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click to enlarge Jewelry as "miniature sculpture" by Singing Stone's Dan Balk. - Dan Balk
Dan Balk
Jewelry as "miniature sculpture" by Singing Stone's Dan Balk.

One of the key figures in Mitch Perry's recent cover story about trade between Cuba and Tampa Bay responded with a four-page letter. We aren't able to reprint the entire letter here, but some of its key points are excerpted below. Also, note the updates re our Holiday Auction, which closes Dec. 14 at 5 p.m., and the CL Fiction Contest, which just launched.

Re "Cuba Libre," by Mitch Perry, Cover Story, Nov. 10: I wanted to take a moment to share with you my opinions regarding Mitch Perry's recent article... I am delighted to say it is the most substantive article written on US/Cuba/Tampa relations in the almost six years since I have returned back to my home town.... Allow me to make a few points that will in no way take away from the substance of the article. ...

• I do not know what the cover means when it depicts a map of Florida and a map of Cuba. Was there a message intended, what does Cuba Libre mean? {Editor's Note: We were trying to depict the trade gap that exists between Tampa and Havana, despite the direct route that could be established; "Cuba Libre" was an ironic adaptation of a familiar phrase, used in this instance to evoke the efforts to establish free trade. But you know what they say about jokes: If you have to explain..]

• The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce is serious about enhancing US/Cuba/Tampa relations for the first time in a substantive way.

• Other than the fact that the World Trade Center has relations with both [daily] newspapers, they have contributed nothing of significance to bringing Tampa and Cuba together...

• Councilman Mike Suarez's objection to the City Council sending a courtesy letter to the Cuban government regarding the resumption of flights from Tampa to Havana, is an example of the ignorance so many of our elected officials have regarding US/Cuba/Tampa relations...

• In your future articles, please make a distinction between extremists like Ralph Fernandez and the "exile community." This is very significant. Who is the exile community in Tampa? ...[E]xile implies banishment, expatriate, or someone driven from their country for political reasons. Cuban-Americans in the Tampa area are more like Marco Rubio's parents. They fled for economic reasons, not political reasons. Clearly, these "exiles" had no problem living under the Batista dictatorship that executed by firing squad, approximately 20,000 Cuban citizens from 1953-1958 in a country of less than 2 million people. ...

Albert A. Fox, Jr., President, Alliance for Responsible Cuba Policy Foundation

Re "Big deals, small businesses," by Joe Bardi, Nov. 24: The photo (center) was not identified, and was placed next to the wrong entry in our list of small businesses. Here are the details: The pendant is the creation of Dan Balk, resident jewelry artist at Singing Stone Gallery & Studio in Ybor City. It was made from 20 layers of alternating sheets of argentium silver and patinaed copper hammered and folded over and over, in a laminated metal style known as mokume gane (Japanese for wood grain). The outside is sterling silver, the interior is freshwater pink pearl, and it was all "hand-fabricated completely from raw materials in our studio," says Singing Stone owner/manager Nataly Balk. "We call our jewelry miniature sculptures." And so they should.


There are only a few weeks left to bid in the Creative Loafing Holiday Auction for the benefit of The Children's Home. Bidding closes Thursday, Dec. 14 at 5 p.m. Go to, register to bid (if you haven't already) and look through the many amazing packages just perfect for gift-giving (even if you're giving to yourself). The top bid-getters at the moment still involve beer, food or the cover of Creative Loafing. But let me also draw your attention to such one-of-a-kind items as: dinner with CL's nationally known puzzle man and raconteur Merl Reagle (and a crossword puzzle with your name as one of the answers); an all-access pass to every show from the coolest promoters in town, Aestheticized Presents; passes for two to every CL-sponsored movie preview in 2012; and too many fantastic spa, fashion, vacation, arts and foodie deals to mention here. Remember: It's For The Kids!

Plus, things are heating up in the contest department at CL. The Creative Loafing Fiction Contest's theme is "Heat" — however you want to interpret the word. Deadline for submissions is Dec. 22; go to to for info on cash prizes, judging and entry guidelines.

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