115TH ANNIVERSARY: Nicolás Guillén: the cultivated and the popular thing

115 years after the birth of the National Poet, his poetry remains one of the pillars of Cuban literature of all time.

Nicolás Guillén (1902-1989) was born with the abused republic and marked a good part of his work with the deep and committed page. Life confronted him with challenges too early. In full adolescence, his father was murdered by soldiers in a political riot. His loss faced him up with the need to fight for daily survival.

Son of a lower middle-class family from Camagüey, with considerable cultural level, the boy had to work to help his mother, a woman who kept the unity of the family with firmness and affection.

Guillén graduated from junior high school in Camagüey and earned his living as a typographer, establishment employee, local newspaper reporter… until he enrolled in the University of Havana’s Law School. He quitted it early and devoted himself to journalism and poetic creation very soon.

The publication of his poem “Motivos de Son” (Motives of Son) on the pages of Diario de la Marina newspaper in 1930 was a literary event. Guillén became a celebrity soon, because his poems caused an intense controversy. Such a determined approach to all popular heritage from poetry had hardly been seen before. Poet Emilio Ballagas, from Camagüey too, was very impressed with the texts and this meant the beginning of their lasting friendship.

A year later, Guillén won a lottery prize and decided to use the money to publish his first book, “Sóngoro consongo”, where he included texts from “Motivos….” and other new poems. The approach to the topic of race was not superficial or hasty, like those from so many contemporaries… His reflection, without being didactical or evidently militant, was much deeper.

In 1937, he joined the Communist Party. He travelled to Mexico along with another outstanding communist intellectual, Juan Marinello, to take part in the congress organized by the League of Revolutionary Writers and Artists. His stay in that country broadened his horizons. He joined frontline creators, such Silvestre Revueltas, José Mancisidor, Diego Rivera, Alfaro Sequeiros...

That same year he was invited to participate at the 2nd International Congress of Writers for the Defense of Culture, in Barcelona, Valencia and Madrid. Spain was living its civil war, and progressive intellectuals were on the side of the Republic. There, Guillén met Manuel Altolaguirre, who edited his book "España. Poema en cuatro angustias y una esperanza” (Spain. Poem in Four Anguishes and a Hope), Antonio Machado, Miguel Hernández, Pablo Neruda, Ilya Ehrenburg, Rafael Alberti, César Vallejo, León Felipe, Juan Chabás, Octavio Paz, Tristán Tzara, Anna Seghers… and resumed friendship with Ernest Hemingway, who he had met in Cuba.

Back in Cuba, he witnessed the strong political instability until the 1940 Constituent Assembly, in which communists participated for the first time. Guillén was one of the most outstanding voices from the revolutionary left. He travelled across all continents, took part in international congresses, and of course, made a lot of poetry.

Batista’s dictatorship made him an exile. He was in Buenos Aires when the Revolution triumped in 1959. He returned immediately and joined the construction of a new society.

In 1961, Havana housed the 1st National Congress of Writers and Artists of Cuba, in which Guillén was elected president of the new Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC). He headed the organization until 1985, years full of both creative activity and moments of strong incomprehensions and disagreements…

His significance was already universal and he could have delighted in his fame, but decided to work in pursuit of the development of a new way of supporting creation.

Throughout his life, his literary production moved from postmodernism, avant-garde experiences, until crystallizing into an authentic “black” or Afro-Antillean poetry.

His scholarship and language command were extraordinary. His range of topics was very wide, but his poetic production moved around two great edges: the exaltation of the black and the social situation. But he also has beautiful poems of love.

Nicolás Guillén died on July 17, 1989 in Havana, after a long illness. Cuba cried the man who was declared National Poet, for his unquestionable contributions to the poetic body of the nation.

