Leandro Estupiñán

Leandro Estupiñán

Los pies en Buenos Aires y la cabeza, en su lugar, aunque la mente desande por ahí. Una rumba flamenca, la primera idea y arranqué esta columna. De precisar datos curriculares, remítase a la foto, y a los textos que vayan saliendo.

Poster made especially for this text by its author, designer Roberto Raez, from Ediciones La

Reinaldo Arenas: the ghost that appears

On December 7, it was 30 years since the death in New York of Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990). It was not a natural death, it is known. Arenas chose to end his life haunted by circumstances. Perhaps the heaviest at that time were those concerning AIDS and exile. Beleaguered for being a homosexual in Cuba during the time of the parametrations, exiled during the Mariel, frowned upon in Miami for the same reason, he had no choice but to be ruthless in his reviews of his existence. Reading him, one can see that he transformed his sexuality into the greatest dissidence, exaggerating delirious episodes and dragging those he knew, admired or suffered along the same path that he would very well describe as “queer,” and that in his narratives, because of the meaning reached by this transformation, means more than what it literally denotes. https://oncubanews.com/gente/delfin-prats-por-holguin-antes-que-anochezca-i/ Said with a desire for synthesis, in Arenas’s literature the term “fag” acquires the character of a philosophy from which he manages to describe what for him, with a parodic look, not devoid of tragedy, seems an inevitable fact in the history of the island: suffering, submission and simulation. Although a radicalized anti-Castro, we...

Photo: thehandandeye.com

This is not a profile, it’s just about Gay Talese in Havana*

If the journalism students of my generation had been told that Gay Talese, the author of Honor Thy Father (1971) and dozens of iconic stories of New Journalism such as “Mr. Bad News,” walked the boiling streets of Havana camouflaged in that daily life of survivals, the entourage that he would have achieved was going to be extensive, like that of his last visit, when the island was emerging from a crisis accentuated by the fall of the socialist camp and the strained relations with the United States. “It was one of the most exciting experiences of my writer’s career,” the 88-year-old teacher assures me. I’ve broken one of his golden rules. “I don’t interview by email, I’ve always thought that people have to be seen face to face,” he once said, and now confirms it with me: “What I do, and have always done, is to be physically present, without telephone interviews, without Zoom; no email exchanges, if I can help it.”  Journalist Gay Talese, in his New York home study in 2006. Photo: Rachel Cobb/The New York Times. But, even following his precepts to the letter, I have no choice but to take advantage...

Edward Norton in Fight Club, a 1999 film adaptation by David Fisher of the novel by the same name. Image: Frame shot from the film.

The rage epidemic, therapy to contain it

I met a guy who sounded like something out of a novel by Chuck Palahniuk, the American writer I promised to elaborate a bit on this week and of whom I’m already mentioning two books: Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey and Fight Club. They are the ones that I have read. He has others that are quite famous, and what’s more, I think I can bring up one more title, Lullaby, the terrifying story of a journalist and a real estate agent who investigate cases of sudden death in children. One day, suddenly, they find a certain common element in their investigations: a book inside which there is a lullaby that will kill whoever listens to it. I mentioned the writer, if someone is wondering, moved by an established association seeking to define Argentines and that kind of rage that sometimes seems to dominate them. Today I keep the promise by bringing up two of his works, in which that anger that he likes to develop stands out. The association has little to do directly with the type of violent attitudes that germinate in his characters, a quality for which they get to commit brutal acts that many...

Photo: EFE

Leonardo Padura: with Cuba and with my language in tow…

Leonardo Padura (Havana, 1955) has said that he is not the most talented of his generation, but he is the one who works the most. “And fast!” I said to myself when, a few hours after sending the questionnaire by email, I received his answers, which have the tone by which anyone intuits the typical Cuban confined to a generation that began to mark territory in the years 1980s. Until now, his last work in bookstores was Agua por todas partes (2019), a narration that explains the secrets of his stories; but, a week ago, thanks to an interview by his wife Lucia López Coll, we learned about his new book. The genre?: novel. Como polvo en el viento is its title and it will also be published by Tusquets, the publishing house that has allowed him to raise his voice in the world with the character of Mario Conde as a banner, and reaching summits with exciting books such as The Man Who Loved Dogs (2009). Image: IPS Cuba A journalist who was punished in his beginnings, an essayist with a typewriter in the background, a daily novelist, Leonardo Padura received the Princess of Asturias...

