Yenny Marceló Villar, president of the José Martí Brigade in Manicaragua, speaks about how at times they have had to carry their guitars, manuals and other work material in one hand, while holding the mules' reins in the other, while journeying along a dangerous road to reach some remote town.
Yenny fondly remembers her expectations about two earlier courses she was to give in a very hard-to-reach school, with only a dozen students whose artistic aptitudes made the local neighbors forget their daily routines.
Walking along the rough terrain of Manicaragua, we come across the Rescate (Rescue) community cultural project, whose name suggests the aim to regain the country cultural identity, and its nuances, stories, and jokes.
Rescate is a group that is very committed to art, with the daring aim to make people laugh. To these youngsters, there is nothing more inherently Cuban than the rural traditions of the countryside: the struggle with the land, the homemaker and domestic conflicts, and the children riding their stick horses through the furrows.
In Jicabacoa, known as the capital of the mountains due to its more extensive infrastructure, a puppeteer project for and by kids has been created, guided by the passionate work of professors and art instructors at the community cultural centers.
There is also the cultural guerrillas, groups that join and combine the talent in all artistic manifestations, travelling from town to town, sleeping wherever nightfall catches them.
These troops of youngsters are composed of dreamers who don't cease in their effort to lively up people's daily routines. These creative souls have taken art to the most remote places of our nation beginning on October 20, 2004.
The truth of a dream
BAYAMO.- At the age of seven, Lizandra el Rosario had a strange fantasy. She visualized herself surrounded by kids of different ages, to whom she was teaching how to play several musical instruments.
Maybe that picture in her mind resulted from her first contact with a piano at that very same age, which then led her to a brilliant career as an amateur artist. She joined the Ismaelillo chorus, participated in different Reparador de Sueños song festivals winning the first prize, and became part of the community cultural centers under the guidance of professor Arisleidis Ramírez.
The truth is that, twelve years later, on October 2005, that fantasy came true: Lizandra graduated from the Cacique Hatuey school of art instructors.
Since then, Lizandra has become one of the best "artistic professors" of the Marcos Ramirez secondary school in the eastern province of Granma. This success led her to leaving her creative initiatives aside to devote all of her time to teaching the younger generations.
"Even though we'd like to improve ourselves as artists, our number one priority is teaching," said this 24 year-old girl.
She confesses she preferred to work at a primary school, but at Marcos Ramirez secondary school she has learned a lot about adolescents, "their concerns, expectations, interests and complexities."
Lizandra teaches art critique, and directs workshops on theatre, dance, music and visual arts to some 50 students.
"I have experienced wonderful things. During the 2007-2008 academic year, I created a chorus with kids who did not know how harmonize. Some thought it was going to be a total failure. After two and a half months of classes on vocal technique, we staged a song with very intricate harmonies. Even I was surprised…It was so exciting to listen to them singing so well, with a sweet melody. Then, we participated in the Pioneer Festival and won."
Lizandra´s students have been awarded numerous recognitions for their work, and have participated in all of the events, political acts, and galas that have taken place in Bayamo, Granma.
Nevertheless, what make her vibrate are not the awards, but rather the complete joy experienced by her pupils. "I love to get to the classroom and see that the kids are having fun, that they enjoy the lessons, and are inquisitive…and answer with a smile on their faces."
The Brigade Members
MATANZAS.- The splendor epochs of the projects of any kind as well as the institutions languish when love vanishes. Such is the case of the Bonifacio Byrne municipal cultural center, which was very welcomed by the community during the first years after of its inauguration in the 1990s. But time has destroyed not only the institution, but also hopes, dreams, to such extent that it did not work in the past five-year term.
Since September 2009, the Jose Marti brigade members have made use of this institution, giving it an extensive overhaul. It even seems to blaze like old times, with a competent and enthusiastic director named Yaima López Castellanos, who belongs to the first class of art instructor graduates.
Yuniesky López, a visual arts instructor, coincides that they have fulfilled all their expectations before graduating because they have been able to bring back the atmosphere and aesthetics of the institution.
"The institution's staff is young and comes from diverse Art Instructor Classes," she noted. Lopez added that another key to success is that they do not wait for marked dates to carry on their projects. "We managed to recover the image of the cultural center; public attendance used to be low, now the number of people attending the center is really incredible."
All the workers: receptionist, secretary, and the brigade members´ instructors work as a united family. They are very much welcomed by the community, and at the same time provide schools and work places with new manifestations of art.
Eddy Garcia, a music instructor and founder of the cultural center, said that this institution flourished at the very beginning, but languished in the course of time: "There was a time when the center didn't even have a programmer and lacked a technical team. Now, things are different; the quality of the shows has increased and there is greater attendance, especially among youngsters."
Jessica Facundo, a music instructor, speaks of her marvelous relations with the new generations and the community.
Aliesky Perez, also a music instructor, believes that the cultural center is functioning properly and bringing people into the marvelous world of arts. Even though there is still much to do, Perez spoke highly of projects like El patio Con-tó, a monthly event where they play short films, artists come to work live, or the audience enjoys shows featuring dance, music, theater, painting, photography or oral narration.