of our cooperation agreement with Havana as well as the 500th anniversary of the Cuban capital in 2019!