Cuban Actor Albertico Pujol and Mass Nostalgia

Alfredo Fernandez

Alberto Pujol
Alberto Pujol

HAVANA TIMES — It would seem that all Cubans over forty have been left with nothing but their memories. Leaving, surviving and – most importantly – remembering are verbs that seem to apply to nearly all Cuban émigrés.

Albertico Pujol is no exception. A few days ago, he traveled to Miami to act in Officially Gay, a stage play written and directed by Cuban comedian Alexis Valdez. On this occasion, Pujol was invited to appear on El Espejo (“The Mirror”), a show hosted by another Cuban, Juan Manuel Cao.

The interview was one recollection after the other. Pujol focused on his early years in television, during Cuba’s television boom at the time of Para bailar (“Out Dancing”), a program that basically paralyzed the nation every Sunday. The show was co-hosted by one of the most beautiful faces in Cuban cinema and television at the time, actress Lily Renteria, today an elderly woman without her former splendor.

Watching Albertico and Lily recall the 1980s, which were much better than the 1990s, made me somewhat sad and my own recollections started. I recalled how my sister and her friends would gather after Para bailar ended to go over the show together. “Did you see what happened to that nut, Salvador?” (Salvador was another of the show’s hosts). “Did you see Lily’s dress?” They would spend half an hour summarizing the popular program.

Those years will never come back, as neither Albertico, nor Lily, nor my sister, nor Cuba, nor I are anything like what we were 33 years ago, when we watched Para bailar. Today we are more skeptical and distrustful, hoping to improve a country that does not appear to find its bearings.

“Why are you always watching things about Cuba?” an Ecuadorian friend asks me. I don’t answer and then end up wondering why I do this. I must be something of a masochist or lover. I’m always looking for the island everywhere, in every gesture and development.

This isn’t something unique to me or Albertico Pujol, crazy enough to have a Cuban cuisine show on YouTube that the ideal audience cannot see and, if it could, doesn’t have the means to cook those dishes.

Joan Manuel Cao has also been busy. He’s already talked about the “pacifier that doesn’t fall”, the “greaseless frying pan” and other culinary myths we Cubans invented to have something to talk about during the power cuts of the 1990s.

All of us Cubans carry the island on our backs, whether we live “abroad” or in Cuba, whether our name is Albertico Pujol or Juan de los Palotes and we live in the remote municipality of Buey Arriba. If the Cuban revolution has distributed something equitably, it has been nostalgia. Don’t take my word for it, just ask the legendary Celia Cruz.

Interview with Alberto Pujon on El Espejo de Juan Manuel Cao en