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There is still much blood coursing through her veins, and the memory of that unrepentant young woman who added more fuel to the fires of the s, becoming involved with Jose Luis Gomez Wanguemert, a married man who was a known opponent of dictator Fulgencio Batista, is still too vivid.
It was, as they say, quite the scandal at the time. She raised me and my brothers and helped me raise my three daughters. She was an exceptional woman, a short, stout black woman who always wore white. She was so small she dragged all her uniforms across the floor. My interest in studying Afro-Cuban culture comes from her.
Unexpectedly, I managed to delve more deeply into these issues when I started working at the National Fine Arts Museum in , while it was still being built. In short, it had a whole world of subjects to study. Owing to the significance of African traditions within Cuban culture, she managed to secure a wing of the museum to set up exhibits dealing with the four main religions inherited from Africa that were practiced in Cuba.
That was also what that wing at the Fine Arts Museum sought to reflect. We are part Spanish, but African culture has had a very strong influence on us, particularly on the way we express ourselves, our gestures and music.
She was the world to me. There are two research methods, see: a scientific one and one based on oral traditions. The queen of oral tradition studies is Lydia Cabrera, and the king of the scientific method is Fernando Ortiz. With all of her wisdom, Lydia never managed to formalize a single name or anything, she only passed on the oral traditions she collected from the descendants of slaves and the slaves she managed to meet. Her work is very important because it documents the living voice of slaves, of their religion, without interpretations that were based on her knowledge.
I was only 19 or 20 at the time. She decided to leave Cuba and I decided to stay. I started writing the book in I was their advisor for the religious aspects of their works.
I would take their scripts I have them all put away and would study the characters. Then I would start drawing a flow chart on huge sheets, showing the characteristics of each deity — the food they ate, their colors…in short, they encouraged me to write a dictionary, a glossary, containing all of that information, so they could use it as needed.
Ultimately, I am happy I finally took their advice. It now has more than He left everything ready for publication. The book was put on hold for three or four years.
When the man left, my godfather asked the barman to show me one of the books. They went on until Reynaldo told them to look at the material in its entirety, so they would see that the quotations were in order.
So people started practicing double standards. I had friends who were Party members and had to get married in a Catholic church in a neighborhood very far from theirs. Everything was going well until , when they started a campaign to sell works of art at the museum. I refused, so, what did they do? They got me out of there and sent me to the cemetery, to restore tombstones.
As it turns out, all of the artists who participated at that mural painting event went to the cemetery to see me clean tombs. Those were tough, very tough times. We lived through very tumultuous periods. No one can accuse me of ever having sold or stolen a painting, and I could have done so easily and quickly.
I always say those were the best times of my life, the happiest, the time I spent with my comrades from the Directorate underground. For me, it was a five-month experience, until the triumph of the revolution. I was in hiding for a very long time. I was even jailed one time and saved my skin because the cop who was torturing me saw the Santeria necklaces and stopped.
I always say I was, am and will always be a proud member of the Revolutionary Directorate. I helped all the others, but let there be no mistake: my comrades are my comrades. My years at the Directorate were both the best and worst of my life, that is the truth of it. Tragically, I saw him die. Then he left. A while later, I was at the second floor of the museum giving a group of tourists a tour when I heard the explosion. We all dropped to the floor. I looked outside, naturally, anxious, because I knew something big was going down.
From the museum, I saw everything, I saw him shot down. When they came to tell me, I already knew he was dead. That was very hard for me.
He was very charismatic. He was the kind of typical Cuban who always had a cigar in his mouth, a man who was very spontaneous and educated. Recibir nuevas entradas por email. Translated by Havana Times.
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Los Orishas En Cuba by Bolivar Arostegui Natalia
There is still much blood coursing through her veins, and the memory of that unrepentant young woman who added more fuel to the fires of the s, becoming involved with Jose Luis Gomez Wanguemert, a married man who was a known opponent of dictator Fulgencio Batista, is still too vivid. It was, as they say, quite the scandal at the time. She raised me and my brothers and helped me raise my three daughters. She was an exceptional woman, a short, stout black woman who always wore white.
The Magic Realism of Natalia Bolivar