A few glimpses of the Book Fair in Havana

The International Book Fair, Cuba 2019, has concluded in Havana. As a unique epilogue, the annual event now begins its journey to 15 other cities in the country, to culminate April 14 in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba.

During this 28th edition, the ancient San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress, the fairgrounds for the last several editions, hosted dozens of book launches, colloquiums, conferences, awards, stands, and bookshops.

Granma International offers readers a few snapshots to give an idea of the happenings there.

- Eduardo Heras León: writer, journalist, editor, literary and ballet critic; 2014 National Prize for Literature winner, to whom the Fair is dedicated. Along with the colloquium in Nicolás Guillén Hall on the life and work of someone who is widely known as “Chino” Heras, readers were gratified to find new editions of a number of his most important works, including La guerra tuvo seis nombres and Los pasos en la hierba, as well as new titles like El libro de los elogios, El libro de las entrevistas, and El libro de las presentaciones.

- Mirta Yañez: The Fair honored this writer, philologist, teacher, and member of the Cuban Academy of Language with the 2018 National Prize for Literature.

Considered one of the most important intellectuals of her generation, Mirta Yañez (Havana, 1947) has excelled in practically all genres she cultivates: poetry, stories, novels, and essays. Among her narrative titles, outstanding are the novel Sangra por la herida; short story collections Todos los negros tomamos café, La Habana es una ciudad bien grande, and El diablo son las cosas; and poetry to be found in Un solo bosque negro, and Las visitas y otros poemas.

She is one of the principal investigators of the female voice in Cuban literature and the co-author of the anthology Estatuas de sal, with poet Marilyn Bobes.

- 500th Anniversary of Havana’s founding: The anniversary led to the publication of more than a dozen books with Havana themes, a program headed by the City Historian’s publisher Ediciones Boloña. The novel titles were presented in the Plaza de Las Armas, in the heart of city’s central historic district, a World Heritage Site.

Azzedine Mihouni, Algerian Minister of Culture, presented his novel El juramento de Atocha at the fair, which featured Algeria as the guest Country of Honor. Photo: Juvenal Balán

This is how readers got their hands on classic works like the novel Cecilia Valdés or La Loma del Ángel, by Cirilo Villaverde; the anthology Crónicas habaneras, by Alejo Carpentier, who Graziella Pogolotti, the title’s presenter noted “contributed to the construction of the Havana myth,” and Cuadernos de historia habanera, volumes IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX and X, by Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, Havana City Historian from 1935 until 1964. The first three volumes released in 2018 are now joined by seven more, bearing the notebooks numbered 11 through 36.

- Two publishing events: The re-issue by Letras Cubanas publishing house of Oppiano Licario, the unfinished novel by José Lezama Lima; and Rayuela, the uncommon work of Julio Cortázar, as part of the Casa de Las Américas’ Classics of Latin America collection.

Published for the first time in 1977, a year after Lezama death, the new edition of Oppiano Licario was presented, 40 years later, at the Dulce María Loynaz, Cultural Center, while Rayuela, with the study by Lezama Lima for the first edition, exactly half a century later, was celebrated at Casa de Las Américas headquarters.

- Algeria, Guest Country of Honor: Arriving with a delegation of 30 writers, the sister nation opened a beautiful pavilion displaying more than 200 works on their patrimony and history, plus children’s literature and novels.

Presented during the fair were 18 titles by Algerian authors in Spanish including the novels Tierra de mujeres, by Nassira Beyoula; El viento del sur, by Abdelhamid Benhadouga; Un mar sin gaviotas, by Djilali Kellas, and El juramento de Atocha by Azzedine Mihouni, now the country’s minister of Culture.

Mihouni’s book is a serious reflection on the phenomenon of collective violence, with episodes that continue to occur around the world, which the author hopes will be taken as a message “in favor of peace and the need to promote dialogue and understanding among peoples, since culture can build bridges.”

- The literary celebration in figures: 1,300 literary and artistic presentations; more than 80 lectures; some 50 panel discussions, 45 prizes and tributes; more than 100 poetry readings and 150 book launches, concerts, film screenings, and art exhibits.