He knew how to combine the cultivated and the popular thing, basis of the most authentic and comprehensive culture.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / Cubasi Translation Staff

Caribbean Festival Begins in Santiago de Cuba

Santiago de Cuba, Jul 3 (Prensa Latina) The 37th International Festival of the Caribbean began today in this city, with an extensive cultural and academic program to strengthen the relations between the regional countries, based on respect to their roots and spirituality.

The opening ceremony will take place at the Theater Heredia, with expressions of the people's traditional culture and the participation of representatives for more than 21 Caribbean countries, Latin America and Europe that will take part in this event, also called Fiesta del Fuego (Celebration of Fire).

In this 37th edition, the island of Bonaire will receive the greatest honor, as special guest that will take the opportunity to show the richness and diversity of its culture, through music, a carnival, cuisine traditions, poetry, theater and fine arts.

The festival will be on until Sunday, organized by the house of the Caribbean as one of its main events in 35 years.

As an initiative of founder-director Joel James, this celebration has been possible, thanks to the collaboration by the Culture Ministry and other Cuban and foreign institutions.

During the opening ceremony of the Press Center at the Patrimonial Corridor Las Enramadas, the participants will make statements against the internal interferance policies of US President Donald Trump.

  • Published in Culture

Santiago de Cuba Prepares 37 International Festival of the Caribbean

Santiago de Cuba, Jun 29 (Prensa Latina) The House of the Caribbean prepares the 37th Fire Festival (Fiesta del Fuego), which will attract crowds with colors, taste and sounds from July 3rd to 9th.

The opening of the International Festival of the Caribbean will take place next Monday with an artistic performance at the Heredia theater, which will hold theoretical sessions, as well as music, theater and dance performances, along with plastic arts exhibitions.

In the whole city, dozens of indoor and outdoor areas have been arranged to host groups that work with traditional culture from Cuba and other countries from the Caribbean and Latin America.

The International Award of the House of the Caribbean will be granted to outstanding musician Marcel Mercera, from Bonaire, a Caribbean island to which the festival is dedicated.

Argentina, Germany, Bahamas, Brazil, Curacao, Spain, Guadalupe, Chile, Virgin Islands, Panama, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Jamaica, United States, Uruguay, Trinidad-Tobago and Venezuela are among the 21 countries that will participate in the festival, which will have the highest amount of participants from Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

  • Published in Culture

Casa de las Américas Hosts Virgin Islands Artists and Academics

Havana, May 22 (RHC)-- Casa de las Americas, Cuba’s best-known and most prestigious cultural institution, is featuring the work and words of a delegation of Virgin Islands artists and scholars from May 22nd until Friday, the 26th.

A full day of events, screenings and exhibitions during the institution’s sixth edition of its International Colloquium on Cultural Diversity in the Caribbean is devoted to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

This year’s colloquium, entitled “Memory and Border Conflicts,” is particularly concerned with the centennials of two events in the Caribbean region: the transfer of the Danish West Indies to the United States, and the passage of the Jones Act which gave Puerto Ricans United States citizenship.  Both events occurred in 1917.

“Both events are of crucial importance not only in the geopolitical map of their time, but to the cultural and social reconfiguration of territories and communities,” said Camila Valdés León, director of the Center for Caribbean Studies at Casa de las Americas. “Thinking about these historical moments today involves understanding them in their multiple dimensions, including the present."

A third historical event to be discussed during the five day colloquium is the eightieth anniversary of the 1937 massacre at the Haitian-Dominican border.  According to Valdés León: “It will prompt us to think about the impact of this event on the collective memory of the region.”

The U.S. Virgin Islands has been represented at the past two international colloquiums at Casa de las Americas in 2013 and 2015, but this is the first time that a complete section of the program is dedicated to the territory.

“We are very excited about the program and look forward to welcoming the delegation from the Virgin Islands of the United States on the centennial of such an important event, for them and for the whole Caribbean,” said Valdés León.

As in previous years, the colloquium is expected to attract an international crowd of Caribbean Studies specialists, artists, musicians, performers, students, and people interested in the subjects to be addressed.  All events are free and open to the public, including musical concerts, art exhibits and performances.

