Book reviews, Culture, Migrants, Multiculture, Our People

In Cuba, romantic literature is art

When the Liudmila Quincoses, a poet from Sancti Spiritus in Cuba, put up a sign on the wall of her house advertising that there people could ask for love letters to be written, she would never have imagined that it would still be there 20 years later, like a provocative intervention in this city in central Cuba.

 

   Elizabeth Borrego Rodríguez

 

Located on the intersection of Avenida de los Mártires and Avenida Dollz, two of Sancti Spiritus’ main arteries, the Escribanía Dollz has turned into a space for artistic creation, the home of events of local and national significance, becoming one of the city’s main cultural centres, located around 360 kilometres east of Havana.

“At a certain point it stopped being just a project”, the artist told the Prensa Latina.

“It evolved into a place for poetry, for song, and for theatre. Five years ago, I decided to put in some chairs and a piano so I could put on concerts and workshops”, she said.

From this the Escribanía Dollz Alternative Cultural Centre emerged, a place where they develop “activities created by the community according to their own interests, created independently of the cultural institutions yet embedded in all the events that they put on”.

Aside from the concert hall, spoken word events and literary workshops, the centre has a gallery containing a number of works by artists such as Ernesto Rancaño, Zaida del Río, or Abel Prieto, but also the work of local artists as well as a space for small-format plays.

As part of this endeavour, since 2000 the project lead by Liudmila Quincoses has called for entries into the “International Love Letter Competition”, the only event of its kind in Cuba, where thousands of letters are received from around the world, with the awards announced during the International Book Fair.

It makes up one of the most important moments of Cuba’s biggest literary event, which also takes place in Sancti Spiritus, where the community and authors converge and exchange ideas, motivated by artistic creation.

The letters, in the beginning

As its creator said, the Escribanía Dollz emerged, in the middle of the economic crisis that Cuba went through during the 1990s, in an attempt to mobilise the city a little.

“In the beginning I only wrote love letters in order to shake up the community a bit, because in the middle of such an extraordinary period it was sleepwalking. I realised that we needed a bit more communication between us amidst so much crisis.

“We started to stage public interventions, we made the postcards and the letters and hung up a slightly humorous sign that read: “Love letters written at any time. Business letters and suicide letter between eight in the morning and three in the afternoon”.

However to her surprise, the initiative took off, and over the years her house received lovers and womanisers, especially during significant dates, along with opening up a space to foment the development of local culture.

“It was something that caused quite a bit of commotion in the city – she says – people started to knock on my door and ask, I never expected such a response”, the poet declared, “they still come to get postcards and to commission letters, especially during February”.

In 2000, they had the idea for the first time of calling for entries into the competition which each year receives thousands of letters. This year, 2017, for example, they received over five thousand entries, many of which came from abroad, especially from Latin America and the USA.

What’s certain is that although twenty years have passed since the emergence of the initiative for the letter-writing contest, Liudmila is indefatigable and the competition and the centre are vital.

“Currently – she says – we are working to revive Sancti Spiritus’ traditional music, especially the ballad tradition. That’s why we have invited the Gómez Trio, masters of the ballad tradition, and the Pensamiento Duo, made up of the two children, Marta Inés and Lázaro”.

Another one of their current activities involves the promotion of live concert music, and in particular the work of the Cuban musician Ernesto Lecuona, with the support of the Mexican Front for the Hispanic Affirmation and the pianist Franco Rivero.

“We’re also committed to promoting visual arts, and in this we are being supported by local artists from Sancti Spiritus such as José Alberto Rodríguez, Omar Fernández Galí – known as Cuti – and Ángel Luis Méndez”, Quincoses stated.

This year they intend to work together with local children to create a collective mural just in front of the site of the project, located in the middle of the historical centre of the town. And they continue to persist with training and developing literature by local poets and narrators, and they do poetry readings, workshops, talks and interviews. (PL)

(Translated by Matthew Rose – Email: mattyrose1995@gmail.com)Photos: Pixabay

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