During the Fair’s closing ceremony, February 17, Juan Rodríguez Cabrera, president of the Cuban Book Institute, reported that more than 4,000 titles and four million copies were made available to readers; the public purchased some

409,395 books, more than 5,000 more than were sold during last year’s edition.

A quote from the great Jorge Luis Borges serves to celebrate Cuban readers

“Let others boast of the pages they have written, I am proud of those that have been read.”

- Other prizes: The Paper Door, for the best titles published by the country’s 22 regional houses, was awarded to Las memorias vacías de Solange Bañuelos, by Maité Hernández-Lorenzo (Ediciones Matanzas); the Readers’ Prize, for the best-selling book of 2018 went to Cien Horas con Fidel, by Ignacio Ramonet (Editorial Nuevo Milenio and the Council of State publishing house); and the Mirrored Door, awarded by the José Martí National Library’s reading program, went to writer and journalist Marta Rojas, for El equipaje amarillo, the most requested book of 2018.

Cuban intellectual Miguel Barnet, winner of the 1994 National Prize for Literature, made an interesting reflection during the 11th edition of the Fair in Havana, which was dedicated to his works: “I believe that book fairs are growing in Cuba and around the world, because books cannot be replaced by anything, they establish an intimate, strong, igneous, erotic, and sensual bond with people that cannot occur with a cold screen.”

Despite the influence of novel and varied digital technologies and doomsday announcements, books are still desired. The 409,395 copies sold in La Cabaña February 7-17 can allow us a certain smile.

  • Published in Culture

International Book Fair in Cuba Breaks Several Records

Havana, Feb 18 (Prensa Latina) The organizers of the 28th International Book Fair (FIL) in Cuba are reporting on Monday the results with several statistics records.

At the closing of the event in Havana, its president, Juan Rodriguez Cabrera, reported that the audience acquired about 409,395 copies this year, 5,000 more than what was achieved in the previous event.

The participating record of countries was also broken by receiving more than 400 representatives from 48 nations and the attendance at the San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress, headquarters of FIL in Havana, exceeded 385,000 visitors, higher to 20,900 to 2018.

According to the official count, about 100,651 people attended the fair on Saturday, February 16.

The People's Democratic Republic of Algeria was the guest of honor during this fair. The country was represented by a delegation made up of more than 30 artists, panelists, editors and writers who exhibited not only literary works; but also music, photography and the cinema of the African nation.

The 28th edition of FIL paid tribute to Cuban writer Eduardo Heras Leon, National Literature Prize laureate (2014) and Edition (2001). It also celebrated the 500th anniversary of the founding of Havana.

According to the president of the event, the fair opened the E-Commerce Book in national currency, a service to be available throughout the country.

The fair will now be extended to the rest of the provinces until April 14, in eastern Santiago de Cuba, in an attempt to multiply its benefits.

  • Published in Culture

The Benefits about Reading a Book

As it is shown by a new study of the Yale University from the United States, which concluded that the reading habit improves the hope and quality of life.

In that research published by the Social Science and Medicine magazine, it was discovered that there was a direct relation among the people with a longer longevity and those ones with reading habits.

The information was recently delivered and pointed out that after asking more than three thousands and five hundred participants who were over 50 years old about their reading habits, the related data allowed dividing those readers into some groups: the ones who did not read anything and those ones who used to do it over three hours and a half.

The results of that research, which lasted 12 years, proved that those two groups that used to read surpassed two additional years the group that did not do it.

Canadian researches proved that those who ususally read have a wider vocabulary and that help to get to know the words' pronountiation.

Science unveiled the knowledge about reading and we do see that the scientists of the Emory University compared the readers´ brains and the non-readers´ ones in 2015 and they got the conclusion that those ones who keep the reading habit, while using their imagination for understanding and feeling the characters´ emotions are nicest, according to a published article.

The Benefits about Reading a Book

Other researchers proved that reading increases the capacity about detecting and understanding other people's emotions that is an essential skill for the complex social relations.

