When in 1514 Diego Velázquez founded the Villa of the Holy Spirit, he would not guess that eight years later a colony of leaf-cutter ants banished the locals towards the banks of the river Yayabo. They say that the ten houses and a chapel that formed Pueblo Viejo fled from the appetite of the ants and their alleged penchant for devouring the navel of the newborn.
They sayl that while there was no bridge of bricks, lime and goat’s milk, the inhabitants of Sancti Spiritus should skim the waters of Yayabo to communicate. And the villa was filled with cobblestone streets, medieval buildings and convents, and blacks whose surname was Valle, which was the richest family in the village and judging by the motto of his coat, “no one is worthier than a Valle¨ making them the most arrogant.
In 500 years, Santi Spiritus inhabitants buried Franciscan convents, fought in the bush, sew guayaberas, gave birth to a general who fought in three wars, did harvests, made Revolution, cleaned the Escambray, put together in tres to make guitars and made trova, turned the park around and then reconstructed it through archaeological findings, which threatened for weeks the agility of works to mark the half a millennium.
And we all assumed that after Trinidad and Camaguey, that something big had to do in “Santilé ‘. I mean, something bigger than repairing the Paseo Norte and retouch the facades. Something like dress the villa with a guayabera and arouse their people from the slumber that has lasted decades.
Within weeks, under the sun and the weather, the people of the Holy Spirit demolished, cleaned, painted, redesigned and relocated urban spaces waiting, perhaps, for a return of the village to so many duties. But a city can never, by itself, pay its people what they do for her. A city spends too much time carrying the weight of tradition and history, to remember to thank.
However, one feels them. In the murmur of the waters halve the village, in the strong wind beating on the steeple of the Parish Mayor, in the murals has been planting life on the walls, in the flavored drizzle and the faucets in the patio, in utter joy of pronouncing the r in park, sugar, in incurable obstinacy of following the roosters on the baseball. And the nostalgia, that tastes like beer in the carnival and corn stew on Sunday, smelling fried yam, a goat leather and used books.
Santilé is now 500 years old and still is, since I live in it, the same sleepy town in its history, musical par excellence and true to its legends of güijes and underground passages where they say the nuns hid the children of sin. And we know why, which are far, the anniversary has gotten inside us, in the throat, while in the background, old trova songs, old songs are played the songs of serenades.