HAVANA TIMES — Last year, I wrote about my trip to Cuba’s Isla de la Juventud (“Isle of Youth”), or Isla de Pinos (“Isle of Pines”), as the locals prefer to call their stomping grounds. This year, I once again travelled to the island to participate in the Juegos Florales Mangle Rojo (“Red Mangrove Floral Games”) poetry competition, usually held the last month of the year.
Though I thought I’d gotten over the enthrallment that this island and its people invariably inspire in visitors, I couldn’t help but feel, again, as though I were in heaven, a place where poetry, music, love and friendship ruled the roost.
For four straight days, I lived on the edge, almost without sleeping, without time to think and plan what to do (therein, I think, lies the magic of the whole affair), letting myself go with the flow, follow the itinerary wisely put together by the organizers of the event, my friends Randy (rapper and president of the municipal Hermanos Saiz Association), Daniel and Aylin (vice-presidents of the association and promising young writers).
There, I got to spend time with the friends I had made last year: Osmany (a poet from the province of Pinar del Rio), Heriberto (from Ciego de Avila), Israel Dominguez (Matanzas) and Yansy Sanchez (Santiago de Cuba). The last two had decided to join us for the occasion.
The finishing touch to the gathering was provided by Cuban folk musicians Ariel Diaz (Havana), Frank Martinez (Santiago), Manuel Leandro (Holguin) and Silvio Alejandro (who, incidentally, is the organizer of a good cultural gathering held every Friday in Havana’s Pabellon Cuba).
Many of the best writers from the municipality (who always welcome us with open arms) were also there: Maikel Garcia, Javier Negrin, Rafael Carballosa, Nelton Perez and Jose Taboada.
Ayren, my young friend, Jaime Prendes, a visual artist, and Lazaro Chirino, a journalist who both covers and organizes the Noches Florales festival, were also there.
Yasiri, a beautiful and talented dancer from the Carapachibei group, who lives on Isla de la Juventud, also participated in the festival. I plan on paying her a visit as soon as I have the opportunity.