According to the research by Ph.D. Davis Lewis, who is the pioneer in the field of the neurology, reading reduce the stress levels up to a 68 % and it deeply reduces the heart rhythm in comparison with an outdoor walk as it reduces the stress levels up to a 42%.

Researchers, Alice Sulivan and Matt Brown from the Education Institute (OIE), could verify that children who used to read for pleasure achieved much better marks at the school than their classmates even in subjects such a mathematics. This was because of reading increases the skill about acquiring and processing information. The results were more visible among children who were from 10 to 16 years of age.

International studies also proved that the elderly people who often read and carry out mental exercises have a lesser chance to develop the Alzheimer disease, taking into account that an active brain improves its functions and the answer quickness.

Reading provides other important benefits that include improving the spelling, taking advantage of the free time and forgetting worries as well as providing a higher knowledge about the mother tongue.

 

  • Published in Culture

Ecuador: Guayaquil to Host 4th International Book Fair

Quito, Sep 4 (Prensa Latina) The Ecuadorian coastal city of Guayaquil will host the 4th International Book Fair, scheduled from September 5 to 9 at the Convention Center.

With Spain as the guest country, the event will be attended by six Spanish authors: Javier Sierra, Juan Manuel de Prada, Javier Moro, Elena Medel, Maria Elvira Roca Barea, Miguel Gane and Nerea Perez de las Heras, who will present their books and will participate in colloquiums.

More than 600 titles from major publishing houses and a selection from the publication service of Spanish Cooperation will be available at Spain's stand.

The fair will also be attended by the authors Carmen Boullosa and Julian Herbet (Mexico), Ariana Harwicz and Rocardo Liniers Siri (Argentina), Giuseppe Caputo (Colombia), Frank Baez (Dominican Republic) and Alberto Montt (Chile-Ecuador).

According to organizers, the main objective of the fair is to promote reading as a practice to train the personality and citizenship of Guayaquil residents, as well as attracting new regular readers.

In addition to the commercial fair, those visiting the Convention Center of Guayaquil will enjoy literary zones, areas for children and youths, contests and other activities.

  • Published in Culture

Culture Minister Praises Fidel's Legacy at Havana Int'l Book Fair

Havana, Feb 5 (Prensa Latina) Cuba's Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, will present on Monday a book on the legacy of the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, at the 27th Havana International Book Fair.

The literary event takes place in this capital until February 11, when it will continue in other provinces of the country.

After opening the event, on February 1, Juan Rodríguez Cabrera, president of the Cuban Book Institute and the Fair, evoked the founding role of Fidel Castro, his passion for books and reading.

'That visionary reader dreamed this fair, made it as big as it is,' the researcher said.

One of the first priorities of the Revolution led by Fidel was education and the promotion of culture, for the intellectual growth of the Cuban people, he said.

The book 'Hasta siempre Fidel' will be launched at the Nicolás Guillén hall in San Carlos de la Cabaña Fortress, main venue of the Fair.

Prieto, and intellectuals Eugenio Suárez and Alberto Alvariño, will speak about the book.

The 27th fair features China as a guest of honor and is dedicated to Cuban Historian Eusebio Leal, who in a recent panel expressed his admiration for Fidel's humanism and the legacy of that great revolutionary who died on November 25, 2016.

  • Published in Culture

Eusebio Leal: “We must approach Marti without scissors”

Havana’s historian talks to CubaSi about the unveiling of the equestrian monument of our National Hero Jose Marti in front of the Museum of the Revolution, the tribute the International Book Fair Havana 2018 will pay to him, and the 500th anniversary of the city.

You never get tired of listening to Eusebio Leal Spengler. Havana’s historian is experiencing intense days right now. The official unveiling of the Jose Marti’s equestrian monument at the Misiones Avenue, true copy of the one located in the Central Park of New York, is scheduled for January 28th. And if it were not enough, the International Book Fair 2018 will be dedicated to him. Besides, the city of his life turns 500 years old in 2019…

—The unveiling of the equestrian sculpture of (Jose) Marti is a long-awaited dream of you. Why such statue? How did you make it happen?

