The saying “El retrato de Martí, el que se queda se queda así” (Marti’s portrait, the one who stays, stays like this) comes from an old game in which children, after having repeated this phrase, freeze in place and aren’t allowed to move; whoever does, loses the game.
Sadly, I recalled that game today when I was passing by the old Marti Theater. In an ironic tone I hummed: “The Marti Theater, the one who stays, stays like this.”
The problem is that the Marti Theater — located in the heart of Old Havana and once an emblematic symbol of Cuban culture — has ceased to be a center of prominent and popular Cuban vernacular drama. Today it remains frozen in the middle of a remodeling process that began I don’t know how many years ago and which seems to be unending.
The question that today plagues all Cubans who pass by this place is evident.
Why is it that this remodeling job that was initiated by city historian Eusebio Leal, who undertook the task of rescuing our culture with such zeal, still hasn’t been completed?
Is there an implicit interest hidden behind keeping this facility closed after this unusually long and unjustified delay?
Could it be that this theater — once the center of scathing social criticism expressed in hilarious brushstrokes of authentic Creole humor — today generates fear in certain circles?
There is nothing to be afraid of. We need to reclaim our culture. We need to reclaim our vernacular drama as a genuine aesthetic expression of Cuban theater. The ghosts of Rita Montaner, Alicia Rico, Carlos Pous and Enrique Arredondo, to mention only a few, anxiously await behind the curtains to again offer the Cuban people the most genuine and traditional expression of theater. And I’m sure that our people will know how to express their thanks.