This ray of lightning doesn't stop or end:
it takes its precedence precisely from me/
and exercises precisely in me its furors
For 20 years now, in a small space at 63 Muralla, on one of the most well-known streets in Havana's central historic district, the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Center has brought together different languages and ways of doing things in a continuous effort, with an eye always toward preserving memory.
It is characterized by the passion captured in verse by Spanish poet Miguel Hernández, seen above, and thus since its beginning, the study, investigation, and conservation of Pablo's work has taken several paths including nueva trova, graphic design, digital art, and testimonial literature.
For the Pablo Center, its more familiar name, this 2016 is a year of festivities and commemorations to honor its namesake, on the 115th anniversary of his birth and the 80th of his death in battle, as well as the institution's 20 years of work.
Pablo de la Torriente Brau (1901-1936) was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in Cuba, and died in Spain defending the Republic. The publication of the totality of his work is one of the great undertakings of the Center bearing his name. They established the publishing house Ediciones La Memoria toward that end, which has now more than 100 titles in its catalogue, and its first collection, Palabras de Pablo (Pablo's words).
De la Torriente Brau is one of the most important figures in 20th century Cuban journalism. During the most recent International Book Fair, last February in Havana, launched was the title Pablo en Bohemia, texts he published in this important magazine, along with a selection of works about him since his death in Majadahonda, published through 2001, the centenary of his birth.
The Center believes that this volume completes the preservation of Pablo's vast journalistic work, which he himself explained, "Because my eyes were made to see extraordinary things. And my little typewriter to tell them. That's all."
MIGUEL & PABLO
The poet and essayist Roberto Fernández Retamar, president of the Casa de las Américas, dedicated a tribute to the Center in the institution's Che Guevara Hall. His congratulations began, as was to be expected, with a reference to his relation with Torriente Brau, and he recalled, "The striking texts he wrote during the Spanish Civil War, in which he died, in his last texts, Pablo said he had discovered a poet within the ranks of the Republicans. It was, of course, Miguel Hernández…"
This Spaniard wrote "Elegía segunda" (Second eulogy) in Pablo's honor, with moving verses, "Pablo de la Torriente/ remains in Spain/ and in my crestfallen soul/ the sun will never again touch his forehead … / With Spain's sun on his face/ and that of Cuba in his bones …"
One of the Pablo Center's most appreciated efforts is the A Guitarra Limpia concert series, dedicated since its inception in 1998 to all of the generations and trends of nueva trova, conducted with energy and determination, by María Santucho, coordinator of the institution.
There in the patio of snakewood trees, some 200 concerts have been held; all have been recorded, first on cassettes and later digitally. This perseverance has been recognized by poet and trovador Silvio Rodríguez, with his Ojalá Award presented to the institution during the 72nd concert of his tour of Havana neighborhoods, February 26, and by the Cubadisco Festival with a Special Prize, this past May, for the Center's A Guitarra Limpia Collection which includes more than 80 recordings.
They have now moved fromthe music to the lyrics, presenting Memorias a guitarra limpia, a major anthology of Cuban nueva trova, a two-volume reference book. The first covers the era beginning with the first concert by Santiago Feliu (Havana, 1962–2014) in 1998 through 2007, and the second including works from 2008 through 2014. The text has been carefully edited by Xenia Reloba, who, in a clear tribute, introduces each chapter with a verse by Silvio, in the first volume, and by Santiago Feliu in the second.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary, the Center has additionally created Visiones de Pablo, a portfolio of prints of artwork from the first two expositions mounted under this title, now with the subtitle 20 x 20, indicating the number of pieces featured.
Thanks to this initiative, we can now appreciate a sampling of images associated with Pablo as envisioned by visual artists Antonio Gattorno, Adigio Benítez, Eduardo Roca (Choco), Hilda Vidal, José Omar Torres, Lesbia Vent Dumois, Julio Girona, Alicia Leal, Ever Fonseca, Manuel Vidal and Tomás Rodríguez Zayas (Tomy); and those working in digital art, José Gigio Esterás, Juan William Borrego, Jorge Chinique, Eduardo Moltó, José Gómez Fresquet (Frémez), Luis Miguel Valdés, Abel Milanés, Julio Mompeller, and Lorenzo Santos (Losama).
TRADITIONAL TROVA, TOO
The Center also makes an effort to keep the country's trova tradition alive, as evidenced by the recent presentation of the book by journalist and musicologist Lino Betancourt (1930), Lo que dice mi cantar (What my singing tells me), a compilation of his chronicles on traditional trova, which have been published digitally on the Cubarte website.
The volume includes biographical sketches of trovadores, many of them little known or forgotten, emblematic songs, dances, rhythms, and genres, plus a collection of photos from the author's archives.
During the book launch, Betancourt explained that the title is a line from a song by Pedro Ibáñez: "Listen carefully to what my singing tells me, so more singers may emerge, since trova is immortal."
The first two decades of the Centro Cultural Pablo de la Torriente Brau, have left a splendid cultural legacy, thanks to this beam of light that never stops and never ends, with which the troops at 63 Muralla approach their daily work led by poet and filmmaker Víctor Casaus.