In today’s interconnected world, news doesn’t stop at the border. Latitude News brings you three stories from the local press that drive that point home.
Former communist leader no stranger to capitalist tricks
Pedro Alvarez Borrega is Tampa’s most high-profile house flipper. The former Cuban politician has made almost $600,000 on the Florida real estate market since defecting from the Castro regime and moving to the U.S. two years ago.
But some Cuban-American activists wonder if Alvarez acquired his seed money during the corruption scandal that led to his exile, according to a report in the Miami Herald. Cuban authorities believed the 70-year-old took bribes during his time as the director of Alimport, a government agency that imported $1.5 billion of food into Cuba a year. Two top Alimport officials were jailed for their role in the scheme.
“He single-handedly said yes and no to billions in sales,” says one American businessman who signed several sales of cattle to Alimport, but did not accuse Alvarez of corruption.
In 2003 Alvarez was involved in another scandal, this time for pressuring U.S. politicians and businessman to sign a pledge calling for the easing of sanctions with Cuba. Those who agreed would technically have been guilty of serving as agents of a foreign government, though no one was prosecuted.
Alvarez also has a lucrative side gig advising American businesses that want to enter Cuba’s liberalizing market.
Up in the air
The Portland Press Herald reports that an adventurous North Carolinian wants to fly from Maine to Europe in a balloon this summer.
Well, not a ballon. Hundreds. Jonathan Trappe, 39, is a pioneer in the technique of “cluster ballooning.” Using hundreds of helium-filled balloons, Trappe has flown across the English Channel, the Alps and Lake Michigan. In 2008 he attached cluster balloons to an office chair and ended up 15,000 feet in the sky. He also mirrored the plot of the movie “Up,” using the same trick to make an entire house soar at a ballooning festival in Mexico this past November.
“It’s like camping in the sky,” Trappe says.
The first successful trans-Atlantic balloon flight was in 1978. Since then five people have died attempting to replicate the feat. Trappe would be the first to do so using cluster balloons. He says he could land anywhere from North Africa to Norway.
“It will be 10 times what I’ve done before,” Trappe explains. “It will be the largest cluster of balloons ever built, and it will be unlike anything that has ever gone before.”
Cross-cultural film journeys from Seattle to Kilimanjaro
The half-Korean, half-Tanzanian, Seattle-based film maker Eli Kimaro isn’t your average American. Then again, in today’s multicultural society, maybe she is, writes the Seattle Times‘ Sarah Stuteville.
“There’s an understanding that you can have a family that spans the U.S. and Asia and Africa or many different continents and have a family-gathering picture where you just look like a photo of the United Nations,” Kimaro explains.
Kimaro’s new documentary “A Lot Like You” goes from Washington State to Africa as it traces her father’s roots in the Chagga tribe of Tanzania. Along the way it explores a troubling pattern of gender violence in Chagga culture, as well as Kimaro’s Korean heritage and her own experiences with sexual abuse. The film has won a variety of awards, including being named the “Audience Choice” at the Seattle International Film Festival, and shows the growing number of connections between Americans and the rest of the world.
“Just the thought that a movie that takes place almost entirely on Mount Kilimanjaro could help edify our conversation about what the Asian-American experience is…that to me is amazing,” says Kimaro.