Original and copy

If you arrive at the old Plaza de El Carmen and you stay a while in the shade, enjoying the pleasant atmosphere that is perceived there, you will not delay in noticing two individuals that are usually in this place. One reads a newspaper sitting on a bench, while the other animates with his guitar the passage of visitors in the cool hours of the morning.

A character who was immortalized in bronze

The gentleman reader, with relaxed pose, examines the Adelante publication. Towards him I address, and he greets pleasantly, so I conquer a moment of his time to know how he came to this place and why he recreates with the weekly Camaguey, right here.

He says that was the artist Martha Jimenez who took him to that enjoyment. At the beginning of the design project for El Carmen, she invited him to serve as a model, like so many elders from Camaguey who read the newspaper in a park. He had not had much time to recreate the activity during his professional life and now, retired, he took the pleasure.

So, Norberto Subirat Betancourt, who used to live in the neighborhood, on General Gomez Street, moved to Los Coquitos some time ago, a distant part of the historic center. From there, he comes early in order to repeat again and again the pleasure of reviewing the press in full view of all in a pleasant environment and live that cultural exchange of which the square is the stage.

A parenthesis

Visitors from different latitudes of the world come to the place, some as tourists, others in search of an approach to the visual arts, where Martha Jimenez's gallery is the center. The travelers approach the passer-by with the objective of knowing the city's customs and roots, above all the curiosity of the bronze characters that give life to the enclosure, about their simple stories they also inquire.

We continue with the newspaper reader

Subirat, as the neighbors call the legendary character, proudly relates the years in the service of the Rebel Army; later, his participation in Giron and the rest of his career. He even tells how he was surprised to find the statue with its image already placed in the position it currently occupies.

Regarding my question about how it feels to be so popular in his land and in the world, adjusting his cap, he points to the statue and says: "That's me, original and copy, and while I can raise my leg on the bench , I will continue here".

Background music

I continue in the charming Plaza de El Carmen. Chords sprouted from a painting and stroked my ear, on a stool, leaning against the wall of a house, was the author of that tune, his name: Miguel Angel Perez Rodriguez.

Before my curiosity, why he comes every morning, guitar in hand, he responds with a smile: "Because I am a peasant. I arrived in Camaguey near the harvest of '70, I was a truck driver and I always liked to sing, I started on my own and after retirement I have more time to play guitar".

When he started singing in the square

He arrived about four years ago, after the restoration of it; one day he passed Carmen Street, saw it full of people and he wanted to share his music like the old minstrels, telling what he felt.

Then, the community project of the gallery of the Office of the Historian of the City of Camaguey, that attends this site, gave him orientations and welcomed him as part of the environment, which is vital for Miguel, who with a hip fracture comes with crutches and guitar to give us his songs. One of them paused in our conversation.

(With the cuatro at the background)

There are two presidents that the people notice
and they play baseball.
If you do not know it, you will understand it,
one is Hugo Chavez and the other is Fidel.
If we are Cuban or Venezuelan,
two brother towns:
To fight and to win!

At the end of the refrain we were surrounded by neighbors and tourists who visited the city. Miguel Angel thanks my curiosity as a journalist and a feeling springs from his heart: "I'm not going to leave this because it's important in my life, I became popular here".

Gossipers comment

According to neighborhood talk, these are two usual characters from El Carmen, a few years ago they were enemies; the troubadour confirmed the matter. He says that when he got there with his music Subirat did not want to share the space, he thought that with his deployment it would affect the image of the project.

Today they are good friends, they share a drink of coffee, a song, and they speak clearly about what the press says. With their figure every day they cheer and inform the passer-by; but above all, they call attention for their perseverance and love of Camaguey, their beloved Plaza de El Carmen and the sun that warms them each morning while re-enacting behind the old church.

My flashes

As you walk through this emblematic place of the city on its cobblestones and appreciate its simple and old houses, its habitual characters and the magic that the space transmits, it seems that time does not pass. It stops at the birth of the region to keep it alive and beautiful, just as it is in the memory of his elders.


Author: Jesmir Varona Socias
Source: Senderos Magazine. No. 18, july-december, 2016. Pages 31 and 32.