Returning from exile in 1899, poet Bonifacio Byrne (Matanzas 1861-1936) wrote the verse, “Where is my Cuban flag, the most beautiful flag that exists?”
The reference is to be found in the poem “Mi Bandera,” which first appeared May 5, 1899, in a Matanzas newspaper, later included in the Lira y espada collection.
Now, one of the most interesting Cuban photographers from the revolutionary era, Jorge Valiente (Havana, 1936) allows us to respond to Byrne’s question, and, with his precise point of view, reveals the single-starred flag in all of its splendor, confirming the poet’s assertion, if it is needed.
Valiente, a photo journalist from 1963 until 2002, first at the newspaper Revolución and then Granma, has prepared a photo essay entitled
Lo perpetuo del instante, (The perpetuation of an instant) on the subject of our flag, and how Cubans of today see it, appreciate it, and are drawn to it.
Open to the public, in the lobby of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) headquarters, on busy 23rd Street in the Havana neighborhood of Vedado, the show includes only 31 shots from his personal archives, but his know-how is there to be seen, his characteristic mastery of composition, perfect framing, harmony of elements, and much attention to the games light plays.
On this occasion, Valiente goes beyond his taste for black and white, presenting many color photographs, understandable in the case of a tricolored flag, the red, white and blue, with its solitary star reigning.
Very experienced as a reporter, Valiente is on the spot for events, and finds the essential in every happening with his good critical, and artistic, eye.
As he told Granma International, also his “home” for years, he didn’t organize the show chronologically, but rather focused on highlighting the artistic intention of each photograph, saying, “The diversity becomes unity.”
Being a rather quiet man, preferring the background, every opening finds him a bit uncomfortable, and this time he modestly says, “In Lo perpetuo del instante I rediscover part of my memory which I now share with you, to together feel the single-starred flag in its full, profound, committed sense.”
With this exposition, Jorge Valiente gives us much more than a fleeting glance at reality – singular moments reflecting the relation Cuban men and women have with their flag, “the most beautiful flag that exists.”