Rafael Acosta de Arriba engenders all the appeal and expectation of a living classic. Author: Provided by interviewees.
Throughout our cultural history there has been a group of intellectuals who, through their systematic knowledge and encyclopedic interests, have excelled in the field of their generation. Among these creatures that leave a mark on their contemporaries, Rafael Acosta de Arriba generates all the attraction and expectation of a living classic. In recent years, his presence at the National Library of Cuba José Martí (BNCJM) has become more intimate and everyday thanks to his collaboration in the space “On the written palm” and, above all, since he re-entered the 2020 institution as director edition of the same name.
The “signing” of Rafael Acosta to BNCJM – in its two seminal phases – has led to a definite renaissance in the label’s publishing output, while at the same time strengthening the institution’s prestige in the sacred spaces of the Visual Arts. On his initiative and on the initiative of the bibliographer Araceli Garcia Carranza, two anthological volumes of the Revista de la Biblioteca Nacional were created, which systematize the entire contribution of this centenary edition, covering a significant part of the manifestations of critical thinking and the humanities. . Raphael’s rich experience at the National Council of the Plastic Arts has strengthened his skills as a curator and communicator, from which El reino de este mundo is benefiting in the process of revaluing its exhibition space.
Without claiming to be an irrefutable authority, Rafael Acosta made decisive contributions to the publishing and academic world on issues such as the representation of the body in the photographic tradition, the ethical and political values of the independence movement, the sociocultural imaginary of chess, and the conceptual relevance of iconological theory. Fortunately for his colleagues, his carefree and generous projection makes him a valuable professional among those of us who love and dedicate ourselves to contact with sources of knowledge.
How did your generation contribute to the fact that you witnessed the rise of cultural and intellectual life in Cuba in the 1960s?
– In this decade, I moved from childhood to early adolescence (from seven to sixteen years), so just for the elementary development of personality at any latitude and time, this was a cardinal decade.
“It can also be assumed that cultural and intellectual life, which was very dynamic at that time, was perceived precisely from this age point of view, and cinema (many high-quality films were watched in those years: Italian neorealism, French New Wave and good Japanese cinema) , reading (or, what is the same, libraries), some of the fine art exhibitions that I visited (my beginnings as an art connoisseur), chess (always perceived as a game of the mind, as well as a cultural phenomenon) and other activities of this profile that accompanied my teenage years.
These were very tense times, when political upheavals placed the center of social life to a much greater extent than purely cultural and artistic.
How does your receptivity to reading (and writing) poetry complement your interest in critical, reflective, and narrative prose?
“Very harmonious, as it should be.” It all starts with reading, it is the beginning of any further development of creative and critical thinking. Of course, it’s important to grow up in an environment where there were quite a few books.
My older brother also encouraged me a lot, because he was also an avid reader and gave me the books he read, by the way, underlined by him. It caught my attention from the very beginning, and then to this day.
My classmate from the second grade, then from elementary, middle and life, Norberto Codina, was also a great reader, so in the fifth and sixth grades we independently organized debate master classes, and in the senior classes we created a youth newspaper. .
Critical thinking comes from what you read and what you discuss with your friends and peers; what you read and its confrontation with reality. But first you have to stuff yourself with knowledge and do proper digestion.
— To what extent is the history of chess connected with the cultural evolution of human civilization in recent centuries?
I think they are inextricably linked. Chess ceased being a mere board game for sovereigns, nobles and aristocrats in its early days to become a socio-cultural phenomenon of the first magnitude. When you consider his presence in novels, films, and now the electronic universe; when you notice its educational potential in children and in how countries prepare teams for the Olympics (i.e. for humanity.
“It can be argued, without being afraid to say something stupid, that chess has been an important part of the human cultural landscape for more than a century. Of course, great players, world champions and their rivals have done the most to make things worse in this way. They were (are) the leaders and main creators of chess, who have taken this place in modern times. This is his merit.”
— What importance do you attach to iconographic sources, and especially photography, in the study of the anthropological trace of people, institutions and societies?
– Visual culture invaded the world in the last century from photography, television, cinema, and later mixed with information technology. The Internet is a gallery of images that even the most dazzling dreamer could not imagine. There was no Jules Verne for him.
“Today, this culture is replacing the book culture that has dominated human society since the days of the Gutenberg printing press. It is a new and different culture focused on visuality and the all-encompassing power of images.
“As Roland Barthes said 50 years ago, societies have stopped believing in ideas in order to devote themselves to the consumption of images. When analyzed in the present, it is something beyond all possible calculations: images overwhelm us and gradually push the existence of abstract thought towards the redoubt of academies and literary or scientific senacles. People stop reading and everyone enjoys hours in front of screens of any kind, no matter what they wear or choose. Thus, the mental potential of people loses its power in front of attractive entertainment devices and banal games. This is what some call the society of the spectacle. That’s where we are at present.
What learning skills (language skills, information flow, power of choice) are needed to become a great editor?
– All those skills that you mentioned are necessary to create the ability to find or recognize a good article or book. The main thing is to have a solid reader formation, from there everything else. When you read great narrative writers, great poets, and social science thinkers, you feel well equipped to read other authors and young people who are beginning to wield their intellectual weapons.
“This, I think, is the main preparation for becoming a good editor, not only because of the ability to test the quality of texts in terms of content, but also because of their placement in the profile and, very importantly, because of prose or language in which they speak. Knowledge of cutting-edge magazines also helps a lot. Another already refers to the gift of organizing good editions of the publication and being true to its editorial profile.
How much do you value strong friendships in the academic and intellectual fields?
– The process of growth in learning, and then in what can be called a more structured or developed thinking, needs the contribution of those who know the most and can guide you (humility in the face of knowledge is very necessary), but also from the very contribution of friends who interact with their real-time knowledge, i.e. your contemporaries.
“I met and interacted with well-known figures of Cuban culture who, without a doubt, made a great contribution to my training, such as Cynthio Vitier, Jorge Ibarra Cuesta, Eusebio Leal, Juan Valdes Paz, Hortensia Pichardo, Araceli García Carranza, Enrique Sainz. , Pablo Pacheco, Fernando Martinez Heredia, Jaime Sarusky and Roberto Fernandez Retamar, among others, as well as contemporaries or close generations such as Norberto Codina, Jorge Alderegia, Leonardo Padura, Reinaldo Montero, Arturo Arango and Felix Julio Alfonso, among others. Everyone contributed in one way or another to the development of the writer and researcher that I am.
BNCJM Journal, a well-known guide to the social sciences and humanities.
Source: Juventud Rebelde