Mike Porcel: Digging Up the Past

By Irina Pino

Mike Porcel, a Cuban musician and composer. Screenshot from the documentary Sueños al pairo.

HAVANA TIMES – When you listen to Mike Porcel’s music, there is a transfer of emotion from the singer-songwriter and the listener. You always feel the poetic charge. His compositions are influenced by Baroque music, melodies that fall sweetly on the ear, which is why it is such a pleasant experience.

It’s normal that our younger generations don’t know who he is. Mike is a Cuban folk singer from the time of Silvio Rodriguez and Pablo Milanes. People over 50 years old will remember him as the member of rock band “Los Dada”, and as the leader of the “Sintesis” group.

His link to theater dates back to the Teatro Estudio, when it was under Raquel Revuelta’s direction. He still continues to compose music in Miami, where he now lives.

His songs, Ay del amor, Dialogo con un ave, En busca de una nueva flor, Diario…, have been performed by Jesus del Valle and Amaury Perez, Argelia Fragoso, Beatriz Marquez, Elena Burque and Argentinian singer, Nacha Guevara.

He returned to the spotlight with the documentary Suenos al pairo (the name of one of his songs), by filmmakers Jose Luis Aparicio and Fernando Fraguela.

It all began when FAMCA students decided to write their end of course thesis on Mike Porcel. Perhaps somebody told them about him, or they heard his songs. The reality is that they managed to get a hold of his email address and they made him a proposal. Porcel received the filmmakers questions, and the documentary was later shot in Miami.

The movie tells the story of his music career, the events that led to him becoming a “social outcast”; and the betrayal of his colleagues, after the Mariel exodus in the ‘80s, when he tried to leave the country with his wife, and wasn’t allowed.

The boat his family had sent from the US was filled with strangers. He was never told why he was held against his will. He was only told: “you are never going to leave”.

The worst thing was the act of repudiation that came from his folk singing colleagues including a letter that was slid under his door, in which they accused him of being a traitor. Acts of repudiation were carried out against “gusanos” (worms, a term to refer to people who left the country), and involved shouting, insults, having your house egged, and even physical attacks.

Mike Porcel lived in limbo, the work he found had nothing to do with his artistic nature. Thanks to a priest, he managed to get a job as a church musician to get by and maintain his family.

Years passed and his wife managed to leave in 1986. He left in 1989. He was in Spain for five years. His family was irreparably split. They only spoke on the phone. They were reunited in 1994, in Miami.

Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) officials made a huge mistake when they banned the documentary from being screened during ICAIC’s Young Filmmakers Festival, claiming that images had been used from its archive in the edition of the documentary and the directors weren’t authorized to use them. These images depicted boats leaving Mariel, and violent clashes between citizens.

This led to festival participants withdrawing their movies from the program as an act of protest, and the festival was postponed.

In an interview on TV show, Esto no tiene nombre, in Miami, Porcel said that during the time he was socially shunned, some “immigration” officials would regularly turn up to see him to pressure him to leave his job at the church. But as he had nothing to lose, he didn’t even bother paying any attention to them.

He also said that he didn’t resent those who turned their backs on him. It was obvious that this still hurt him, but he understands that at that time, nobody could be his friend unless they wanted to run the risk of being labeled a traitor of the Homeland too.

Interesting fact: the singer-songwriter only has one album recorded in Cuba, Jose Marti’s children’s poems, sung by Amaury Perez, with his music and arrangements.

It’s strange. Why has nobody ever taken the time to record an album, in spite of the value of his lyrics and the wealth of his music? Justice will be served one day, and he will once again form part of Cuba’s musical landscape.

I invite young people to look up his songs, especially those who like poetic lyrics and music that feeds the soul, which goes by the name Mike Porcel.

Irina Pino

Irina Pino: I was born in the middle of shortages in those sixties that marked so many patterns in the world. Although I currently live in Miramar, I miss the city center with its cinemas and theaters, and the bohemian atmosphere of Old Havana, where I often go. Writing is the essential thing in my life, be it poetry, fiction or articles, a communion of ideas that identifies me. With my family and my friends, I get my share of happiness.

Irina Pino has 263 posts and counting. See all posts by Irina Pino

One thought on “Mike Porcel: Digging Up the Past

  • I am a part of the Cuban community through marriage and your fine article about Mike Porcel struck many memory notes for me going back 60 years.
    Please keep writing
    Thanks, Richard

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