Cosa Rica: The Beauty of Empowered Cuban Women

Cosa Rica: The Beauty of Empowered Cuban Women

Didn’t you see the shrine? The goathead and the dolls? The flowers? The seawind? This is witchcraft. Woman witchcraft. Heavy. And you’re part of it and you don’t know it.

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Olga Guillot: “Cuba es la perla que he perdido en el mar”

Olga Guillot: “Cuba es la perla que he perdido en el mar”

Olga brillaba y era una señora cantante cuando México y Cuba se abrazaban a través de la música. Formaba parte de esa constelación donde Pedro Vargas, Toña “La Negra”, Jorge Negrete intercambiaban sus talentos con Ninón Sevilla, María Antonieta Pons, Rosita Fornés, en los predios de ambas naciones.

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Celia Cruz. The Performer. The Woman. The Star

Celia Cruz. The Performer. The Woman. The Star

Monica Uribe

That voice! The energy infused in Celia Cruz’ voice impacted the world with an infectious sense of joy and celebration. It inspired a new musical genre, stimulating a powerful connection around the globe. Behind that magical voice was a woman of color who conquered the mucho macho male-dominated Latin music industry of the 1950’s. As a true ambassador for Cuban culture, she embodied salsa with a unique sense of style and, in a single word, brought vibrancy to her legendary performances and drew nostalgia for her country. Even today, she still reigns as “The Queen of Salsa.”

She was born Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso on October 21, 1925, in Havana, Cuba. On July 16, 2003, Celia Cruz, the most popular Latin artist of the 20th century died of brain cancer in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Her musical list of accomplishments spans 4 decades and includes 3 Grammy Awards, 4 Latin Grammy Awards, 23 gold records, and matches the span of her talents and prestigious honors like a National Medal of Arts, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Smithsonian Institution. From being honored with a Google doodle to a United States postage stamp her impact and ardent love of music and Cuba never faltered. Celia wrote about music in her autobiography, “I am a fan of all types of Cuban music: Lucumí (Afro-Cuban songs), son, rumba, cha-cha-chá, bolero, mambo, and danzón. I believe that music is Cuba’s greatest gift to the world, and I learned to appreciate it at home since music was very important to our family.”

The Start

In 1950’s Cuba the radio was very important for musicians since this is where their fame and popularity came from. There were numerous amateur hour shows and programs highlighting professional performers along with newer singers. As a young girl, Celia sang in the shower until she won a popular talent show contest called “La Hora del Té” for singing a tango, “Nostalgia.” Her prize was just a cake but it marked her as a singer. Ms. Cruz completed a teaching degree yet never taught school. Thankfully, through her love for music and gifted voice, she was able to later teach the world salsa.

At the National Conservatory of Music in Havana Celia studied music theory, voice, and piano. Her big break came when she replaced the female singer of an already well-known band. The group traveled to many Latin American countries performing popular Cuban music styles like bolero, son, cha-cha-chá, danzón, and guaracha. Havana was internationally known for its nightlife at the time when Celia joined La Sonora Matancera and together they played everywhere including the renowned top nightclub, Tropicana. Being part of La Sonora Matancera led Celia to two other names. It was with the band that she became known as “The Guarachera de Cuba” for her interpretation of that style of music. The other name, because of the band, came when she met Pedro Knight, a trumpet player. They fell in love and were married. Later, when they left the band he became her manager. Away from the band Celia performed and recorded with Yoruba singers–Yoruba is a West African religion that is known in Cuba as Santeria. Its music, which praises different deities, is a strong influence in Latin music and common in everyday Cuban culture. “Yemaya” is a popular song she recorded with La Sonora Matancera. Yemaya is the Yoruba Orisha or Goddess of the living sea considered the mother of all in the Yoruba religion.

In Exile

It was while in Mexico, fulfilling a one-year gig with the band in 1959, when Celia decided not to return to Cuba because of the turmoil in the country. She had plenty of success in Mexico not only as a singer but also as an actress. Celia performed in Mexican films and also on television. Her popularity grew even more when she moved from Mexico to the United States, New York City to be exact. This is where she settled; home to an already active melting pot of Latin sounds and musical legends.