On Monday, an exhibition of work by seven practicing contemporary artists on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix  opened at Casa de Las Americas, located in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.

The exhibition is entitled “My Islands Do Not Make a Nation” after a line from a poem by St. Thomian writer Tiphanie Yanique.  It features works by La Vaughn Belle, David Berg, Shansi Miller, Sigi Torinus, Cooper Penn, Janet Cook-Rutnik, and Jon Euwema.  The exhibition is curated by St. John-based curatorial team The Gri Gri Project, consisting of Priscilla Hintz Rivera Knight and David Knight Jr.

According to the curators, the exhibition hopes to capture “how some contemporary artists in the territory react to the ambivalent cosmopolitanism of life in one of the world’s last non-self-governing territories, an unincorporated territory of the United States.”

The show also features an epilogue of carnival photos taken by Cuban-born V.I. artist, publisher and author Mario Picayo.

On Monday, former V.I. Government Representative for External Affairs Dr. Carlyle Corbin inaugurated the conference portion of the event along with Sergio Valdés Bernal of the University of Havana.

The day featured a panel entitled “Roots/Crossroutes: Migration and Memory in the Virgin Islands Diaspora” featuring University of the Virgin Islands professors Vincent Cooper, Alscess Lewis Brown and Chenzira Davis-Kahina.

A second panel on the last 100 years in the Virgin Islands featured Amrey Mathunin from the University of Pennsylvania, and Hadiya Sewer, a PhD candidate at Brown University.

A third panel on arts and cultural education included Picayo, Hintz Rivera Knight, Knight Jr. and participating artists in “My Islands Do Not Make a Nation.”

The day also featured a Mocko Jumbie performance by Penn and two movie screenings:  “We the People, a Transfer Day Perspective” directed by Erik Miles, and “Jamesie, King of Scratch,” directed by Andrea Leland.

Edited by Pavel Jacomino
  • Published in Culture

Jamaican Sprinter Usain Bolt Cleared of 'False' Doping Reports

The global Olympic authority re-tested samples from the 2008 games and found that Jamaican athlete did not "abuse" clenbuterol.

The International Olympic Committee said it had not detected any significant abuse of clenbuterol after finding "very low levels" of the banned substance during retesting of samples from the Beijing Olympics, as Jamaican officials slammed the reports of abuse as “outright false.”

RELATED: Bolt Makes Olympic History

The International Olympic Committee's comments Monday came one day after German broadcaster ARD reported that traces of the banned substance were found in samples provided by members of the Jamaican sprint team at the Games in 2008.

Jamaica won 10 medals in the sprint events led by Usain Bolt, who took gold in the men's 100 and 200 meters.

In a statement, the IOC said that "very low levels of clenbuterol" were found in the cases of athletes from a number of countries and different sports. It said the athletes were innocent and could not give any more details.

Without mentioning Jamaica or the ARD allegations, the IOC said that all values were "in the range of potential meat contamination cases". It said it "carefully deliberated" whether or not to proceed with the cases and consulted the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA.

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According to the IOC, WADA said it could not find "any significant and consistent pattern of abuse of clenbuterol in these cases and that it would be appropriate not to take these cases any further."

Jamaican officials said they hoped the IOC and WADA would set the record straight with regard to the ARD report. "I think some of the innuendoes and assertions have been unfortunate, if not outright false, and hopefully these will be corrected by the IOC and WADA in due course,” Jamaica Olympic Association president Mike Fennell told Reuters.

“It is clear that there are many people in the world that want to get at Jamaica because some of them feel that we have been far too successful and we do not deserve to be successful," Fennell added.

RELATED: Russia Doping Allegations Politicize Olympic Games

"They cannot believe that this little country can produce so many superstars and they are trying to find some way to damage that. Our athletes are clean and we respect the anti-doping rules."