“The statue is a fact. Twenty two years have passed since the very beginning of the paperwork. This process has taken so long due to different reasons; namely, political, communicational…etc. Moreover, the responsibility of deciding whether the sculpture came to Cuba or not went through the hands of several administrations. But we finally did it.

“The sculpture is extraordinarily beautiful. It is a true copy, in details, of the original. It was made possible through the advance of technology. One of the requirements was that the statue could not be touched.

“And indeed, we could do all the documentary research at the Syracuse’s Library, where the entire Huntington’s legacy is, as well as the Hispanic Society in New York, its most important cultural legacy.

alt

Photo: Yuris Norido / CubaSi

"You could see the work of the artist, of Anna Hyatt Huntington, everything she thought about Marti, her motivations. The City Historian Office has today a solid documentation on that event.

"Amassing the necessary funds was another story. Finding them, taking advantage of the precise moment, nor sooner neither later. North American cultural institutions contributed, Cubans in the patriotic emigration, we had an important contribution from a Mexican lady who has always wanted to remain in anonymity, but that also links Mexico to the historical event of the founding of the statue.

"And certainly, it’s important to remember a woman who exalted the genre who almost at age eighty faced the challenge of making a monumental work. She studied Jose Marti’s life, she was even inspired by Marti’s love and sacrifices, as apostle and also as Mayor General. In Marti comes together his political destiny as founder of a Party to lead the armed struggled for the freeing of a colonized nation and at the same time, his character as soldier that recalls that the best way of not fearing the soldier, is being done.

"He was a soldier from the same moment he gets involved in the war he had summoned, and in the moment in that Maximo Gomez, the most outstanding character of the war, next to Antonio Maceo, welcomed him as guide and top director of that project.

"The moment of his death is poetically remembered in this monument. The beauty in it is that generally monumental sculptures, when related to are about great heroes of history are almost always showing them in a triumphant role, but here he is shown in the moment of giving his life for the cause he had embraced.

"The location is much better than that of New York City, because it can be seen in a square, in a large promenade. It has been put there a nature that reminds the trips of Marti: there are the olive trees of the Mediterranean, the araucarias from Central America, the palm trees of Cuba…

"The granite base is impressive. And as the sculpture has a large volume, when approached one becomes dazzled by its beauty.

It will be officially inaugurated on January 28th, coinciding with Jose Marti’s anniversary, facing the Church of the Sacred Angel, the church where he was baptized (in the same church where Father Varela was also baptized), in Havana, the city where he was born, a city that will soon be 500 years old.

"What better way to commemorate Marti’s birth than when his city is scarcely a few months away from turning five centuries?”

- How to approach José Marti in these times?

-Nor with scissors and glue. We cannot approach Marti clipping. We must see a global Marti. That it can be done is to approach through the dissimilar roads he bequeathed to us and proposes: his beautiful epistolary; his love verses, his free verses; the universe of his journalistic literature; he offers us his political action… all those roads lead suddenly to an absolute Marti, to a figure that requires everyone’s personal interpretation.

alt

Photo: Yuris Nórido / CubaSí

“There’s a vast bibliography of his political and moral dimension (Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, Cintio Vitier, Fina García Marruz, Gonzalo de Quezada); there’s a Martí in the continental political vision (Mañach and so many others)… but the most important thing is to build our own Marti from the knowledge we have about him.

“We must approach him, dialogue with him. It is pretty good to extract quotes, to take out fragments from his work, thoughts… but the nice, the important thing is to insert those thoughts into the complete work”.

—The 27th International Book Fair will be dedicated to your work. How did you take that news?

—I am deeply grateful to the Cuban Book Institute, the Ministry of Culture, the intelligentsia and the Cuban people. They have been very generous. Not because I come to make the representation of saying “I do not deserve this or that”, because it would not only be imprudent, but also offensive for those who have made that decision.