During this time, Salsa music was born blending elements from Cuban, Puerto Rican, Colombian, Dominican, and Brazilian styles of music along with jazz, blues, and rock. This new musical genre exploded. During this time Celia Cruz and timbales player Tito Puente, “The King of Latin Music” best known for mambo and Latin jazz, teamed up to perform and record eight salsa albums, further popularizing salsa. As her popularity grew Celia headlined a concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall. After, Celia and Johnny Pacheco, a musician and the person noted for coining the term “salsa” as a musical genre, recorded a very successful album together (Celia y Johnny, 1974). Soon, Celia was part of The Fania All-Stars and traveled all over Europe, England, and France performing and spreading the salsa sound. The Fania All-Stars were a musical ensemble that showcased its musicians and was the leading salsa record label. Celia also participated in Zaire ’74, a musical festival that was part of the famous heavyweight fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman and was documented in the film, “Soul Power.” This performance was meaningful because of the race issues surrounding the concert.

Celia visited Miami often, where she met and became friends with three Cuban ladies, who would become lifelong friends and her assistants.

We reunited these friends–Zoila Valdes, Elia Perez de Alejo, and Mary Garcia–who shared priceless memories of their sister, Celia Cruz. Each of them remembered taking turns helping Celia get ready for her performances while in Miami, and many times on tour. It was all in the family since one woman applied Celia’s makeup, the other wrangled the wigs, and another managed her wardrobe.

Her Style

Celia Cruz was known for her electrifying performances and also for her unique styles on stage. Her outfits became more elaborate throughout the years. Perhaps the only thing that would upstage her voice was her look featuring matching colors of dress and wigs, with sequins and/or feathers. Every glitzy look was entirely her own creation. She was the first to wear an adapted version of a traditional Cuban rumba dress known as “bata cubana.” From head to toe, her look was always unique and flamboyant, including her shoes. Designed by a Mexican shoemaker, Mr. Nieto, some of the shoes have been donated for exhibit at The Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. These custom creations included a swan sculpture as a heel, and even a metal circle giving the singer height as well as a statement. Her best friends also shared with us how Celia always had lipstick at hand. She wouldn’t go anywhere without her lipstick. When searching for it in her purse she would turn the large bag upside down and dump all the contents out to locate her lipstick.

Azucar

Her best friends tell us how thoughtful a person she was. How she went out of her way to make people feel special, from family and friends to fans. Some say that was the secret to her success throughout many decades. Celia was known to go into the back of the restaurant and greet the kitchen staff. She was a staple at the annual fundraiser for “Liga Contra el Cancer,” a non-profit organization that provides free medical treatment to low-income and uninsured Floridians, and stayed until the end of the telethon. Was it a surprise then that this sweet woman’s catchphrase became “azúcar” (sugar)? It has been written that she used the phrase, Azúcar! to inject energy into the crowd at her performances as well as encourage nostalgia for Cuba. In fact, the phrase came from a quick exchange with a waiter. Her best friends reveal a time when they were with Celia at a meal. The waiter asked if she wanted coffee with or without sugar, to which she replied, “I’m Cuban, how could I not want sugar in my coffee? Azúcar!” Later that evening during her performance she retold the story as a joke and once again yelled “Azúcar!” The crowd loved it and the phrase stuck.

Memorials

Celia Cruz was so beloved, through so many years of performing all over the world, that when she died thousands of fans attended her memorial services in three separate cities: Miami; New York City; and Cali, Colombia. The Cali memorial service lasted for three days. The Colombian city, epicenter of salsa in that country, loved Celia as one of their own.

Today, the Celia Cruz Foundation, a non-for-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for underprivileged Latino students wishing to study music, has the mission of maintaining the legacy of Celia Cruz alive for future generations.

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La pintora Aimée Joaristi expone por primera vez en Cuba

La pintora Aimée Joaristi expone por primera vez en Cuba

La arquitecta, diseñadora interiorista y artista visual Aimée Joaristi, nacida cubana, residente la mayoría de su vida en España y Costa Rica, declara en su autobiografía: “A Cuba, la  adoro utópicamente  y es donde proyecto morir”. A finales de mayo, esta muy vital y multipremiada creadora regresa a La Habana con su primera muestra en suelo patrio, titulada Escindida, con más de veinte telas de gran formato montada en las paredes de la Galería Taller Gorría, en el barrio habanero de San Isidro.

