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A book of poetry by René Dayre Abella, Cuban poet living in San Diego, California. /Un libro de poemas de René Dayre Abella, poeta cubano residente en San Diego, California.

Cita de Jorge Luis Borges

"Las dictaduras fomentan la opresión, las dictaduras fomentan el servilismo, las dictaduras fomentan la crueldad más abominable es el hecho de que fomentan la idiotez. Botones que balbucean imperativos, efigies de líderes, vivas y mueras prefijados, muros exornados de nombres, ceremonias unánimes, la mera disciplina usurpando el lugar de la lucidez... Combatir esas tristes monotonías es uno de los muchos deberes de un escritor".
Jorge Luis Borges.


José Lezama Lima: La mar violeta añora el nacimiento de los dioses,
ya que nacer es aquí una fiesta innombrable,
un redoble de cortejos y tritones reinando.

jueves, 9 de junio de 2011


The Cuban Revolucion, the UMAP and the GRAMMYs.
by Agustin Blazquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton

Luisa Maria Güell is a Cuban artist who was successful at a young age in pre-Castro Cuba.  After 1959 her popularity and fame in Cuba continued to increase.  Her life there could have been one of privilege if she had chosen the easy way out: to follow the orders of the political commissaries, who make art and politics walk hand in hand in Castro’s Cuba.
Born in Havana, she began at age five in a children radio show.  In a casting call of many children, she won a contract to be the Gravi toothpaste girl for magazines, radio and TV.  Also she did commercials for other products of the same company.  “They paid me $1,500 a month,“ a fortune in the early 1950s, considering that at that time the Cuban peso had the same value as the U.S. dollar.

At six she was on a popular children’s TV show.  Then her mother enrolled her in acting, ballet, Spanish dance and American tap dancing classes.  Her mother was a fan of the famous Argentine star and tango singer Libertad Lamarque.  Luisa Maria sang tangos that her mother taught her.  She was called, “the girl with the golden voice.”  Then in 1959 Castro took power.  Early on she won a scholarship to a newly created art school for the new breed of politically supportive artists Castro envisioned to produce.

All seven privately owned TV networks in Cuba (including a color TV channel) were confiscated by Castro and fused into two state-owned channels.  In a casting call for young talent, Luisa Maria was selected and contracted as a young actress for radio and TV.  It was the same radio and TV station where she had worked before the revolution but with a different name.  She began in small parts and a week later she was doing substantial roles in prime time soap operas as well as comedy and theatrical shows for radio and TV.

Soon her versatility as a songwriter as a singer became evident.  Luisa Maria possesses a unique voice with an impressive range and was introduced with great success as a singer in the popular TV show “Musica y Estrellas” [Music and Stars].  After her debut she was called for the top-rated variety TV show on the main channel.  There she sang “No Tengo Edad” [I’m Not of Age], the song that was made popular in Europe by the young Italian singer Gigliola Chinquetti.  From everywhere in Cuba people touched by young Luisa Maria called the TV station to congratulate her.  And from that moment she became an idol in Cuba.

In addition to her contract on radio and TV, soon she was under contract for cabarets, theaters, and a musical play was written and produced especially for her.  She was working seven days a week while completing her studies.  Soon she appeared in two films of the recently created Cuban Institute of Art and Cinematographic Industry (ICAIC).  In the second film she got the starring role and she sang the theme song of the film.  And then she received a call from the state-owned recording house—the only one left in Cuba, EGREM, to record her first album.

Luisa Maria was inundated with work and the pressure grew.  Because everything was controlled by an increasingly totalitarian centralized state, she couldn’t decline work.  All assignments were seen as duties for the good of the Revolution.  Meanwhile at the art school, the political indoctrination to create the “new (communist-thinking) man” began and a foreign professor was added to teach Marxism-Leninism.  Young Luisa Maria refused to attend those classes because as she said “they were not related to art.”

She became aware that fellow actors on radio, TV and theater were disappearing and no one was saying anything about them in public.  One day she asked a fellow performer about it who quietly told her that they were being sent to the UMAP concentration camps where all people who were not supporters of the revolution were being sent.  They were sending actors, writers, intellectuals, Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, etc.  They were disappearing without a trace.