They say learning Chinese can be the fashion in Havana

Mandarin courses have been taught in two faculties of the University of Havana for a year and a half, but not everyone who chooses this language has been able to enroll due to limited capacities, according to the criteria of students and professors collected by the Chinese Xinhua state press agency. The language is taught as a compulsory second language in the Faculty of Foreign Languages, while in that of Tourism it is an optional subject. Chabelys Lora studies French at the Faculty of Languages ​​and has Chinese as a second language. From a linguistic point of view, it has a more basic structure than French, which facilitates learning, she said to Xinhua. Like her classmates, Lora believes that the most difficult thing has been to be able to differentiate the tones of Mandarin, even though they have the help of Professor Xu Yi, a Chinese woman who has lived on the island for three years with her husband. https://oncubanews.com/en/cuba/chinese-language-to-be-taught-in-cuban-schools/ “Cuban students are very excited about learning,” Xu Yi explained, and said there were many applications to enter the course, but enrollment had to be limited to the 16 capacities of the classroom equipped for teaching the language. Xu is...

Photo: Cass Bird/Vanity Fair.

A Cuban playing Marilyn Monroe

Just getting back to the United States, after spending two weeks in Cuba, Ana de Armas, the sensation, granted an interview to the New York magazine Vanity Fair that is published in the March issue as the main feature, setting aside its cover for this 31-year-old beauty. “I came directly from Havana, so I’m wearing plane clothes. My bags are full of clothes, medicines or supplies, whatever people need, and come back empty,” she says to New York writer Sloane Crosley, her interviewer. The conversation takes place at the Versailles Restaurant in Culver City, California. Because of the atmosphere, reminiscent of the Miami restaurant, each of the phrases smell like Cuba. They eat beans. “This is my fuel, says the actress. As for the drinks, she chooses the daiquiri, because for her the mojito seems ‘too Hemingway, too obvious.’” There’s still one day to go for the awarding of the Golden Globes (whose gala took place on January 5), therefore the question of whether the young Cuban would win the award for her interpretation of Marta Cabrera, for which she was nominated for Best Actress in the comedy Knives Out (2019, Rian Johnson), is floating in the air. In the...

"Los sobrevivientes" (1979). Photo: revistafilm.com

“Getting around the system”

The film Los sobrevivientes (The Survivors) by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Titón (1928-1996), always makes me face the same thoughts, because more than a comedy of Titón’s evident and black humor to me it seems like a harsh and persevering satire, the powerful parable about what happens in any society that, for some reason, its own or external, voluntarily or necessarily imposed, is at the expense of isolation. This film, the seventh in Titón's career, has reached its 40th anniversary this year. The premiere was on January 6, 1979 and, if it did not happen before, it was due to some delays beyond his control, as he said in letters addressed to friends or ICAIC authorities, such as Alfredo Guevara himself, who at the time was still the president of the film institute. That correspondence was collected in the book Titón. Volver sobre mis pasos (Unión publishers, 2007), a compilation by Mirtha Ibarra, actress and widow of the filmmaker. This revealing document had a critical edition in 2018 and thanks to it I have re-read the testimonies of those times. I found out that the shooting of Los sobrevivientes should have started at the beginning of 1977, but it was not...

Photo: Kaloian

Descemer Buenos: dancing the Buenos Aires night

Before leaving the Miami airport, in the last waiting lounge, composer, guitarist and producer Descemer Bueno (1971) broadcast on Facebook to his followers notifying them that he was traveling to the south. "The next stop is Buenos Aires, Argentina. La Trastienda. Friday, May 31," he said. The next day, at the Eizeiza Airport, the girls from the "Nos fuimos lejos" fan club, which is presided over by Cecilia Quiroga in the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, received him, but a virtual crowd welcomed him or wished him a wonderful stay from the networks. On the other hand, Descemer Bueno hadn’t set foot in this city since he did it with Santiago Feliú. "I have so many memories of when I came with Santiago.... And now I see myself in this place where he had a lot of followers," he says, sitting on the furniture of an apartment on Medrano Street. It was the day of receiving the press. This conversation happened then, 24 hours before his concert in La Trastienda. Photo: Kaloian He has given enough details of his trip to perform for the first time alone and it is already night. Cold night, and after...

