Foto: Radio Nacional de Colombia
Foto: Radio Nacional de Colombia

Embrace her entire voice

6 minutos / Norge Espinosa Mendoza

29.08.2020 / Articles

The great Celina González once recorded Qué viva Fidel, a fierce version of her famous hymn to Changó, which did not help her much during the period in which that success and others dedicated to orishas and saints were removed from circulation on national stations, in one of those ridiculous gestures that one would rather ignore, but not forget. Celia Cruz, the Guarachera of Cuba, recorded the song of salutation to the Agrarian Reform, in effect, together with the Sonora Matancera, as recalled on Thursday in the broadcast of La Pupila Asombrada, after a brief presentation that did not explain why what that theme had been chosen to allude to the proclamation of said law and that he used his images along with other stills of the revolutionary epic.

At the moment of fervor that was 1959, even the most stale institutions cheered the process of change that shook the country. Many, like Celina, remained with us. And not a few of them then disappeared, and not a few of those voices later turned to exile, or dissolved into a deliberate silence from which, despite everything, they have been rescued so that we can better understand the intensity of that context. and its very diverse resonances to this day. The enormous singer who was Celia Cruz, as said yesterday, left Cuba in 1960 and was never able to sing again on stage where she received the love of a people who embraced her with pride, watching her grow from her humble origin to an undoubted star after her entry to Sonora, replacing the odd Myrta Silva. And for the full story, it should have been said that she was denied return when she asked to return to accompany her dying mother, a pain she never forgot or forgave and which accelerated her break with the new regime. And despite this, it is worth remembering that she never denied her Cuban identity, nor her rhythms, nor did she move on to a career in English, no matter how deeply rooted she was in the United States, and that she walked her heritage through so many places in the world. Together with Benny Moré, she gained a scepter of popularity and a myth that should already be reformulated among us, several years after her death, as has been done with not a few essential figures.

But perhaps that, her myth, is too great. When she died, I was in London, and I have already told how I was impressed by seeing so many people on television or on the Internet, not just her compatriots: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Venezuelans ..., who came out to give her an impressive farewell. Because for many of them Celia was not just a Miami singer or disaffected, but an icon of Latin culture who won the favor of those devotees through strokes of authenticity. And that made me understand that she was not only the voice of the Sonora Matancera, the Queen of Salsa, the Guarachera of Cuba, but something that magnetized with her battle cry, that shocking “azúcar”, many other keys and forces. Who wants to believe me, look on YouTube for her appearance at the famous concert in Africa, at the beginning of the 70s, along with Johnny Pacheco and the Fania All Stars, so that you can see her in full before a Zairean audience that she seduced with her power goddess of music, singing La Guantanamera nothing more and nothing less. Her fervor for Cuba was unstoppable and infinite, like herself. And the land of the Island accompanies her in her grave, as proof of such faith.

Cuando se la vio en Yo soy, del son a la salsa…, el documental de Rigoberto López en el que accedió a ser entrevistada, el público del Festival de Cine de La Habana aplaudía sus intervenciones. Cuando Zoa Fernández y Laura de la Uz la evocaban en las puestas de Delirio Habanero, la pieza de Alberto Pedro, esa invocación nos reclamaba otra manera de tenerla ya entre nosotros. Ella ha regresado a través de esos y otros espectáculos, y en muchas imágenes. En un espacio donde la cultura aflore no como supuesto acto que restañe superficialmente, sino como evocación que nos recuerde a quienes nos concedieron algo perecedero desde la intensidad compleja y polémica de sus humanidades. Por eso creo que hablar tranquila y limpiamente sobre Celia Cruz entre nosotros debiera ocurrir ya sin subterfugios. Y no solo sobre ella, que en efecto cantó al guajiro para celebrar la Reforma Agraria y entonó una y otra vez sus ganas de regresar a su país natal, que llevó siempre consigo. Aún rememoro la amarga y breve nota con la cual la prensa oficial dio la noticia de su muerte aquí, con un énfasis marcado en un adiós politizado. Que fue parte de su vida, pero no toda. Y al que no se puede reducir lo que esa mujer plantó entre nosotros. La oigo cantar Tu voz, La espinita, Reina rumba, Quede Zambia, Químbara quimbara y de ahí en una larga secuencia que llega a La vida es un carnaval and La negra tiene tumbao y sé que esa voz nos acompaña. Cantando con tanta limpieza como en esos éxitos y también en ese saludo al guajiro cubano de aquel instante promisorio. Y nos identifica ante muchas personas, como una figura también imborrable en la Historia Sentimental de la Nación.

En la casa de Sigfredo Ariel conocí una noche a un señor flaco, negrísimo, de risa casi permanente, cuyo rostro me parecía levemente conocido. “Es el hermano de Celia Cruz”, me dijo Sigfredo, que sabe Dios cómo hubiera reaccionado al uso de ese nombre en el programa que provoca este comentario. “¿Y cómo está ella?”, me atreví a preguntarle. “Muy bien”, sonrió otra vez, “hablamos todos los días”. Que venga un tiempo en que podamos compartir con ella esa sonrisa y esa conversación hasta dialogar sobre su biografía entera, en el horizonte de una Cuba donde oírla cantar sea tan nítido como un amanecer.

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Norge Espinosa Mendoza

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