The situation became asphyxiating to Luisa Maria and she wanted to leave Cuba but her mother was against it.  In order to survive in that oppressive environment she had to censor the songs she was writing, she couldn’t sing anything that have the word “god” in the lyrics.  God did not exist and religion was not allowed, she couldn’t even attend mass.  She had to follow and pretend to believe in all communist dictums.  “You have to become a mute and even then the communists could guess by your actions what you were thinking inside,” she says.

Around that time she was given the assignment to participate in the international song festival of Sopot in communist Poland.  But her participation required her to join the Communist Youth Union.  She declined and another singer with the required political credentials was sent in her place.  Luisa Maria says, “Art and sports aren’t separated from politics in Cuba.  They are used as propaganda vehicles.  I will never forget the words of Fidel Castro, ‘Inside the Revolution, everything, against the Revolution, nothing!’”

Now she was ready to leave Cuba but it wasn’t easy now that she was a recognized composer, actress and a famous singer with a record album.  And, at that time, when you were leaving Cuba, Castro’s regime expected you to return of all the money you had earned in the past from your work.

A friend who was leaving Cuba told her that she would send her the money to leave Cuba from abroad.  Back then Cubans were not allowed to possess or buy U.S. dollars although the plane fare had to be paid in that foreign currency, mailed from abroad to the National Bank of Cuba.  So with her friend’s offer, she was able to make the decision to leave even though the regime was offering her new tantalizing career opportunities.

But in Castro’s Cuba you cannot just buy a plane ticket and go; it is a long and risky process.  First she decided she had to cancel her contract as an actress on radio and TV.  Doing that meant an interview with the new man in charge at the radio and TV studios.  His name was Jorge Serguera, alias “Papito.”  According to a source, Serguera was the prosecutor in the 1959 show trial in the early days of Castro’s regime, of Batista’s police chief, Jesus Sosa Blanco, who was promptly executed.  “Papito” did not have much understanding about the arts and promptly signed the documents rescinding her contract.

Later on she cancelled her singing contracts and requested the exit permit from the regime to leave her country.  As soon as the authorities knew she wanted to leave, Luisa Maria was sent to Castro’s current pet-project around the capital city: the forced labor camps known as “Cordon de La Havana” [Belt of Havana].  For one year, from dawn to 5 p.m. she was forced to lift and move big rocks with her hands and to clean up a mud filled area.  “At the end of the day, full of dust and mud, the women were placed on military trucks and transported standing like cows, and dropped off near their homes.”  She recalls it was a hellish experience, “I cried a lot and thought that I would never be able to leave” [Cuba].

While working in the camps one day Luisa Maria saw a huge flock of doves flying and thought that something good was going to happen to her.  The next day an official militiaman arrived to her house with a telegram with the order for her exit permit to leave Cuba.  Later, another government official asked her to “voluntarily” sign a document giving all the rights of her songs to Castro’s regime - so they could collect all her royalties in the international arena.  That is part of the blackmail that many Cuban artists suffer in order to be allowed lo leave the island.  If you do not sign, you cannot go.  So Luisa Maria had to sign that document.

In the airport, officials confiscated most of the clothes she was carrying in her suitcase.  And she was subjected to a strip search by two official militiawomen.  While they were undressing her they were making fun of her by singing her hit song “I’m Not of Age.”

As with most Cubans when they leave, Luisa Maria didn’t feel that she was free until her KLM flight to Spain lifted off the tarmac on May 9, 1968.

In Madrid, Spain she was able to continue her acting and singing career and received awards and accolades in various song festivals, and made many recordings.  In France she received the Edith Piaf Gold Medal from the Authors, Composers and Music Editors Society.  It was the first time that this coveted medal was given to a non-French singer.  Also in France she received the award as Best Interpreter.  In a 1971 tour she came from Europe to America, making her debut in Puerto Rico, New York, New Jersey, Miami and California.  In New York as well as Puerto Rico and Mexico she received more awards.  And while living in Europe for 15 years, she toured Latin America and the U.S.

In 1983 Luisa Maria moved from Madrid to Miami.  But as many Cuban American artists in exile have found, the doors are pretty much closed while the doors are wide open to Castro’s official artists living in Cuba.

