BRUNSWICK — Amid a flurry of venue closures and event cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 17th annual Cuba Week celebration has been postponed indefinitely.

This photo, taken in Cuba by Ashley Massey of Topsham, is on display at The Frontier in Brunswick. Cuba Week, which was to be held March 20-29 and include an event at The Frontier, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy Ashley Massey

Len Westra, president of the Brunswick-Trinidad Sister City Association, said he would like to reschedule the various films, music, dances and other activities that were scheduled for March 20-29, “but there are just so many unknowns right now; we don’t know if this is going to go on for weeks or months. But we’ll certainly try to reschedule parts of it.”

“Everyone’s had a lot of fun in the past, but it all came crumbling down so quickly in the past week,” Westra said.

Log onto brunswicktrinidad.org to find out if and when various Cuba Week events – such as Matt Cost’s presentation of his book “I Am Cuba: Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution” and airing of the film “Cuba and The Cameraman” – will be rescheduled.

Trinidad, a town in central Cuba, has trading ties stretching back more than 200 years with the Bath-Brunswick area, with potatoes, molasses and rum being among traded products, Westra said, noting that a lot of the streets in Trinidad are paved with ballast from ships from Maine.

He’s visited twice since 2000. Whereas relations between the U.S. and Cuba experienced a thaw in the late 2000s during the Obama administration, stronger trade and tourism restrictions under President Trump, including an embargo against Cuba, have had a “huge impact” on the sister city association, Westra said.

“It’s really restricted our ability to travel and to exchange visitors,” such as artists and poets, he explained. “And to bring any sort of supplies to Cuba,” such as books for Trinidad’s library.

“We can’t send or donate any money, and there are travel licenses required, which make it very difficult to travel,” Westra said. “These have all gotten much worse in the past three years.”

Ashley Massey of Topsham, who traveled twice to Cuba in 2018 on photography trips, attested to that. Americans can only travel to Cuba for educational purposes, she said.

“Its frustrating to me that we as America don’t help them out more,” she said. “We seem to have this grudge against Cuba for years past, and it’s the people that suffer, not the government over there.”

Although the Cubans aren’t fans of America’s current government, they embraced Massey and her fellow travelers, she said. While there, the visitors were prohibited by U.S. policy from entering any government-owned buildings or even the home of author Ernest Hemingway, Massey said.

Massey’s photos of Cuba and its people are on display through March 29 at The Frontier in Brunswick, where a concert by Primo Cubano was to have been held Friday, March 20. But The Frontier is closed through at least March 31.

In her artist statement that accompanies that display, Massey recalled finding “a country rich in culture, steeped in history and inhabited by beautiful, warm and welcoming people. They are proud, hard-working people, determined to make the best of their situation. Their crime rate is low, as the general population is not allowed to own guns. At no time was I afraid. They have one of the best and cheapest medical systems in the world, having a doctor located within every five blocks in Havana.”

“Trinidad is so poor; the people had nothing,” Massey said. “And one of the things that just broke my heart there was how appreciative they are for any little thing you give them.”

She brought paper and pens along to give the residents – everyday items for most Americans but commodities for them – “and it was if I had given them a pot of gold,” she said.

“The fact that they need so much, that makes it important to have a sister city that can reach out to them and help wherever we can,” Massey said.

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