Shanghai: a World Expo to Remember
Turned into a great world fiesta of culture, technology and environmental protection, the Shanghai World Expo, has managed to capture, in just a few days,the hearts of millions of people and become an unforgettable -and in many cases unrepeatable- encounter, for various reasons.
The 41st of its kind, this is the first time China has hosted the event. It's also the first one organized by a developing country, with which it broke the almost exclusive dominance of the great and industrialized western cities as quintessential venues of these forums.
As it couldn't otherwise be, China surprised the world with the spectacular inauguration of the Expo, in a metropolis of ultramodern futuristic architecture with the proverbial eastern hospitality and the capricious and unconventional design of many of its pavilions, in a sort of 21st century Tower of Babel.
From its very slogan, A Better City, a better Life, the Expo also accumulates merits of its own, because it's also the first one dedicated to the city in the 159 years of history of world exhibitions since its inaugural version in 1851 at London's Hyde Park, also known as The Great Exhibition.
The abundant use of renewable energy sources, with proposals for cars and other means of transportation working on the basis of that principle, the use of robotics in modern life, and new concepts to understand space in major cities in the future, are some of the aspects shown in this meeting of civilizations.
The human race linked to the pluralism of urban cities, the prosperity of urban economy, the technological innovation of cities, the reform of urban communities, and interactions between the countryside and the city, are the objects of special attention in this context.
THE EASTERN JEWEL: A CHALLENGE FOR THE FUTURE
Almost one fourth of the world's 1,000 largest cities are located in China, where the urban population is rapidly increasing according to a statistic report by the United Nations, which also indicates that more than half of the world population, that is, some 3,500 million people, live in cities, most of them in the largest urban areas.
In 1980, there were only 51 Chinese major cities with over 500,000 inhabitants,but that figure has increased four-fold to reach 236 and, according to the UN, China will add more than 100 cities to that group in 2025.
Precisely in the Eastern Crown, the emblematic and largest pavilion of the Expo,the host country reveals the key to its speedy economic and social development since time immemorial in which wooden wheels and vehicles drawn by animals prevailed to the current context of the magnificence of cities like Beijing, Suzhou and Shanghai itself.
China doesn't hide its problems either, and shows some of the paths to face challenges like the negative environmental impact resulting from accelerated industrialization.
In this regard 27-year-old Wang Lina, from the city of Tianjin, points out: "We Chinese feel proud of this event. The Expo is a good opportunity for our citizens to take a closer look at the world and make friends. I'm particularly interested in the possibilities of high technology."
NATIONAL PAVILLIONS, LATIN AMERICA AND CUBA
Haibao, the Expo's blue mascot, greets visitors with the unmistakable Ni Hao (Hello). Present at the event are over 190 nations and almost 60 international organizations, which have already turned the Shanghai Expo into the largest of its kind ever held.
From its official opening on May 1st until 1:00 p.m. May 3, the Park of the World Expo had received 550,000 visitors. If this pace continues, it will reach the expected 70 million visitors in the over 180 days.
Some of the world exhibitions have gone down in history for having left architectural works like the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Space Needle in Seattle, or for having introduced the general public to advances like television and electricity.
But in Shanghai all eyes will be set on the Park's 5.3 square kilometers.
The visitor's attention is drawn to the ultra-sophisticated design of some of the national pavilions, some of them with sui generis ecological proposals, like the impressive British Cathedral of Seeds with some 60,000 acrylic rods moving and capturing light-, the giant wicker basket brought by Spain or China's red inverted pyramid.
The organizers of the World Expo have confirmed the participation in the event of the 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries, which will be present in 8 national pavilions and two groups in the C area of the Park.
The Cuban Pavilion, a modern glass building, in the interior of which the colors red and blue predominate, has the Venezuelan, Chilean and Mexican pavilions as its closest neighbors.
Its entrance could be none other than a "portal", a typical element of Cuban architecture, which leads to a traditional square, dominated by a giant mural photograph of our beloved Havana.
Cuba's ambassador to China, Carlos Miguel Pereira, who is also the island's general organizer at the fair, told this newspaper that the Cuban exhibition has been warmly welcomed.
"Our main slogan, A City for All, is based on the opportunities offered with equity to each of its inhabitants, and their active participation in the building and transformation of the city, regardless of their social status,race, genre, culture religion, ethnic group and intellectual level."
"We're also presenting the experiences we have been accumulating in Cuba in the restoration programs of Old Havana's historic area and the way in which we handle life in the city from the point of view of community work.
In addition,we are offering a panorama of our economic, political and social reality", he explained.
There, visitors will be able to drink the popular mojito and taste a good Havana cigar, and come in contact with the most recent scientific, social and culturalachievements of our long green Caiman, the image of Cuba.
By: Juan Diego Nusa, Granma Daily special Correspondent