“But I have always considered that I did little to build a work that would take me to the desk, to the necessary and patient consultation of papers. Life has led me to raise stones and lime, to preserve sources, to rescue books, to look for documents, to preserve collections. It took me to the cult of the word, not as a superficial exercise (the hallow word, the one that says nothing, the Manichean rhetoric), but as a vehicle to express such feelings as the love for the Homeland, the awareness that when we love her, we feel a love for the other, for what surrounds us, the American world, for those who suffer and cry, for those who endure…

alt
Photo: Jorge Luis Sánchez/ for CubaSí

“Also for Cuba as regards the accumulation of thought, ideas, the beauty that this country has contributed to the history of America and the world; for Cubans, those I have always felt inseparable part of, part of that people, with their virtues and faults, which are mine; with their lights and shadows, which are mine…

“When I look at all that, I consider that I have done something, I would have wished to do more; once and several times I said that I would need a loam of one life, another more, to be able to do what I want, with the same dedication, as when I climbed stairs in three steps together, as when I travelled long distances daily to reach places”.

“I remember that once an old man approached to me, perhaps he arrived in a timely moment of my life and said: “Listen, I know a technique that perhaps you may remember from your childhood; mothers used to preserve the first year’s little shoes turned into metal: I own that technique; but I am leaving and I do not have family or anyone to leave it with; I am not coming to give you the secret of my work; I am coming to ask you to give me your shoes, those which you have walked through Havana with”.

I handed him the shoes. And when he returned them back to me (they were well kept), I realized that that stage of my life had finished, that I had to begin another.

“Suddenly, children, youngsters began to appear… Even, in a meeting among intellectuals, Fidel told me: “There’s a boy here, son of a friend of ours, Katiuska Blanco, who has replied to me that he wants to be Eusebio Leal’s successor, when I asked him what he wanted to be”.

“It was one consolation that that boy, another or others, are already walking down the streets. I will no longer need another life.

“And if the Book Institute has decided to gather in pages what I once said or wrote, and what has been written and collected from me, and to dedicate this Book Fair to me, I hope it is for good!"

—Havana will celebrate its 500th anniversary next year. How will the historic center of the city take on that festivity?

—Havana has many historic centers. I have already renounced to speak with absolute sense about the historic center. The historic center is perhaps a starting point. But, there are many starting points: in El Cerro, in Marianao, in Miramar, in La Vibora, in Diez de Octubre, in San Francisco de Paula.

“When we talk about the anniversary we not only talk about that past event of the ceiba tree: that is very nice, and we will remember it: El Templete is restored, as well as the paintings, the columns; and the 500th anniversary tree is planted. Two years ago, the other tree showed signs that its time was over and we had to plant another. This morning, I went there early and saw that the ceiba tree was full of green vine shoots.

“Yes, we will celebrate that: the town hall, the first mass, the birth of the city. But the most important thing is what that time means for a city.

alt
Photo: Annaly Sánchez/ CubaSí

“It is the time of a university that will soon have three centuries, it is the result of the tireless work of the Economic Society of Friends of the Country (Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País), of the history of Cuban pedagogy, which has an important part in Havana, of its architects and builders, who made a fantastic city.

“Everyone who arrives in Havana says “What a wonder! What a mystery! What city is this?” Even decadent, as Havana is, when you touch it, it revives. Wherever you touch it, except what falls beaten that will always be less than what has been lost in this continent; in the interests of a misinterpreted modernity it was savagely demolished …

“Havana, for a series of events, has remained in its urbanism and splendor until today. We must touch it with love and prevent its “suburbanization”. And above all: we must take care of those who live in it.

“Being a Havanan cannot be a sign of superiority, but to be so (as Alfredo Guevara rightfully said), you need certain refinement, which is born from culture.

“Fidel used to say (and I do not like to quote him very much, I prefer to follow what he taught me instead) that Revolutions were daughters of ideas and culture. Without culture there is no idea, without ideas there is no culture: this is a dialectical and harmonic relationship.

“It is necessary to see what Cuban culture does from this city. It is the 500th anniversary for a ballet, for all Cuban music, for poetry, for legal tradition… But this is also the city of the literacy teachers, the city of the sugar-cane cutters, the city of the glorious and unyielding militia, the city of students, the city of workers, where political movements sprung up…

“We are talking about something great. We need to break that silence on the 500th anniversary. Original Havana was founded in 1514, in San Cristobal, on the southern coast, in a spot that archaeologists haven’t found, but that appears in all cartography of that time. San Cristobal and Havana united in a timely moment.