Warren Blake, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, also questioned if the report was aimed "at trying to destroy Jamaica's good name."

The IOC stores samples for a decade to test with newer methods or for new substances. It ordered re-tests of samples from Beijing in the run-up to last year's Rio Olympics to try and root out drug cheats.

Clenbuterol is a performance-enhancing substance sometimes found in weight-loss pills and is on the WADA banned list.

Jamaica were stripped of the Beijing 4x100 meters gold medal in January when Nesta Carter was found in retests of his sample to have taken the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine. The whole relay team lost their medals as a result, including Bolt.

  • Published in Sports

Former Haiti President Aristide Survives Assassination Attempt

Protests in support of the still-popular former president broke out soon after the incident.

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide survived an apparent assassination attempt Monday when gunmen opened fire on his motorcade, injuring two passersby.

RELATED: After Creating Haiti's Cholera Crisis, UN Can Barely Fight It

Aristide was leaving a courthouse in Port-au-Prince, providing testimony for a money laundering case against Jean Anthony Nazaire, former commissary of the Haitian national police, when bullets flew toward his car.

Ira Kurzban, a Miami attorney who represents Aristide, told NBC News that "at least two people standing in front of the car were hit and there (was) blood on the right front bumper and headlight of the vehicle."

"Thank God no one was killed and at least one of the shooting victims was taken to the university medical center that President Aristide was instrumental in founding," Kurzban told the outlet.

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Protests in support of the still-popular former president broke out soon after. Aristide is regarded as heroic by many in the country for working his way to the top post as the country's first democratically elected president after growing up in poverty. An adherent of liberation theology, the former Catholic priest played an instrumental role in expelling dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986, whose family ruled the country for almost 30 years.

RELATED: Caribbean Denounces Trump Nationalism, Vows Better Cooperation​​​​​​​

Elected twice as president, Aristide was forced to flee the country both times, the first time in 1991 to Venezuela and then later the United States after a military coup against him. He was returned to office in 1994 with the help of pressure from the U.S. Then in 2004, the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush backed a coup against him and he was flown out of the country, which Aristide described as a kidnapping, spending his first months in exile in Jamaica before relocating to South Africa.

Aristide returned to Haiti in 2011, following a massive earthquake the year before which devastated the country, so that he could be a part of the rebuilding process.

  • Published in World

ALBA Countries Agree to Strengthen Regional Integration

Caracas, March 6 (Prensa Latina) ALBA-TCP member countries agreed to work with the purpose of strengthening the unity and integration of Latin America and the Caribbean and establishing conditions to guarantee the economic growth of this Latin American bloc.

This was proclaimed by Caracas Declaration at the conclusion of the 14th Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America - Peoples' Trade Agreement (ALBA-TCP), which was held on Sunday at the Miraflores Palace, headquarters of the Government of Venezuela.

The Alliance is composed of eight countries, with two special guests and three observers. The full members are Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela.

Special guests include Suriname and Saint Lucia, while observers include Haiti, Iran, and Syria.

The unity and regional integration of Latin America and the Caribbean is an urgent need in this complex environment. ALBA-TCP, along with blocs such as MERCOSUR, UNASUR, CARICOM, and others that regained their leading role in the last decade, should continue to contribute to regional integration.

'The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) is our most precious work. It is the mechanism to forge unity in diversity through political agreement. The Community has had to face the resistance of the defenders of failed Pan-Americanism. We must preserve it,' the statement stresses.

  • Published in World

Former Haitian President Rene Preval Dies At 74

PORT-AU-PRINCE (Reuters) - Former Haitian president Rene Preval has died, the government of the Caribbean nation said on Friday.

Preval, 74, was the first democratically elected modern-day leader of Haiti to serve his full term. In 2012, during his second term as president, Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake.

Current President Jovenel Moise said on Twitter that he was saddened to learn of the death of Preval, who he described as a “dignified son of Haiti.”

  • Published in World
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