Osmel Almaguer

Scene from Ciego de Avila.

HAVANA TIMES — This year’s Juegos Florales poetry competition gave me the opportunity to visit Cuba’s province of Ciego de Avila (popularly known as the “land of pineapple”) for the second time in my life.

The book of poetry I submitted to the competition was among the finalists. This entitled me to participate in the gathering, all expenses paid.

Though my trip was months ago, it is only now that I feel ready to write about my experiences there – experiences which, for me, were very intense.

Ciego de Avila is a province experiencing vigorous development. Created relatively recently, as part of the political and administrative restructuring of 1976, most of its infrastructure is of recent creation.

The provincial capital has experienced a significant degree of horizontal growth. It is a clean city, cleaner than what it was 16 years ago, when I walked its streets for the first time.

Like most Cuban provinces I’ve visited, it has a restored central boulevard (one of the most beautiful and comfortable I’ve seen in the country), equipped with numerous benches in the shade and marble sculptures. Classical music is always playing in the background.

Its establishments have prices nearly as high as those in Havana, but they are much cleaner and offer much better customer service.

Walking down its streets, one breaths the kind of civility that has long been forsaken in Havana. I was quite surprised at how quiet the city is at night.

My visit was not unlike most literary events of this nature: it progressed from one activity and bottle to the next. One doesn’t exactly have many opportunities to take a vacation and thus makes the most of such occasions, returning home in a state of excitement.

The activities of this poetry competition enliven the city and bring music and poetry to its residents. There is a popularity contest and, at the end of the night, some of us ended up wearing a crown of flowers (as a prize).

I met all sorts of people and had the opportunity to reunite with old friends from other provinces, who sometimes participate in events of this nature. It’s a shame the gathering only lasted five days. I had the honor of receiving an award and will likely have to return to Ciego de Avila next year, when they publish and launch my book of poetry.

osmel

Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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