“It already existed In 1514, but in 1519, according to tradition, Havana was founded in the year when Magallanes was travelling around the world, the year when Leonardo da Vinci (the greatest genius of the time) died, the moment when Hernan Cortes and emperor Moctezuma met in Mexico… At midst a changing world, there sprung up the capital of Cuba, the one that was going to the capital of Cuba, that of the Declarations of Havana, that of the glorious resistance…

“Then, Havana deserves not to be perennially vilified as if it were a sterile city. No, this city has given a lot. That is the city we will celebrate”.

Translated by Cubasi Translation Staff












Eusebio Leal: “We must approach Marti without scissors”

Yuris Norido / CubaSi

Havana’s historian talks to CubaSi about the unveiling of the equestrian monument of our National Hero Jose Marti in front of the Museum of the

Revolution, the tribute the International Book Fair Havana 2018 will pay to him, and the 500th anniversary of the city.

You never get tired of listening to Eusebio Leal Spengler. Havana’s historian is experiencing intense days right now. The official unveiling of the Jose Marti’s equestrian monument at the Misiones Avenue, true copy of the one located in the Central Park of New York, is scheduled for January 28th. And if it were not enough, the International Book Fair 2018 will be dedicated to him. Besides, the city of his life turns 500 years old in 2019…

The unveiling of the equestrian sculpture of (Jose) Marti is a long-awaited dream of you. Why such statue? How did you make it happen?

“The statue is a fact. Twenty two years have passed since the very beginning of the paperwork. This process has taken so long due to different reasons; namely, political, communicational…etc. Moreover, the responsibility of deciding whether the sculpture came to Cuba or not went through the hands of several administrations. But we finally did it.

“The sculpture is extraordinarily beautiful. It is a true copy, in details, of the original. It was made possible through the advance of technology. One of the requirements was that the statue could not be touched.

“And indeed, we could do all the documentary research at the Syracuse’s Library, where the entire Huntington’s legacy is, as well as the Hispanic

Society in New York, its most important cultural legacy.

alt

Photo: Yuris Norido / CubaSi

"You could see the work of the artist, of Anna Hyatt Huntington, everything she thought about Marti, her motivations. The City Historian Office has today a solid documentation on that event.

"Amassing the necessary funds was another story. Finding them, taking advantage of the precise moment, nor sooner neither later. North American

cultural institutions contributed, Cubans in the patriotic emigration, we had an important contribution from a Mexican lady who has always wanted to

remain in anonymity, but that also links Mexico to the historical event of the founding of the statue.

"And certainly, it’s important to remember a woman who exalted the genre who almost at age eighty faced the challenge of making a monumental work.

She studied Jose Marti’s life, she was even inspired by Marti’s love and sacrifices, as apostle and also as Mayor General. In Marti comes together his political destiny as founder of a Party to lead the armed struggled for the freeing of a colonized nation and at the same time, his character as soldier that recalls that the best way of not fearing the soldier, is being

done.

"He was a soldier from the same moment he gets involved in the war he had summoned, and in the moment in that Maximo Gomez, the most outstanding character of the war, next to Antonio Maceo, welcomed him as guide and top director of that project.

"The moment of his death is poetically remembered in this monument. The beauty in it is that generally monumental sculptures, when related to are

about great heroes of history are almost always showing them in a triumphant role, but here he is shown in the moment of giving his life for

the cause he had embraced.

"The location is much better than that of New York City, because it can be seen in a square, in a large promenade. It has been put there a nature that

reminds the trips of Marti: there are the olive trees of the Mediterranean, the araucarias from Central America, the palm trees of Cuba…

"The granite base is impressive. And as the sculpture has a large volume, when approached one becomes dazzled by its beauty.

It will be officially inaugurated on January 28th, coinciding with Jose Marti’s anniversary, facing the Church of the Sacred Angel, the church where he was baptized (in the same church where Father Varela was also baptized), in Havana, the city where he was born, a city that will soon be

500 years old.

"What better way to commemorate Marti’s birth than when his city is scarcely a few months away from turning five centuries?”