Guillermo Cabrera. Photo: La Vanguardia.

Cabrera Infante dismembered

Born on April 22, 1929, in the city of Gibara, which previously belonged to the province of Oriente, today Holguín, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, one day after having turned 68, became the third Cuban to win the Miguel de Cervantes Award. The award had been given by the Ministry of Culture of Spain since 1976, something that continues to happen in honor of the birth of the writer it takes the name from, and who in the awards ceremony the Cuban did not hesitate to call "my contemporary." Although Cabrera Infante did not reside in Cuba at that time, since three decades before he had settled in London, where he had arrived from Spain after having left Havana in a hurry. Or, the truth be said: he never left Havana in a hurry because of the city itself; he was trying to leave behind the political system that has ruled since 1959; although, in that attempt to escape Fidel’s ideology and beards, he was also fleeing from himself, that is: from his revolutionary past. Rather, because of all that, somehow Guillermo had left his head in Havana. Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s head unscrewed like a light bulb, he took out his legs...

March against animal abuse, April 7, 2019 in Havana. Photo: Otmaro Rodríguez.

Animal justice

Havana experienced a rare march on the first Sunday of April. I don’t remember a "self-convened" pilgrimage of such scales, especially because it was to protest against something in particular and its promoters are fairly independent entities: the animal protection societies do not have the power to gather crowds and freely go on a march. This type of entity is not linked, let’s say, to the official framework that approves a street congregation; but, it was based this time on the need to inculcate awareness regarding the subjection of one species over another, the mistreatment and oppression that our animal instincts bring out in us, in some way the background is also political. It’s what jumps out at first sight, because the activists intend to draw the attention of the legislators so that they assess an animal protection law. That, in a few words, also means a promotion of civic awareness. The protesters and those who authorized the march, in addition to the sensitivity towards animals, agree on another point: there is a dangerous legal vacuum on the subject. And while the law unprotects animals, it turns humans ―Cubans, in this case― into beings who are even more brutal than...

Photo: pxhere.com

Forbidden books

My attraction for books not registered in the inventory of edifying titles for Cuban youth turned into a disagreement with a teacher, also the Party secretary in the school. I had just finished Compulsory Military Service, we were in 1999 and I, like Oscar Matzerath, refused to ideologically tow the line. The debate about the material in question this time took place during my time in senior high, when that professor discovered in my hands the novel of another of those authors hated by Party members. And I say "hated" because my suffering from a chronic innocence and because I have written about prohibition and censorship other times, are also relative. It happened when in passing the professor saw that, instead of Luis Báez’s interviews with the Cuban generals or Vitali Vorotnikov's diary about the downfall of the Soviet Union, materials of which we had spoken at some time before his classes, I was holding a copy of La nada cotidiana, by Zoé Valdés. His pink face started getting red until it became a clot. The book was not mine, however. It had been lent to me by my friend Rey Almarales, a frenzied reader like his brother, and we...

Photo: EFE.

“Entre habanos”: Juan Carlos Roque, from the radio to the ghosts of that reality

Juan Carlos Roque García (1960), who is an absolute man of radio and whose voice internationalized Radio Netherland, that oasis that we heard at some time, wrote and has just published a novel titled Entre habanos (Among Cigars, Círculo Rojo publishers, 2019). His argument unfolds in the late 1970s and extends until the mid-1980s, specifically between 1979 and 1985, seven years like the seven letters of the word "habanos," that kind of acronym with which he presents to us the index at the beginning of his book. A factory as a context is something that I do not believe often appears in contemporary literature; in Cuban works, for years I have had no knowledge of a “worker” background, if you want to call this way the concatenation of events that have as a starting point or end a workplace. And that the repetition of "production process," "better tobacco" or "export" in some parts for me became the first challenge as a reader, since the only reiteration of the words "cigar factory" or "cigar," that element that Fernando Ortiz called "haughty" and with aspirations to be "puro" ended by transforming...

A house and its ghosts

Photos: Amauris Betancourt The purpose was to find out whether or not there were ghosts in the house. People used to say it was haunted, even if they’d never seen it and lived miles away. One person heard about it from another, who heard about it from another, in one of those conversations that turns to apparitions and far-fetched legends. But that’s how legends are passed on, from mouth to mouth. And they go far. “What makes you think this house is haunted,” I asked.


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