What a Famous Chilean Poet Wanted to Show This Cuban

By Luis Garica de la Torre

Nicanor Parra. Photo: lallysalley.blogspot.com

HAVANA TIMES – I arrived in Santiago de Chile, on a one-way flight direct from Havana in July 2004. On October 21st, I was working on an international poets gathering that was being organized.

One of these gatherings/lunches was going to take place in Las Cruces, on the central Chilean coastline of Valparaiso at Nicanor Parra’s house. Along with several participants, renowned Chilean and Latin American poets, we left in a bus in the morning and were getting off in this sunny town before midday, it was very windy and you could smell the sea breeze, which is always pleasant.

There on the door were the words “ANTI POESIA”. I was the third one to go inside the house. When we knocked, a child opened the door, ran back inside and came out holding poet Nicanor’s hand, who was holding Chile’s most famous newspaper, El Mercurio, in his other hand. He seemed to be in a jolly mood. The first and second guests were introduced and when they told him my name, my nationality and that I had only arrived a few months ago, he opened up the newspaper right there and then and there were four photos in sequence of when Fidel fell down during a ceremony in Santa Clara and he said to me: “look what happened to my possible old age competition.”

In his home, there were many visual artefacts which were exhibited at the Cultural Center of the Chilean government’s home, Palacio de la Moneda, in 2006. Sitting down, he stuck his hands under the sofa and took out a box. It was beautiful, made of rustic, rich wood, and inside were some fine Chilean bottles of wine. He gestured for me to go with him, I left the living room: “can you see that white thing in the distance on the hill in front of the sea, that’s Vicente Huidobro’s grave, the creator and highest example of the creacionismo literary movement I give you this view.” We were standing on a terrace with the immense Pacific Ocean laying in front of us. Once the bottles of wine were opened and toasted, we went to catch the bus on the street to go and have lunch.

Before getting on, he took me by the arm to give me the second gift when he said, promised that he would take me to the best place a Cuban could go outside the island, and that that was a fact. Walking, people stopped him and took photos, it was lovely. In that short time, after walking just half a block, he talked to me about the Cuban government’s silliness with him, and he asks me: “what’s the name of the poet who heads the Casa de las Americas?” I tell him and he laughs, “ah yes, I remember,”

We reach the place he wanted to show me, it was a grocery store, a minimarket in this town, a stall of about 15 x 10 square meters full of fruit, vegetables, spices, bread and sweets. He stopped at the entrance, looked at me, drew in close, put his hand on my shoulder and said: “all of this is sold to the public, you don’t have to get anything with the rations booklet anymore.”   

Text from the book in progress Breves and ligeras cronicas de un gusano de La Habana en Santiago de Chile.