- How to approach José Marti in these times?

-Nor with scissors and glue. We cannot approach Marti clipping. We must see a global Marti. That it can be done is to approach through the dissimilar

roads he bequeathed to us and proposes: his beautiful epistolary; his love verses, his free verses; the universe of his journalistic literature; he offers us his political action… all those roads lead suddenly to an absolute Marti, to a figure that requires everyone’s personal interpretation.

alt

Photo: Yuris Nórido / CubaSí

“There’s a vast bibliography of his political and moral dimension (Ezequiel Martínez Estrada, Cintio Vitier, Fina García Marruz, Gonzalo de Quezada); there’s a Martí in the continental political vision (Mañach and so many others)… but the most important thing is to build our own Marti from the knowledge we have about him.

“We must approach him, dialogue with him. It is pretty good to extract quotes, to take out fragments from his work, thoughts… but the nice, the important thing is to insert those thoughts into the complete work”.

—The 27th International Book Fair will be dedicated to your work. How did you take that news?

—I am deeply grateful to the Cuban Book Institute, the Ministry of Culture, the intelligentsia and the Cuban people. They have been very generous. Not because I come to make the representation of saying “I do not deserve this or that”, because it would not only be imprudent, but also offensive for those who have made that decision.

“But I have always considered that I did little to build a work that would take me to the desk, to the necessary and patient consultation of papers. Life has led me to raise stones and lime, to preserve sources, to rescue books, to look for documents, to preserve collections. It took me to the cult of the word, not as a superficial exercise (the hallow word, the one that says nothing, the Manichean rhetoric), but as a vehicle to express such feelings as the love for the Homeland, the awareness that when we love her, we feel a love for the other, for what surrounds us, the American world, for those who suffer and cry, for those who endure…

alt

Photo: Jorge Luis Sánchez/ for CubaSí

“Also for Cuba as regards the accumulation of thought, ideas, the beauty that this country has contributed to the history of America and the world; for Cubans, those I have always felt inseparable part of, part of that people, with their virtues and faults, which are mine; with their lights and shadows, which are mine…

“When I look at all that, I consider that I have done something, I would have wished to do more; once and several times I said that I would need a loam of one life, another more, to be able to do what I want, with the same dedication, as when I climbed stairs in three steps together, as when I travelled long distances daily to reach places”.

“I remember that once an old man approached to me, perhaps he arrived in a timely moment of my life and said: “Listen, I know a technique that perhaps you may remember from your childhood; mothers used to preserve the first year’s little shoes turned into metal: I own that technique; but I am leaving and I do not have family or anyone to leave it with; I am not coming to give you the secret of my work; I am coming to ask you to give me your shoes, those which you have walked through Havana with”.

I handed him the shoes. And when he returned them back to me (they were well kept), I realized that that stage of my life had finished, that I had to begin another.

“Suddenly, children, youngsters began to appear… Even, in a meeting among intellectuals, Fidel told me: “There’s a boy here, son of a friend of ours, Katiuska Blanco, who has replied to me that he wants to be Eusebio Leal’s successor, when I asked him what he wanted to be”.

“It was one consolation that that boy, another or others, are already walking down the streets. I will no longer need another life.

“And if the Book Institute has decided to gather in pages what I once said or wrote, and what has been written and collected from me, and to dedicate this Book Fair to me, I hope it is for good!"

—Havana will celebrate its 500th anniversary next year. How will the historic center of the city take on that festivity?

—Havana has many historic centers. I have already renounced to speak with absolute sense about the historic center. The historic center is perhaps a starting point. But, there are many starting points: in El Cerro, in Marianao, in Miramar, in La Vibora, in Diez de Octubre, in San Francisco de Paula.

“When we talk about the anniversary we not only talk about that past event of the ceiba tree: that is very nice, and we will remember it: El Templete is restored, as well as the paintings, the columns; and the 500th anniversary tree is planted. Two years ago, the other tree showed signs that its time was over and we had to plant another. This morning, I went there early and saw that the ceiba tree was full of green vine shoots.