Entre múltiples reconocimientos, Joaristi fue comisionada por Rebecca Wilson, Directora de la Saatchi Art Gallery, para la realización de la pintura The End of the Beginning. Sus obras forman parte de importantes colecciones como la de Francisco Cantos Baquedano (miembro fundador de ARCO, Madrid), la colección Herrera Hernández-Iturbide, de México o la de Don McShane en Washington D.C. entre muchas otras.

Como arquitecta integrante de la firma Joaristi & Barrascout, ha obtenido galardones relevantes como la Mención de Honor de la IX Bienal de Arquitectura, “Retos para el Siglo Veintiuno” y el Premio Nacional de Diseño de Interiores durante la Quinta edición del International Forum design for Inner Space (2008) por el hotel L’Acquaviva. Su propia casa, intervenida a pincel por ella, obtuvo el primer premio del International Forum Design for Inner Space y en 2009 gana el Premio Nacional de Diseño de Interiores por su apartamento en Madrid. También gana el Premio Nacional de Diseño de Interiores por su trabajo en el lounge bar “mi Sala” en Escazú.

El propio título de Escindida, escogido para la muestra cubana provee al espectador de muchas pistas. Estamos ante una persona indiscutiblemente transnacional, dividida entre muchas patrias, escindida entre varias realidades, sin olvidar ni menospreciar ninguna. Su personalidad, su arte, les debe a todas.

Desde otra perspectiva, tenemos que cada pieza creativa puede siempre considerarse una emanación de su creador, un efluvio, una derivación cuya individualidad no llega a marcar nunca una emancipación total de su génesis, de su kilómetro cero. Resulta más bien recurso y método —simultáneamente— de propagación y de perpetuación del artista. Una escaramuza ubicua para multiplicarse en el mundo, para reproducirse de manera autónoma y asexuada. En el caso de la Joaristi, una partenogénesis.

A la vez, este acto de concepción no está exento del dolor, del sacrificio, del desgarre; y puede acercarse a la mutilación. Como esos míticos gigantes genésicos cuyo desmembramiento propicia el surgimiento del mundo. Cada creación puede suponer para el artista, precisamente, una escisión. Una fragmentación dolorosa en disímiles avatares.

Pero no solo es el artista quien resulta escindido en un acto autosacrificial puro, sino que el carácter dialógico intrínseco al accionar humano, determina que este indague en el cosmos, en la realidad. Y la segmente, la desmenuce, la descomponga en los menudos pedazos que sean necesarios. En fin, que escinde sus circunstancias, el entorno, la mera existencia. Desafiándola, reordenándola, repensándola, negándola, despreciándola, trascendiéndola. Hurgando en las paredes de la realidad, abriendo hendijas y grietas en las leyes naturales para otear —y permitir a otros que oteen también— lo que hay detrás del ajustado tejido del mundo “real”.

La Joaristi saja pues las muradas de su realidad, de su mismo cuerpo físico, para proponer en sus dilatadas telas intensos atisbos a un universo de puros movimiento y energía. Donde reinan las ideas, las sensaciones en sus faces visibles. Es el suyo un abstraccionismo emotivo, provocador, cuyo propósito último parece ser la traza, el testimonio de un acto expansivo —más que expresivo—: que fue el paroxístico acercamiento de la artista al lienzo, de la catarsis liberadora que es la plasmación de sus tormentas internas en la superficie imprimada. La Action Painting está presente. Se presiente.

La tela deviene finalmente espejo donde se refleja la artista en instante único e irrepetible de su existencia —dada la singular mixtura de experiencias y sentimientos que resulta cada segundo de un ser humano, ineluctablemente susceptible de transmutar al segundo siguiente, ya discordante, por las nuevas adiciones que a la personalidad han proporcionado el contexto y la psiquis—, y   queda atrapada la cartografía sensorial específica e irrepetible de entonces.

Una vez más, los títulos dan fuertes pistas para leer la obra expuesta de Aimée Joaristi. Miramar, Cólera, Vortex, La risa falsa, Disidente, Esperanza, Impaciente, Impertinente, El payaso, Corazón partido, La Farsante, La playa, La horrible noche… Sustantivos concretos, llanos y nítidos como títulos de malas películas, expositivos quizás de los sujetos, espacios y conceptos que motivaron las respectivas obras. Resultado de un Test de Rocharch inverso muy personal, donde la palabra fue traducida a la mancha abstracta. Glosario sensorial de la creadora. Juego asociativo al que todos están invitados. Colección de autorretratos psíquicos, de fotografías tomadas con una cámara Kirlian galácticamente avanzada. Diario de sensaciones. Paisajismo mental. Figuración emotiva. Esencias destiladas hasta la mayor pureza alquímica posible. Malabarismo cromático. Rabieta colorista. Paleta de alaridos. Fantasmas exorcizados, contenidos en estas trampas y exhibidos. A la larga, derivaciones del ser.

