Cuba is culture: Homeland and life in Luis Aragon’s ceramics

Hundreds of craftsmen across our archipelago successfully cultivate artistic ceramics, endeavor in which several cities stand out, among them Matanzas, Trinidad, Camagüey, Havana and Santiago de Cuba. Luis Aragon Tellez is from the latter, but he’s little known nationwide in spite of the unquestionable strength and quality of his works, in which he approaches the most varied topics through a formal diversity, without denying the very nature of the material. Among his iconographies there stand out the tree-dimensional ones of different formats, many of them recreated in renowned personalities of history and culture.

In his small workshop located in the basement of one of the 18-storey buildings in central Garzon Avenue, in the Hero City, this restless and dreamy artist handles clay with amazing creative skill, in a sort of mystic sharing from which a diversity of projects emerge, as much of utilitarian nature as artistic, or the combination of both, in order to create exciting aesthetic experiences in the spectators that allow them to enjoy the striking ennoblement of clay in his hands.

He graduated as mid-level craft technician at “Pepito Tey” Polytechnic School, in Santiago de Cuba (2001) and many of his sculptural pieces have been placed in different squares and institutions of that eastern city, where there stand out those recreated on the Maceo Grajales family, like the bust of Mariana located in Maceo’s Seat of Honor in the Social House of Mothers of the Martyrs; as well as the piece entitled “Las Marianas de estos tiempos” (The Marianas of These Times), placed at the Center for Antonio Maceo Grajales Studies, which gave him a recognition for having contributed with his work to preserve the historical memory of the emblematic mambi (patriotic) family.

Several busts inspired by the National Hero of Cuba, Jose Marti, as well as other artistic ceramic productions related to Santiago de Cuba’s culture, education, public health and society, also enrich the curriculum of this maker, who started as a potter turner in 2003 at Caguayo Foundation. Then, he joined the Cuban Association of Craft Artists (ACAA) in 2009, after participating in numerous individual and group exhibitions.

The soundness of his craft and sculptural endeavor has allowed him to be in great demand to decorate several places in Santiago, such as Bohio de La Trova (Trova Hut), Cabildo Teatral (Town Hall Theater), la Unidad Presupuestada de Apoyo a la Actividad Cultural (the Budgeted Unit to Support Cultural Activities), “America Domitro” Library, “Felix Varela Morales” Junior High School, Casa de la Cultura “Miguel Matamoros” (Miguel Matamoros Culture House), where unconceivably his impressive bust inspired by Jose Marti, erected there, was replaced by an ordinary and poor figure of the Apostle made of plaster.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Luis acted as plastic arts instructor at the Municipal Directorate in Santiago de Cuba and has collaborated for several years with literary project “Vuelos de mujer” (Woman’s Wings), whose annual awards consist of a piece donated by this maker, who is a recurrent guest at Fire Art biennales, convened by ACAA’s branch in Matanzas.

Entrepreneurial and simple man, he works with clay as if it were a game in which he exercises his craft skills to turn it into an art that, as stated Alejandro G. Alonso —director of the National Museum of Artistic Ceramics for many years until his death—, “It is not decorative art, or applied art, or craft only”. It’s much more.

It’s worth recalling that artistic ceramics began in Cuba in the late 1940s, under the auspices of Dr. Juan Miguel Rodríguez de la Cruz, a respectable physician who had a workshop for those aims in the capital’s outlying neighborhood of Santiago de las Vegas, where such renowned artists as Wifredo Lam, Amelia Pelaez, Mariano Rodríguez and Rene Portocarrero, among others, participated with him in the decoration of utilitarian objects. That place shaped this art expression that has spread across the archipelago and that still needs a better recognition within the visual arts of the island more than 70 years later.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

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IN PHOTOS: El Morro of Santiago de Cuba

 

On a rocky and steep crag exactly at the entrance of the bay of Santiago de Cuba, sits the military fortress San Pedro de la Roca or El Morro Castle.

