Photo: Lorenzo Crespo Silveira
With a bare breast, breathtaking mulatto curves, a fine Greek robe covering part of her body and a trumpet in her hands ¨La Fama¨, symbol of the city of Guantanamo, shows herself to the people who visit the easternmost province of Cuba. Sometimes it seems to seduce passers who look at her at her privileged position on top of the Salcines Palace.
I’ve always found a provocative but without major similarities with ¨La Giraldilla¨, another well-known statuette in Cuba and whose legend is confined to Havana. In fact, if the second one weren´t wearing the skirt under her right thigh in a pose as sensual as La Fama itself, it would be clear that there are major differences between them: one is from the East and the other is from the West, one is almost undressed and the other wears clothes of the Spanish Renaissance, one a goddess and the other a simple mortal. Two different versions of female beauty converted into symbols.
These are their stories.
La Fama was placed, since 1922, by engineer José Lecticio Salcines Morlote on top of which would become the most emblematic eclectic style building of Guantanamo architecture: his own home. It was polished by an Italian sculptor, Americo J. Chini.
Meanwhile, La Giraldilla is on the watchtower of the Castle of the Royal Force and has more than five centuries of being melted in bronze by Geronimo Martin Pinzon, a Havana artist, whose family came from Spain, who made it at the request of Don Juan Bitrián Viamonte, who named the small weather vane as Giraldilla, in memory of the Giralda of Seville, Spain.
They both were nestled on top of the homes of their owners, but with different intent. La Fama, for example, represents the messenger goddess of Zeus, who spreads the good, and bad news, rumors … and always cause disorder and misunderstandings between mortals.
Some digital magazines have cataloged her as the daughter of Aphrodite, the deity of love, other sources say she is the last descendant of Gaea, the earth goddess, and Romans say she is the "People´s voice". But nobody seems to have the truth in hand.
Eneida assumes that La Fame lives in the center of the world in a Sound Palace (with thousand openings for them to enter the voices of the people and deities), and that is surrounded by the credulity, error, false joy, terror, gossip and personifies the demonic power of advertising and rumor.
The Giraldilla, on the contrary, is far from representing the ethereal and subjective, she symbolizes, on top of the castle, the presence of the Doña Isabel de Bobadilla, wife of the seventh Spanish governor in Cuba, Hernando de Soto, who in 1539, was sent to reinforce the Spanish power in Florida and whom she waited, like Penelope, for long years.
Her story is one of many with unhappy ending: she waited, he never returned home. Death, attracted by the very high fevers that suffered the Adelantado of La Florida, caught him on the banks of the Mississippi River.
Years later, Bitrián Viamonte, governor of Havana between 1630 and 1634, ordered to place the statue of 110 centimeters high on the watchtower of the fortress on the condition it would move with the wind blowing. A medallion with the name of the author was put on her chest; she has a crown on her head, and is holding a palm trunk in her right hand that represents Victory and as Bitrián was a Knight of the Royal Order of Calatrava, he commanded the statue to hold a shaft in her left hand, the symbol of his institution.
But time, sudden, has not been lenient with either statuette. Today, to access to La Fama you must climb a spiral staircase of decayed wood. The building where is located, which besides being a home was also a Post Office Department in 1938, suffered serious damages on its doors and windows in 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy.
Currently this iconic building houses the offices of the Provincial Heritage Center and an Art Gallery.
But La Giraldilla has suffered even more: the cyclone of October 20, 1926 pulled it out from its pedestal and tossed it into the yard. Then, to prevent major damages, the Cuban government decided to locate a replica on top of the Castle of the Royal Force and place the original safely in the old Palace of the General Captains, a museum.
Two beautiful women guard with their beauty and legends two Cuban cities. La Fama and La Giraldilla, as uneven and at the same time united for their symbolism have remained forever in the cultural memory of this country. Art has made them everlasting.
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