Magazine AM:PM
Deconstructing the night Illustration: Mayo Bous

Deconstructing the night: Gabinete Caligari

The Gabinete Caligari is located, curiously, in a peripheral place in the heart of Holguin, in a space that resembles its spirit. The same happens with La Periquera, insignia and patrimony of the city, that dominates the central park as it corresponds to what it is, and to what it once was: a center of power. From its north-facing position, facing the haughty statue of Calixto García, La Periquera loses sight of the Caligari, which is as if hidden in one of the corners, perched on top of the Art Center. Because El Caligari, from that perspective, is a dark terrace with truck tires for seats attended by poor and marginalized young people who don't have money to go to "fancy".

Founded in the early 90's, with a laudatory name of a jewel of German expressionism, the Gabinete Caligari was born as the headquarters of the Asociación Hermanos Saíz (AHS) in the province and became the "headquarters" of the rock and roll scene. undergroundIt was also one of the main squares of the Romerías de Mayo, which at that time was one of the most important cultural events in the country.

A mystique was woven around the Caligari that favored or harmed it, depending on the observer. The opinion that dominated in the classist sectors was that of being a place where dirty people went and where fights took place, marijuana was smoked, etc. This epidermal perception was reinforced by the irreverent attitude of some characters such as Mundi, the well-known punk who was inoculated with AIDS during the Special Period, who carried a backpack full of bottles of homemade rum for sale, and who went to the extreme of throwing himself from the heights of the Caligari and survived - twice. After all, everyone who knew him knows that Mundi was misunderstood, one of the family.

The truth is that the Caligari, as a place of confluence, ended up hosting several generations of young people rejected by social conventions. There you were "part of something", and you could witness a debate about the first Mayhem album or the latest single by The Strokes; or you could discuss painting, literature, cinema... Although the venue was traditionally frequented by rockers, the Caligari was visited by prominent artists of all manifestations, and concerts of trova, jazz, techno or hip hop were organized on its premises. Bands, audiovisual and literary projects, visual arts exhibitions and even festivals were born out of the exchanges that took place there. Such was the case of the Electrozona club, which, thanks to the work of DJ Tiko and DJ Jimenez, became an electronic music festival with international projection.

Illustration: Mayo Bous

In general, the Caligari was a dynamic, enriching and diverse area, with a loyal and close public.

When the pandemic crisis arrived, everything changed. The closing of venues, the lack of budget for the organization of events, the gradual privatization of services, the massive exodus to the United States, and an erratic institutional direction, affected the Caligari in a sensitive way. Today only two bands play there: Espiritu Libre -of questionable quality, to say the least- and Claim -reduced to cover band after two key members left the country. In the peñas, the playlist -The gastronomic services have fallen to a pathetic micro-enterprise that does not even cover the minimum; and the public does not reach thirty people. Have the regulars of the Caligari disappeared? No, they are scattered around the city, orphans of institutions and culture.

Mundi is dead, neither his "flight simulations" nor AIDS killed him, but he is gone and it shows. DJ Tiko -who was a man of beautiful recklessness-, tried to cross the border wall of Playas de Tijuana and died drowned. He did not achieve what his colleague, DJ Jimenez; already established in northern lands.

At the Caligari there is a tradition: at the end of their activities - the time to wake up the drunks sleeping on the tires - the song from Voltus Vwhich pretends to be interpreted as an "it's over". If any of you reading this note is from Holguín, with all humility I say to you: Perhaps, my friend, we should refer to the original message of that fucking song: "Let's unite!


*This text was published in the No. 11 of Magazine AM:PM

Miguel Montero More posts

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