Its walls and stone steps, the ancient dungeons where some of our most distinguished patriots suffered prison, the cannons and balustrades... keep a history of four centuries old. First colonial defensive ring of the city lived more or less outstanding moments like the naval battle of Santiago de Cuba, during the Hispanic-Cuban-American war in 1898.  

It offers spectacular views of the city and the Caribbean Sea. For those daredevils a special challenge awaits them: to walk down its dozens of steps until reaching the first level very close to the sea. The climb up is troublesome, but the winning sensation when reaching the top is indescribable.

Since year 2001 every day at dusk is carried out a ceremony of shooting an old cannon, in tribute to the Cuban liberators who were kept in jail there.  

 

Thanks to its architectural and historical values it was declared National Monument in 1979 and since 1997 it has been acknowledged as Cultural Patrimony of Humanity.  

Today El Morro still welcomes from its majestic height the foreign and locals, in one of the most attractive summer proposals in the most Caribbean city of Cuba.

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Common future with Uruguay highlighted in Santiago de Cuba

The bonds that unite the stories of Cuba and Uruguay stood out today during the Caribbean Colloquium that unites us, the theoretical space of the 39th International Caribbean Festival, dedicated to the culture of that South American nation.

Cuban researcher Vitellius Ruiz stated milestones of these convergences, from the performance of José Martí as consul of Uruguay in New York and the participation of Ernesto Guevara at the Conference of Punta del Este, to the 25th Feria Cubana del Libro that was consecrated to him.

The visit of Fidel Castro to Uruguay a few months after the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, hundreds of Uruguayans who found refuge in Cuba following the repression unleashed by the dictatorship and hosting the Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez by President José Mujica in 2012 were recalled.

With ambassador, Eduardo Lorier, and the marriage of Sara Medeiros and Oscar Damian, along with researcher Ruiz whose initiative was to have Uruguay as guest of honor at this Feast of Fire, there was a panel on rites, rituals developed and mixtures, with emphasis on the Afro imprint in Uruguayan culture.

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As part of this recognition, homage was paid to Hugo Cheche Santos, prominent figure of Afro-Uruguayan popular music.

The feast will continue this Friday with an academic look at the history, culture and current affairs of the Caribbean peoples and several issues will be related to the links between Honduras and Cuba, as well as the Garífuna culture of that Central American nation.

Academic sessions will be held until Monday, while the varied proposals of the Jubilee artistic program are underway.

On Friday afternoon, the Parade of the Serpent will take place, considered the popular opening of the Festival, with a tour through most central streets of the groups carrying the traditional culture, arriving from different and distant latitudes.

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The World Documentary Festival Returns to Santiago de Cuba Province

Among March 6th through the 11th, the upcoming Santiago Álvarez In Memoriam International Documentary Festival goes back to the southern and eastern city with its president Lázara Herrera.

At a Press Conference carried out at the Hermanos Saíz Assotiation (AHS), Lázara Herrera, who also presides over the Santiago Álvarez (OSA), confirmed that 16 documentaries from 11 nations are present at this event of the world documentaries.

Along with the national materials, we have aesthetical proposals from Argentina, the Netherlands, Algeria, France, Spain, Mexico, Peru and England apart from the proposals of the local Movie and Television International School.

The World Documentary Festival Returns to Santiago de Cuba Province

"We got to the 17th Festival event and the event was precisely dedicated to the centennial of teacher Santiago Álvarez and the Cuban film-making industry with related actions nationwide", she pointed out.

More than 100 local documentaries and 1490 Latin American ICAIC News Programs are part of the artistic work and documentary-maker Santiago Álvarez who showed the main events of Cuba and the world between 1960 and 1990.

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The Rumba of the Timbalaye Festival Returns to Santiago de Cuba

The Timbalaye International Festival of the Rumba Route celebrating its 10th edition since last August 17th in Cuba, was present on Wednesday in the Heredia Theater in the eastern city as part of its national tour.