Tan contrastantes son los títulos con las obras, como estas con los propios límites geométricos (círculos, cuadrados, rectángulos) que demarcan los bastidores respectivos. Formas euclidianas, netas, racionales, en cuyas entrañas yacen la energía y el movimiento inmensurables, lo adimensional —que no es por obligación un estado de ningunidad.

Aimée Joaristi hace de Escindida una nueva ceremonia de desmembramiento ritual, y esparce por las paredes de GTG sus fragmentos insuflados (¿con ínfulas?) de totalidad, para crear su mundo. Para crearse como mundo. Se esparce. Se expande en una omnipresencia casi perturbadora de tanto color, gigantismo, vibración. Los espectadores, atrapados en un panóptico inevitable.

Por: Antonio Enrique González Rojas

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“La tremenda corte”, patrimonio de Cuba

“La tremenda corte”, patrimonio de Cuba

“La tremenda corte” ha contribuido, después de más de setenta años de su salida al aire, a mantener unida a la familia latinoamericana, a la hora del almuerzo o en la cena, en los momentos de su transmisión.

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Infiniti Design Chief, Alfonso Albaisa: The Remainder of a Cuban Heritage

Infiniti Design Chief, Alfonso Albaisa: The Remainder of a Cuban Heritage

Since special heed has been paid after Obama’s diplomatic visits to the Island, Alfonso decided to take one of his creations to his ancestors’ land, where it could reflect, as a cultural mirror, the kind of talent capable of emerging from such heritage. After the ordinary vicissitudes at the port customs territory, the Infiniti Q60 was the first new American car to ride the gutted streets of Havana in 58 years. It rolled from El Laguito to Marianao, absorbing a significant part of the values that gave him existence.

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Los Yankees de Nueva York: el Equipo de los Cubanos

Los Yankees de Nueva York: el Equipo de los Cubanos

Ante el Yankee Stadium evoqué inolvidables momentos y conmigo se hizo realidad el sueño de grandes hombres como mi padre, Juan Antonio, el Nene, Filingo, Pinin, Armandito, Servilio, Charles, apasionados del béisbol, quienes me enseñaron que la vida es como un fly rompenubes hacia lo corto del center field, donde se debe correr siempre adelante, condición primigenia para que no nos traicione la mano enguantada del tiempo.

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De Cuba a la cima del Himalaya

De Cuba a la cima del Himalaya

El pasado mes de diciembre, el Dr. José A Soto, un cubano de esos que marcan la historia, hizo cumbre en la cima del monte Kala Pattara, a los pies del Everest, alcanzando la marca de 5 643 metros de altura sobre el nivel del mar. Siendo el ascenso más alto realizado por un cubano y el único representante del país, según conocimiento, que haya enfrentado ese desafío.

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Cuba: la realeza de las violetas

Cuba: la realeza de las violetas

Era frecuente mi deambular por las calles de la Habana Vieja. Entonces, no perdía ocasión para detenerme en el museo del perfume, Habana 1791, situado en la calle Mercaderes. Disfrutar el aroma de los aceites esenciales, es un privilegio que se vive en ese lugar. Algunos visitantes recurren a las colonias de limón como antídoto para la depresión, a la rosa o el sándalo por su eficacia contra la ansiedad, mientras otros defienden las propiedades afrodisíacas del jazmín y el pachulí. Allí, experimentamos una retrospección a través de la historia de las fragancias cubanas.

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Hollywood in Havana: Five Decades of Cuban Posters Promoting U.S. Films

Hollywood in Havana: Five Decades of Cuban Posters Promoting U.S. Films

The exhibit shows approximately 40 posters produced between 1960 and 2009 by the ICAIC (Instituto del Arte y la Industria Cinematográfica). The posters were designed to promote U.S. films with an interesting and unique style. Read more: http://pmcaonline.org/exhibitions/hollywood-in-havana

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