Tuesday, 07 May 2019 22:53

The Casa on Its 60th Anniversary

Written by Mireya Castañeda
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The Casa on Its 60th Anniversary Photo: Dunia Álvarez

Alongside the Casa, with the Havana Malecón as the backdrop, under a torrential downpour, Silvio sang in honor of Haydée Santamaría, and the anniversary of an institution that supported him from the beginning


In the year in which the Casa de las Américas reaches its 60th anniversary, celebrations have been focused on exploring the institution's history, the rescue of its historical heritage, and its "cannon of the future," as poet and trova singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez would say in his impressive song "El elegido."

It is worth repeating the words of U.S. writer Margaret Randall, who has worked closely with the institution since its founding years, on stating: "It is difficult to assess the work of the Casa de las Américas during its six uninterrupted decades of work, without indulging in superlatives that never express what one would like to convey."

The beautiful history of the Casa has much to do with the brilliance of its creator, Haydée Santamaría, who left her mark on each of the institution's efforts, and on the continuity represented by its current President, poet, and essayist Roberto Fernández Retamar.

Among the multiple activities to celebrate the anniversary throughout 2019, those relating to the visual arts are revealing. Firstly, the very poster that announces and reflects the 60th anniversary.

Designed by Pepe Menéndez, it undoubtedly refers to a tradition that has been undersigned by such maestros as Raúl Martínez, Umberto Peña, Felix Beltrán, Alfredo Rostgaard, and announces revitalization, with an attractive, high-impact image.

Menéndez — director since 1999 of the Casa's design office, who recently received the Muñoz Bachs Design Prize awarded by the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) — has mixed that tradition and achieved a contemporary image, which in form and color updates the codes used in line with the times.

As early as 1961, the Casa's Department of Plastic Arts was created, responsible for the curatorship of outstanding exhibitions of Latin American and Caribbean artists, and which today holds the Colección Arte de Nuestra América Haydée Santamaría (Haydée Santamaría Our America Art Collection), a visual heritage made up of more than 10,000 works.

In the Casa's Latin American Gallery, works from this valuable group are currently on display as part of the XIII Havana Biennial in the exhibition En serie. Ediciones de una colección.

Curator Nahela Hechavarría told our publication: "We are trying to play with the title. Two lines, works of the same theme or others that are serialized, prints in general, serigraphy, photographs, limited edition sculptures, and also installations."

On display are some 40 works by 22 artists from eleven countries. "Each work and artist has a wide-ranging relationship with the Casa's sixty years."

Returning to honor its history, the Casa was officially founded on April 28, 1959, and was inaugurated on July 4 of the same year in the building it has occupied since then on G and 3rd Streets in the Havana neighborhood of Vedado.

As part of the celebrations, and in memory of the history of trova music that the Casa has always hosted, Silvio Rodríguez offered concert No.101 of his Gira por los Barrios (Neighborhood Tour) in the city of Havana, which in November celebrates its 500th anniversary.

Once again Silvio accompanied the Casa in its celebrations. He was host to the "Casa Viva" event for its 40th anniversary, and the concert "Con sus mismas manos" to mark the 55th is still widely remembered.

This April 26, Silvio's concert was attended by hundreds of his fans who, despite the heavy "April showers," stayed put to enjoy the latest from the renowned singer-songwriter.

Among the crowd were key representatives of Cuban culture, including maestro Leo Brouwer, who recently turned 80; poet Miguel Barnet, and Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso.

Also standing firm despite the torrential downpour were the President of Cuba's Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, both with their spouses; and Party Central Committee member and its first secretary in Havana, Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar.

The Cuban President offered a beautiful message on Twitter regarding the event: "An unforgettable night, a concert for the future, Silvio's tribute to the Casa de las Américas and to Haydée. In the rain and among much-loved songs we felt happy, fortunate, cleansed, enchanted and grateful. Thanks Silvio."

It could not have been otherwise. Silvio began the concert for the Casa with "Canción del elegido," which he composed for Abel Santamaría, and in which he warns: "I'm not going to talk to you about a common man"; and concluded, under the rain, and with the audience's call for more, with his monumental classic "Ojalá" and that "precise word" that this poet offered to his generation. (Granma)

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