(c) Why Not Cuba? [www.whynotcuba.com]
Though the official birthday of the Cuban capital Havana, 16 November, is still a few months away, there have been celebrations, exhibitions, etc. during all of 2019. The articles cited below might make good summer reading wherever it is hot and humid, and also where not — and watching from afar is more climate-friendly than actually going there. This blogger has come across the birthdate for the first time in an article by Mauricio Vicent in El País.
If in History half a millennium is nothing, it turns out that since its birth in 1519, under the tropical sun, here there met the four bloods and the four races, and they simmered until they formed a well-locked sauce. Ciboney and Taíno Indians, Spaniards and Europeans, conquerors and pirates, slaves torn away from Africa and brought to these lands together with their pantheon of divinities… and together with them 150,000 Chinese from Canton and Macao…, all of them with their singularities and their magic worlds as neighbors on this Caribbean island until condensating this distillate that the ethnologist Fernando Ortiz called “cubanidad o cubanía” [cubanity].
In the profound essence of this ajiaco [spicy stew], says Pablo Milanés, there reigns culture with a capital C. It doesn’t matter if one talks about architecture, music, painting, ballet, literature, chess, or poetry. […]
Cuba has brought forward three Cervantes prize laureates. And it is no coincidence that all three of them –Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Dulce María Loynaz, and Alejo Carpentier– converted La Habana into a character and protagonist of many of their works. It was certainly Carpentier who best captured the character of the Habanian and the “style without style” of the city. […]
If one talks about architecture, Havana is –and always has been– a great adventure, because there is not only one but many Havanas. The best known is the colonial, that of the five big squares and the military bulwarks of La Fuerza [the force] and La Cabaña [the cabin], that are UNESCO World Heritage sites. But there also exists a fabulous eclectic Havana, and a Havana decó, and also an incredible modern Havana. Beyond that there is also the Havana of the big roads –that of the Cerro, Monte, Infanta— that meander in every direction and protect the walkers from rain and sun. And the manorial Havana of El Vedado, or the exclusive one of the Quinta Avenida and the Country Club, or the seaport one of Regla and Casa Blanca. […] Havana, one feels that something seduces, attracts, traps, it doesn’t leave anybody indifferent. Sometimes the city is covered by a veil of decadence. But when you break the veil, there appears the splendour of its urbanism and of an architecture that lets you, on one single avenue, walk from the castles of the 16th century to the modernity of Richard Neutra.
There is an official website with events, picture gallery, etc.
Other articles on the 500th anniversary, found by a simple Google search:
16 November 2018, Granma (Communist party official newspaper)
28 January 2019, whynotcuba.com
25 March, The Daily Telegraph
28 June, euronews.com
This blog has got other articles on Cuba and its literature:
2018: “Cuba on my mind”
2016: “with Jané from Cuba to Barcelona”
2015: “Princess of Asturias award to Leonardo Padura”
2015: “Padura’s “The Man Who Loved Dogs”
Hugh Thomas’ Cuba: A History looks like a good book for those interested in more details. For current data, ironically the CIA World Factbook might be a reliable source.
SOURCE: El País, 30 Dec. 2018, pp. 30-31 [printed edition]