The reader of the Plaza del Carmen

It was in the year 2003 when, for the first time, at the age of 69, Norberto Subirat Betancourt knew the interiorities of artistic modeling. "I would never have imagined it," he said, as he looked forward to the influx of visitors to the historic space, fully restored by the City Historian's Office, in his beloved Plaza del Carmen at Camaguey.

Within the sculptural set conceived in normal scale by the ceramist Marta Jimenez, the figure of Subirat stands out in one of the benches of the place, with one of its legs collected and submerged in the reading of the newspaper Adelante.

Who walk through that beautiful place, like taking -as a souvenir- the photograph of this loving villager, sitting next to the piece that -in union with the others- perpetuates characters and local modes of the old village.

"I'm Marta's neighbor," he recalls, "and we've been good friends for many years." She told me that she was looking for an old man ... not much, to be a role model for her. She had an idea and she wanted to take it to the project, which was entrusted to her by the Office of the Historian, in order to encourage Plaza del Carmen".

The Subirat of then, with 65 years very well preserved, and displaying his enviable loquacity and facility to establish communication with his peers, was surprised by the proposal of the artist.

"But Marta," he replied, "I have not had much time to read newspapers in the parks, I've been a chauffeur all my life."

The prestigious ceramist convinced him with a strong argument: "It does not matter, Subirat. Older men, after retirees, usually do not have much to do and spend part of their time reading newspapers in public spaces, outside their homes. That is what I want to convey in this case: the placidness of those who navigate an advanced stage of life ... as it happens with the city itself where they live".

"I said: well, it's okay, Marta, and the agreement was that from 9 am, from the following day and for less than a month, I would serve as a model for your character of the reader of the Plaza Del Carmen, which he made in mud, like the rest of the sculptures that can be seen here".

The Plaza del Carmen and the surrounding buildings were built around the 19th century. They guard the extensive cobbled space - in the style of the time - old houses, the church that gives its name to the site and the Convent of the Ursuline Mothers, whose first cloister was completely remodeled after 1999. There lies the Directorate of the Office of the Historian of the City of Camaguey.

Since then and to date, several interventions have characterized the attractive place: one of them was enriched with the contribution of the ceramist Marta Jimenez, who conceived on a normal scale, a series of picturesque figures easily identifiable: the old "Mata'o" and his wheelbarrow; the neighbors, in open "gossiping" of which the visitor can participate, always invited to share one of the empty "stools" ... and the newspaper reader.

"There are regulations that regulate and defend respect for the heritage contained in this place," says Subirat, "because social discipline must always be respected. I spend a good part of the day here in the Plaza and appreciate the work of the members of the Corps of Security and Protection of Camaguey, a force that, as its name indicates, applies constant vigilance for the preservation of our architectural treasures, and this Plaza is one of the most beloved.

By: Yolanda Ferrera Sosa.
May 5, 2014