“Yes, we will celebrate that: the town hall, the first mass, the birth of the city. But the most important thing is what that time means for a city.

alt

Photo: Annaly Sánchez/ CubaSí

“It is the time of a university that will soon have three centuries, it is the result of the tireless work of the Economic Society of Friends of the Country (Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País), of the history of Cuban pedagogy, which has an important part in Havana, of its architects and builders, who made a fantastic city.

“Everyone who arrives in Havana says “What a wonder! What a mystery! What city is this?” Even decadent, as Havana is, when you touch it, it revives. Wherever you touch it, except what falls beaten that will always be less than what has been lost in this continent; in the interests of a misinterpreted modernity it was savagely demolished …

“Havana, for a series of events, has remained in its urbanism and splendor until today. We must touch it with love and prevent its “suburbanization”. And above all: we must take care of those who live in it.

“Being a Havanan cannot be a sign of superiority, but to be so (as Alfredo Guevara rightfully said), you need certain refinement, which is born from culture.

“Fidel used to say (and I do not like to quote him very much, I prefer to follow what he taught me instead) that Revolutions were daughters of ideas and culture. Without culture there is no idea, without ideas there is no culture: this is a dialectical and harmonic relationship.

“It is necessary to see what Cuban culture does from this city.

It is the 500th anniversary for a ballet, for all Cuban music, for poetry, for legal tradition… But this is also the city of the literacy teachers, the city of the sugar-cane cutters, the city of the glorious and unyielding militia, the city of students, the city of workers, where political movements sprung up…

“We are talking about something great. We need to break that silence on the 500th anniversary. Original Havana was founded in 1514, in San Cristobal, on the southern coast, in a spot that archaeologists haven’t found, but that appears in all cartography of that time. San Cristobal and Havana united in a timely moment.

“It already existed In 1514, but in 1519, according to tradition, Havana was founded in the year when Magallanes was travelling around the world, the year when Leonardo da Vinci (the greatest genius of the time) died, the moment when Hernan Cortes and emperor Moctezuma met in Mexico … At midst a changing world, there sprung up the capital of Cuba, the one that was going to the capital of Cuba, that of the Declarations of Havana, that of the glorious resistance…

“Then, Havana deserves not to be perennially vilified as if it were a sterile city. No, this city has given a lot. That is the city we will celebrate”.

Translated by Cubasi Translation Staff

  • Published in Specials

Cuban City Receives 26th Edition of the International Book Fair

Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, Apr 12 (Prensa Latina) An artistic gala at the Principal Theater of Sancti Spiritus -central Cuba- opened last night the 26th edition of the International Book Fair in this city founded in 1514 by the Spaniards and it is today World Heritage of Humanity.

Liudmila Quincoses, Cuban poet and writer, will be in charge of the opening words on Tuesday evening, in one of the most emblematic places in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba's fourth founding village.

The cultural event has toured different Cuban cities, has Canada as its guest of honor and is dedicated to Cuban intellectual and politician Armando Hart Davalos.

Among the volumes that will be available for reading lovers, there is a photo collection of the 90th birthday of the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro (1926-2016) and very requested dictionaries, storybooks and cookbooks, he stressed.

According to the event's program, on Wednesday the book 'Reto a la Soledad' (Challenge to Loneliness), by Orlando Cardoso Villavicencio, Hero of the Republic of Cuba, as well as the volume titled 'Dios, Chavez y Fidel' (God, Chavez and Fidel) will be presented.

On Thursday, there will be a panel on Ernesto Che Guevara, and the launching of the book 'Che, Entre la Literatura y La Vida' (Che, between Literature and Life) by local writer Julio Llanes.

On Saturday, the winners of the International Contest of Love Letters, sponsored by the Escribania Dollz Alternative Cultural Center, led by Luidmila Quincoses, will be awarded. The Fair will close on Sunday.

  • Published in Culture

Twenty-five titles by and about Fidel launched

The launching of 25 titles by and about Fidel, in honor of his upcoming 90th birthday, was described by Zuleica Romay Guerra, as a gift from the Cuban people, during the closing in Santiago of the country’s 25th International Book Fair, which began in Havana in February.

  • Published in Culture
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