A little bit of Cuba in San Miguel
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
CubaFest, a celebration of music, dance, film, literature and food, will be held in San Miguel de Allende March 11 through 17. This year CubaFest celebrates its 10th anniversary by paying homage to Miguel Matamoros, a Cuban singer and composer, and will feature Cuban jazz pianist Roberto Carcassés, journalist and poet Waldo Leyva, Arcadia Noguera and her band, Colibrí, and movies such as Juan de los Muertos (Juan of the Dead), Siete Días en la Habana (Seven Days in Havana) and Y Sin Embargo (And Nevertheless). The festival, according to its organizers, Lupita Meza and Adolfo Rubio, will be bien sabroso (very tasty).
CubaFest emerged from a sister cities agreement
Lupita Meza, general director of the festival, said that sister cities agreements are made to foster cultural, social, touristic and commercial exchanges and that UNESCO supports sister cities agreements to offer people a chance to learn about others and to maintain peace among their nations. On May 30, 2000, San Miguel became a sister city with Havana, Cuba, thanks to an agreement signed by the authorities in charge. Because local administrations are only in office for three years (in the case of San Miguel), UNESCO recommends forming citizens’ committees to promote and continue activities to preserve this kind of arrangement when the parties who formed the original agreement are no longer involved. In San Miguel one such committee was formed and initiated CubaFest.
Following the agreement between Havana and San Miguel cultural exchange began when some residents, among them Meza and Adolfo Rubio, started holding meetings with musicians, artists and locals who studied in Cuba and traveled frequently between San Miguel and Cuba. After a few years, many people became interested and these reunions grew, so they decided to open the activities to the general public in larger, public venues. In 2003, the first festival of Cuban culture was held in el Jardín. The Festival de la Cultura Cubana en San Miguel de Allende (Festival of Cuban Culture in San Miguel de Allende) changed its name in 2011 to CubaFest, a multidisciplinary celebration that sponsors academic, cinematographic, gastronomic and musical events, and it expanded its offerings to other cities such as Celaya, Comonfort, Dolores Hidalgo and Guanajuato, which signed an agreement with the festival, and this year more formal events will take place there.
Gala and tribute
This year CubaFest will pay tribute to Miguel Matamoros (1894–791), a Cuban singer and musician who held different jobs such as chauffeur, painter and carpenter while he learned to play the guitar and sing. He later recorded music for the RCA Victor Company in New York. Rubio commented that Matamoros was the man who discovered the talent of Celia Cruz and also who turned the sad bolero into a song of unbridled happiness. According to Rubio, Matamoros was chosen for this tribute because his music is very established in Mexico and even Mexican musicians such as José Alfredo Jiménez, Pedro Vargas and Miguel Aceves recorded his songs, including one of the most popular, “Lágrimas Negras” (“Black Tears”).
Since its beginning the festival has recognized prominent figures from the Cuban culture. Compay Segundo, a musician, received the first recognition from the festival. In later years Omara Portuondo and the “greatest flautist of America,” Orlando Valle Maraca, were similarly recognized. This year the recognition Estelar CubaFest SMA, which is a statue made of bronze and gold by Mexican artist Benjamín Rodríguez Avendaño, will be awarded to Waldo Leyva, a prominent writer, poet, actor, director and president of several institutions around the world. Leyva will receive the recognition in a gala at the Teatro Ángela Peralta on March 13, 2012.
Concerts, movies and gastronomy
To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, CubaFest will present a piano recital at Liverpool by Roberto Carcassés, who according to Meza “is a Cuban artist of great worldwide importance.” This event is unique because is the first time that a recital will be held in a department store here. “We are adding new venues, and we will have more than 30,” remarked Meza. A second concert featuring Arcadia Noguera, from Veracruz, and her band Colibrí will take place at the Jardín Principal; the group will perform jarocha music (from Veracruz) and traditional Cuban music.
Cuban films will be projected, including Cuba’s first zombie movie, Juan de los Muertos, a comedy about zombies set 50 years after the revolution. A mysterious illness is turning the inhabitants of Havana into zombies who are desperate for human blood and flesh. Juan, who is a good Cuban, along with his friends starts a company to exterminate the zombies with the slogan “We kill your loved ones.” No one knows where these creatures are coming from or how to kill them; some even say that are dissidents paid by the US government to finish off the revolution.
Y Sin Embargo is a film for all kinds of audiences, in which Silvio Rodríguez, a well-known troubadour, makes a special appearance as an actor. The film tells the story of a kid who arrives late to a math test and invents a story about an unidentified flying object. His fabrication creates disorder among the students and concerns among the teachers. The principal wants to expel the child from the school unless he apologizes, but some strange phenomena generate doubts about the untruthfulness of the student’s tale.
In 2012 Cuban gastronomy was added to the festival just for one day. This year “La Comilona” will be held on March 10, but a special menu will be offered daily at the restaurant Jaco Cubano (across from Plaza Cívica), with a free mojito. San Luis Potosí will be a guest state, and the restaurant will present its gastronomy paired with a mojito.
All the events are free and are held in different venues. Vendors selling Cuban items will be set up as usual at the Jardín Principal. Check the whole program in the Qué Pasa supplement. The invitations for the gala and the piano concert at Liverpool can be obtained in that store at Plaza la Luciérnaga. For more information go to www.cubaensanmiguel.com