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Articles Illustration: Alejandro Cuervo. Illustration: Alejandro Cuervo.

hug of poets

Bejucal, Mayabeque. April 2017. The museum is filled with strange people. Rum sales skyrocket. Lots of movement, laughter here, hugs there. The First Meeting of Poets and Singers.

Noslen Porrúa has been heating up the town for years, but this time it happened. Jessica Zequeira, her partner, remembers when the municipality was going through a great crisis, the House of Culture was falling in 2007 when the boys from Enfusion began to raise, with music, the vast cultural tradition. With Noslen at the helm, the rock was a great party, always with guests who represented the panorama of national trova. After having started dancing for years, in 2014 Noslen and Jessica started the Otra Tono rock, much more intimate, mystical and poetic. Les invitades, also luxurious, were now not just troubadours; In addition, many poets came. The public before the noble and imposing energy of the singer-songwriter, learned to listen in silence and respect. Of amazing quality, the rock was gathering more and more assiduous artists, and the after party gathered portentous pickets. The conditions were given:

—Little crow! Bring a bus full of people from Havana here!

Alejandro Cuervo produced and carried the networks. Daniel Duarte invited the poets. Noslen directed that madness by creating the show on the spot. The AHS put the bus and Provincial Culture the budget. I arrived early: —Pa' me that this got out of hand, that quantity of people. 

But that was meant to work flowing like a river.

—What really happened is that Cultura cut the budget for the Otra Tono rock, and it was decided to make a big bimonthly rock (which would later be quarterly). We had seen that poets really wanted to read. Jorge García Prieto, Juan Puentes, Yenis Laura, Claudia Expósito, Andrés Pérez, Jessica Pérez Quesada, Armando Landa, Jamila Medina… There were a total of 12 poets and 12 singers in each peña.

Everything was put together organically, without many technicalities. Even so, there was never anything to reproach the sound engineer or the flow of the show. Tensions were hidden behind Noslen's Zen smile.

At night, the museum was packed. The chairs were not enough and almost everyone was standing, talking, when the host welcomed us. Two poems or songs for each one was the only law. Thus began to parade, without order but in logical succession, a lineage of artists that was not defined by generation or style, but by the bomb and quality in the proposal. 

Oscar Sánchez, Yaíma Orozco, Jorgito Kamankola, Nelson Valdés, Freddy Laffita, Inti Santana, Erick Méndez… they all presented their voice and performance. Very different, they caught the Bejucaleño public and their colleagues as if we were in a theater. 

—The most impressive thing was that the peña lasted three hours and people were really attending all the time. Three hours of poetry and song! And when it was over they asked for more and more. 

I remember one night when Armando Landa read a four-page poem with sick passivity. The people listened. The pleased municipal poet wrote a few words about that meeting in December 2017:

“This fourth edition of the Encuentro de Poetas y Cantores gathering, which has as its meeting and celebration center the Municipal Museum of Santiago and San Felipe del Bejucal, sponsored by the troubadour and cultural entertainer Noslen Porrúa, is a sample of what can be done when of desires to do it is about. Noslen Porrúa is the magnetized center of this reunion with an artistic fact that, if it is not apotheosis for what is merely quantitative; It is a space destined to exalt good taste and therefore the qualitative, which is in charge of culture. It must be taken for granted that this space has been creating an audience that follows it and that is adding new voices to its natural environment (...)”.

Roberto Manzano, the poet, confessed to Noslen that he "had never been in a space in Cuba where poetry had that value." I also remember how pleased Joaquín Borges-Triana was with his visit. It was a meeting of shows happy and enthusiastic, party drunk, ecstatic with art and eager for friends and songs.

For the kids it was, in the first instance, a school. The influence of Jorge García Prieto and Juan Puentes will last for centuries. The teacher Roberto Manzano, always attentive to the new generations, reading one of his speeches, made all souls vibrate. The opportunity to see, with special power, the hermit poet and painter Omar Pérez playing the cajon was unforgettable. But we also sat behind the microphone and did our couple of poems or songs. Being able to share among greats made us grow, without a doubt. Frank David Guerra, Frank Mitchel Chirino, Tobías Alfonso, Fito del Río, Wendy Martínez, we were all beginners applauded for very valuable hands.

The Meeting of Poets and Singers gradually became a cultural movement. For three years, different aesthetic patterns dialogued in that space on the same concept of show. A circus of art, joy and seriousness dancing, careless quality. The song became poetry, and the poets read melodies. A complete group, with different artistic, social, political postures, paths and attitudes, gathered in the darkness of the public, observing; attentive and passionate.

In April 2020 it was the last rock. The public at 12 o'clock at night wanted it to continue, but it had to be stopped. Until then, the Encounter of Poets and Singers had been a unique space with good repercussions among bohemian Havanans and Bejucaleños. About 200 artists must have passed through there. They came from anywhere in the country, even many Latin Americans and Spaniards used those humble microphones.

Now the silence in Bejucal hurts. The disconnection attacks the municipal culture. The emptiness of presentation spaces leaves poets and singers useless and depressed. In the capital there are also no frequent meetings, so the national lyric, stored in drawers, suffers. Spaces like this are essential for continuity, for cultural tradition. We hope that silence will soon bring a spring to see the embrace of the poets blossom.

Avatar photo Abel Lescay An animal (laughs). More posts

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  1. Ernesto Gonzalez Silva says:

    The silence will increase. Before the departure of the country of the director of the Municipal Band. The solution, even with possible directors to replace him, is to close the band and leave the musicians who have been in it for 10 years, without work. And the worst, to Bejucal without his band.

  2. Joaquín Borges-Triana says:

    Excellent account of the space, dear Abel, I hope that at some point those wonderful encounters between music and poetry will be recovered.

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