The activities in Santiago de Cuba began on Tuesday with exchanges with Rumba groups like the Oriente Folkloric Ballet, Kokoye, the Cutumba Folkloric Ballet among others held at the Casa del Caribe.

Wednesday’s session was dedicated to Rumba from an academic and participatory point of view, with a workshop offered at the Heredia Cultural Complex.

Ulises Mora, who presides the Festival alongside Irma Castillo, told the press that Santiago de Cuba is the main objective of Timbalaye.

All Rumba events as heritage is nourished from the contribution of other genres like the Tumba Francesa, also declared Oral and Immaterial World Heritage and whose heart beats in Santiago, said Mora.

Professional dancers interested in the genre and popular performers of Rumba were at the activities with the objective of enriching the event with their costumes and dancing styles maintaining the manifestation active in Cuban culture.

The Director of the Oriente Folkloric Ballet, Ernesto Arminan, said that Timbalaye is vital because it honors Rumba across the island and recognizes its diversity brining to Santiago de Cuba a little of history and different techniques of the island.

The festival will continue to Guantanamo and will conclude early September to the El Sauce Cultural Center in Havana.


(ACN)

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Díaz-Canel Pays Tribute to Fidel Castro in Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba, Jun 21 (Prensa Latina) Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel paid tribute to the historic leader of the Revolution, Fidel Castro, in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery of this eastern city.

Díaz-Canel also deposited flowers in the niches of the Cuban heroes José Martí, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes and Mariana Grajales, essential names in the history of the nation.

As part of his tour of Santiago de Cuba, the head of state checked investment works, including those carried out in the port.

The day before, Díaz-Canel toured the Universidad de Oriente, where he spoke with students and professors from that institute.

Also, the president greeted residents of the territory of El Cobre, an emblematic site of Cuban religion, history and culture, guarded by the Sierra Maestra and the National Shrine of the Virgin of Charity.

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President Diaz-Canel Visits Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba, June 20 (Prensa Latina) Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel is currently on a tour of the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, where he is visiting places of socio-economic interest.

In the town of El Cobre, located in the surroundings of the Sierra Maestra mountain range, some 20 kilometers from this city, the president witnessed the execution of works aimed at tourism development, including the hotel named after the town.

El Cobre is home to the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, a place visited daily by thousands of Cubans and foreigners.

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Omara Portuondo Opens Jazz Plaza in Santiago de Cuba

The 33rd Edition of the International Jazz Plaza Festival began on Thursday in Santiago de Cuba with a performance by the Diva of the Buena Vista Social Club, Omara Portuondo at the Marti Theater.

Omara Portuondo offered a memorable performance in which she demonstrated her musical talent interpreting themes that constitute jewels of Cuban music in a packed theater with people from all walks of life.

Omara Portuondo, 87 years of age, seduced the audience with her voice, danced with a unique Cuban identity that has taken her all over the world.

Omara is Cuba and having her open the Jazz Plaza in Santiago de Cuba was a blessing, said pianist Roberto Fonseca, President of the Jazz Plaza Festival that will include presentations from renowned figures in the genre in Cuba and the world like Maestro Bobby Carcasses and the US multi-instrumentalist and composer Ted Nash.

Omara Portuondo Opens Jazz Plaza in Santiago de Cuba

The Marti Theater, Iris Jazz Club and the branch of the Writers and Artists Association in Santiago will be the main venues of the festival with other greats like Zulema Iglesias, Giselle Lage, Carlos Miyares, Ivan Acosta and De Cuba Somos, Vocal con Paz Quintet and Okan Jazz.

The International Jazz Plaza Festival has been held in Cuba since 1980 at the initiative of Bobby Carcasses, is the most significant Jazz event in Cuba, and has been included among the leading countries in the development of this complex and fascinating genre.

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