The tenth day is better every day, because the poets have raised their cultural level, says Luis Cordero Peguero. Author: Hugo Garcia
MAXIMO GOMEZ, Perico, Matanzas – In this town of Matanzas, the salvation of peasant musical traditions flourishes: decimas, disputes, seguidillas … not to mention Mexican music. Everyone here knows veteran Luis Cordero Peguero, and I was immediately directed to where this tireless minstrel lives, winner of the 2023 National Community Culture Award in the Personality category.
On the way we visited Cucalambe, home of Rubén Beltrán Mes, with its gallery of diplomas, awards and recognitions; and at Pedro Martínez Paz’s home in Cucalamba (2022 Living Memory Awards), we attended a party featuring some of the best musicians and impromptu artists in the community.
The way he publicly acknowledges other poets, such as his friend Miguel Morejón Gómez, whom he regards as the best sudden artist in Cuba, testifies to the humility of our interlocutor, since, despite being an amateur artist, he is whole and useful in his work as director of Peña Morejón y sus amigos.
That’s why Cordero doesn’t attribute his recent public award to his exclusive work: he says it’s made possible by musicians, improvisationists, poets and the public that visits the guatec.
This lean man in a leather hat with “Cuba” written on the front has many dreams and impresses with his entrepreneurial spirit. Despite being 81 years old, he has an amazing memory.
A peasant by origin, he was born on the Capitolio farm: a father with 40 houses in the immediate vicinity of Maximo Gomez. From childhood, he knew the harshness of the countryside, but he managed to complete the sixth grade at a rural school, where he first heard his teacher read Platero and mea text by the Spanish writer Juan Ramon Jiménez that will commemorate his life.
“Fortunately, in this small school, the teacher read to us and made us read. Since then, I started writing my own things: poems, short stories and short stories. Later, in 1962, I was one of the first recipients of a scholarship in Cuba at the National School of Art Instructors.
“I wanted to do music, but I don’t have a very good ear, so I studied theater. I started working in the regional committee of the Union of Young Communists of Cardenas, where I spent several years, and then I was the first secretary of this youth organization here in Maximo Gómez. Later, I sent BON on June 14, a battalion of 250 young people to work in agriculture on the rice and sugar cane plans of the Marti municipality.
“I spent a year and a half on courses at the Nico López party school in Havana. I returned to Matanzas and started visiting the area of culture and education in the municipality of Cardenas. A few years later I was given the opportunity to work in the regional department of culture in Cardenas, and at the end of 1975 I was called to the international mission in Angola as a politician from a military unit. When we spent four months in Sa da Bandeira (today Lubango), close to the border with Namibia, in the unit we held weekly poetry workshops, we continued to be actively involved in cultural events throughout the scene.
“The director of culture, Perico, offered me to head the house of culture of Maximo Gómez, where I started working in 1981 and worked there for 25 years, 18 of them we were the provincial avant-garde, and seven among
the best national cultural centers.
– What is the success of the house of culture?
— In connection with the city and in becoming the center of the community. We had two great poets, Severiano Moreno and Armando Adrian, and Dora Alonso, a native of this city, also wrote decimals. Here we have 12 poets, but the tenth one sings or writes. There are no hotels here, but Decimists from other provinces stay at Kukalambe’s houses, and that is how we can carry out our business.
“When a light bulb was melted down in the house of culture, I or one of my employees took one out of the house and took it with me. We have never cannibalized the institution, quite the contrary.”
– How do you rate the tenth, improvisation and surprise?
“They are in good health, although detractors consider them minor art. For me, art is either quality or scrap, it’s simple. The tenth is getting better every day, because the poets, thanks to the revolution, completed university courses and raised their cultural level.
What do you think of the award you just received?
— This recognition is of special value and inspires me to continue. I did not expect this, because my proposal was from previous years, from Casa Naborí, from Limonar. What could be more important for a modest and revolutionary Cuban than an award presented by the Cuban President, who, welcoming me, emphasized: “This is how we protect our identity.”
– How do you see the future of peasant traditions?
– He’s rising. Most national poets are scholars, professionals, or graduates. There must be a national policy, because sometimes there is little receptivity here. In some places efforts have been made through the Ibero-American House of Tenth Alexis Diaz Pimient. Children’s art circles have been created, fine art teachers are graduating in many specialties, which is good. But you also have to prepare them to deal with the Creole and the peasant culture in Cuba, so that they specialize in the guitar, three, because there may be poets, but if there are no guitarists, you cannot sing.
“Sometimes schools, like the Victoria de Yaguajay run by Máximo Gómez, with about a thousand pupils, have teachers from all walks of life, although none of them reach the center of Creole and peasant culture. We need to reverse this to protect and preserve our Hispanic tenth, which celebrates love, good deeds, revolution and society. It is very necessary for the Ministry of Culture to take over.”
—How are Kukalambe houses born and functioning?
— Pedro Luis Alvarez Denis, Vicho, founder of Casa Naborí, re-read the work of Juan Cristobal Napoles Fajardo (El Cucalambe) and after that reading we came up with the idea to create a great movement of Cucalambe houses. The first was the assassination of Manolo Infante Umpierrez and Delia Rizo Mesa on May 15, 1993.
“We got to 24 Kukalambe houses. The enthusiasm was so great and the work so deep that the municipal party of Perico called us and informed us that the municipal committee proposed to make the community of Maximo Gomez the first community of Cucalambe in the country. To fulfill Hogar Kukalambe’s condition, we have rules.
“Families who cultivate the peasant genre, or who, if they do not have an artist in their house, propagate it, celebrate birthdays with poets, serenades and parties, these houses are examined and, if conditions are met, declared hogars. Kukalambe, with an identification plate on the door and inside, in a picture on the wall, the tenth My housefrom Kukalambe.
“They are active. There is a party almost every day and it is sung every day,” Cordero Peguero, who was the director of the house of culture from 1981 to 2002 and now retired, tells us the evening of the tenth and the Cucalambe house movement.
– Sometimes the tenth peasant girl is strong and borders on vulgarity?
– When the tenth is strong, defending a just cause, let him live; but when it comes to obscene and vulgar decima, it is rubbish and we are not exempt from it. Here in Maximo Gómez, none of our poets practice this, nor do those who come, because we do not allow them. There’s so much trash culture out there, obscene, that we shouldn’t accept it from anyone. Sometimes this music is played in the middle of the central park of any city. It’s a pity, because Cuba has a lot of culture and decency.
—Who is your favorite poet and personality?
All good poets live in my heart, starting with José Marti. My exalted personalities are Fidel, Che, Camilo and all those who made the revolution, as well as my friend Esteban Lazo Hernandez, President of the Parliament.
—Have you experienced any injustice in your life?
– A lot of. First of all, out of professional zeal, because I am just a simple art teacher who improves himself in reading and learning every day, learning from those who know. Nothing limits me.
—Are you satisfied with your work?
– I am an accomplished person, I have always tried my best and realized my life projects. I do not aspire to anything based on material wealth, I always go towards social work. When I am no longer on earth, I want to be cremated, and my ashes scattered in the area where the royal palm trees grow.
Source: Juventud Rebelde