Bonfire of poetry and memory

Granma | 12 July, 2016

Photo: Yander Zamora

SANTIAGO DE CUBA.— Two highlights of the final events of the 36th Festival of Caribbean Cultures consisted of activities dedicated to poetry and memory: the first the combination of the lyrical expression of the people of the region with Cuban trova; and the second; recalling local intellectuals Jo­sé So­ler Puig and Joel James during which the pioneering character of their respective legacies was highlighted.

Poets from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Argentina, Colom­bia and Ecua­dor, alongside their Cuban counterparts, closed the Je­sús Cos Causse International Poetry Encounter, with an event at the headquarters of the Ca­gua­yo Foundation, following various conferences held in workplaces and neighborhoods around the city, during which discussions focused on promoting the genre among young readers.

Event coordinator, award-winning poet Teresa Melo, emphasized participants’ social commitment to disseminating the virtues of poetry among the population, a literary genre which influences cultural identities but lacks adequate visibility in the current editorial market.

During the closing event, the audience delighted in the finest musical and poetical expressions through the voices of José Armando Garzón, who gave a magnificent rendition of Sindo Garay’s multifaceted Guarina; To­pete Cisneros, founder of the new trova movement in the country’s eastern region; and Ivette Letusé with her own compositions, accompanied by Gabino Jar­dines, one of the country’s top guitarists.

Meanwhile, during the forum dedicated to thought, there was space to remember writer José Soler Puig – on the centenary of his birth – author of notable novels (Ber­ti­llón 166, El pan dormido) which influenced generations of Cuban writers’ attitudes toward literature, according to narrator and essayist Aida Bahr. Puig also had a successful career in radio – which his colleague Raúl Ibarra discussed – and theatre with works such as El macho y el gua­najo, commented on by Pascual Díaz.

Joel James, founder of the Casa del Caribe and Festival of Fire received a prolific and well-deserved tribute on the 10th anniversary of his death. His daughter Vicky James shared her father’s last edition of the essay Sobre muertos y dioses, which he began during a period of greater qualitative rigor in studies on the cultural contribution of Cuba’s religious-magic systems.

Dr. Olga Portuondo reviewed James’ intellectual achievements as an author and cultural promoter. In regards to his international career she highlighted testimonies from academics from Mexican universities who reference his works in their teaching.

The customary Burning of the Devil, the final act of the Festival of Fire, took place on the bay, enlivening celebrations as night fell on Saturday July 9, accompanied by Afro-Caribbean drums and warm voices committed to the values of solidarity, fraternity, and the desire to make the region a rebellious stronghold against hegemonic powers.



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