As for the controversy of the GRAMMY nominations for Cuban artists under control of the Castro regime, Luisa Maria says, “Cuban American musicians in exile cannot compete with the Cuban musicians on the island because, even if their music is not great, they have the support of powerful international impresarios, promoters and recording labels while we do not.

“It’s quite simple; American impresarios searching for talent go to Cuba and ‘discover’ a person with a name [official government artist] and introduce that person in videos, films and documentaries which are heavily promoted and marketed in the U.S.  If he or she is from Castro’s Cuba, the U.S. press always says that the ‘new discovery’ is wonderful whether it is or not, especially if he or she is 80 years old.

“Then they place him or her under an international recording label.  And their records are played on the radio in the U.S. [thanks to the payola the companies can afford to pay] and they receive many good critics and publicity.  Later on they are nominated for GRAMMYs and the people vote for them because they are on the radio, videos and films, are Cuban from the island and had been ‘discovered’ by an American impresario.”

But, it is not necessary to travel to a rogue, anti-American regime, designated by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist country, where art and politics are forcibly intertwined, in order to find Cuban artists.  Artists in Cuba, where they cannot freely express themselves, are the same ones that have chosen freedom and are living in Miami.  The only difference is that in the U.S. they have total freedom of creation with no strings attached.

Miami and the U.S. have many very good Cuban singers and musicians.  But the American impresarios fall into the trap of being fascinated with the “forbidden” Cuban artists from Castro’s Cuba.  And there are many examples of Cuban artists who captivate the impresarios and press until they defect.  Then they no longer find them worthy.  So, are they really interested in high quality Cuban artists or something else?  That is why Cuban American artists are frustrated by the Latin GRAMMYs.

According to sources inside Cuba and in Los Angeles, singer Omara Portuondo, of “Buena Vista Social Club” fame, came to the U.S. with the cabaret Tropicana 1986-87 tour.  My source noticed that the troupe of the tour was very intimidated by the presence of Miss Portuondo.  They confided to my source that she was an informant of the dreaded G2, Castro’s State Security (SS).  That’s why Omara Portuondo is one of Castro’s official artists and it explains why she signed an Anti-American document, which also supports the April 2003 execution of three black men – even though she is black.  In the same document she supported the imprisonment of 75 pro-democracy, human rights activists and independent journalists in Cuba, among them many blacks.

Luisa Maria says, “Only a few Cuban American musicians have been able to be successful in the U.S. and some of them have even received GRAMMY nominations.”

Unlike Omara Portuondo, Luisa Maria, who is able to sing in many different languages, including English, is unknown to the American public even though she has 23 albums and CDs.  Now she is presenting her new CD titled “Frijoles Negros y Arroz Blanco” [Black Beans and White Rice] at a concert at the Miami Dade County Auditorium on October 4, 2003.  It is an opportunity for Americans to get acquainted with this talented Cuban American singer.

This CD marks her return to her Cuban roots.  It is a sampler of the classic Cuban rhythms like danzon, habanera, the popular street vendor chants, guaguanco, son and the classic song.  “Frijoles Negros y Arroz Blanco” is an artistic triumph.  The brilliant production of this CD and Luisa Maria’s talent as the creator are superb, her interpretations and musicality are masterful.  This CD is a jewel!  A must have for all Cuban music aficionados.

For those who want to know more about her career you can click here: LUISA MARIA GUELL, unfortunately this site is only in Spanish.
                                    EN LA FOTO EL DOCUMENTALISTA Y ACTOR, AGUSTÍN BLÁZQUEZ    
Agustin Blazquez, Producer/director of the documentaries
COVERING CUBA, CUBA: The Pearl of the Antilles, COVERING CUBA 2: The Next Generation, COVERING CUBA 3: Elian presented at the 2003 Miami Latin Film Festival and the 2004 American Film Renaissance Film Festival in Dallas, Texas, COVERING CUBA 4: The Rats Below, Dan Rather “60 Minutes” an inside view, COVERING CUBA 5: Act Of Repudiation, COVERING CUBA 6: CURACAO and COVERING CUBA 7, CHE: THE OTHER SIDE OF AN ICON

Author with Carlos Wotzkow of the book COVERING AND DISCOVERING and translator with Jaums Sutton of the book by Luis Grave de Peralta Morell THE MAFIA OF HAVANA: The Cuban Cosa Nostra.

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