FAIRFAX — On any given Saturday, you can likely find Toni Basanta in front of a camera. Just shy of 63 years old, the Fairfax local and host of Havana Fairfax Connection is eager and charismatic on screen, introducing musicians with a music fan’s enthusiasm and a radio veteran’s voice. Following the regular introductions, Basanta steps aside and lets the music take over.
The Havana Fairfax Connection is a far younger show than its host, starting only sixth months ago. But with 19 episodes, 14 of which are currently in circulation on Lake Champlain Access Television, Havana Fairfax Connection has already built up a growing resume of live performances, music video clip shows and interviews bridging the distant streets of Basanta’s first hometown of Havana with the festival stages of his new home in Vermont. And while the show’s format may change between weeks, there is always a constant at its center: Toni Basanta.
Preferring to go by the radio- and television-friendly name “Toni Basanta,” Antonio I. Basanta Perez was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1955, at a time when Havana’s upper-class nightlife earned comparisons to Las Vegas and when, according to Basanta, the arts flourished in the Cuban capital.
“Havana is a beautiful city,” Basanta said. “I was born in Havana at a moment when there was a lot of splendor about art.”
At about the time Basanta started elementary school, Havana was changing almost overnight. In 1958, fueled by provincial poverty and disgust with the corrupt government of General Fulgencio Batista, a revolution had swept across southeast Cuba. By the first weeks of January 1959, revolutionary forces under Fidel Castro had taken Havana and a new government was in place.
Basanta’s started his first year of school at an American school proctored by Methodist missionaries. That school, the Candler College, was later nationalized under the new government’s sweeping education reforms, and Basanta would continue on in public schools.
Noticing a need for language teachers in Cuba, Basanta would become a teacher, eventually getting a Ph.D. in education from a pedagogical school in Havana and teaching English. He spent 20 years as a teacher, teaching grade levels ranging from high school all the way to the Medical College of Havana.
“There was a need of teachers for grammar school. I applied for English,” Basanta said. “I always loved language.” That love of language would follow Basanta to Vermont, where he still sometimes teaches Spanish classes and substitute teaches both Spanish and French classes.
For more of Mr. Basanta’s story, pick up a copy of the weekend Messenger or subscribe to our digital edition.