Yonlay Cabrera, Chronicle Award Winner
"I can´t deny my attraction for Havana"
What does it mean for you to write stories about and from Havana?
For Havana city I feel a kind of complicity, a sense of belonging that transcend its material structure. I can´t deny my attraction for Havana; sometimes, when I am short of motivations to justify my fascination for her, I walk round the streets with my mind in blank and I try to visualize myself living in other places… and I can´t. I wasn´t born in the capital, but I do in Habana that was the name of province until two years ago.
My interests are too ambitious for the little town where I come from, although I haven´t lost my fundamental nature (I don´t think that could be possible), since I arrived to Havana I felt entirely local. I am an artist by nature, writer by vocation and Art Critic by formation. I don´t know if I could apply any of the three professions in Cuba away from Havana. But, beyond this practical sense, I feel very attracted to the Havana´s dynamics; and, from my perspective, it is faster than in any other province of Cuba.
Every Havana local has an aspect of Havana that strengthens as the most important, in my case, that aspect is how easily one integrates into the group. No matter how homogeneous a group is, there is always such a diversity that it breaks any possible stereotype. There people from everywhere, of every conceivable personality and behaviour. There are stories in every corner. There is much to say and places where one can share what it is said. Maybe I am influenced by my own desire for more than half of my life to get to Havana, and for seeing her as my Zion, the ending of a trip and the opening of many others; if it is the case, then I will accept that.
What do you underline in your stories about this city?
In Havana city, sometimes there are hidden areas that become blurred because the effervescence of emerging things. When there is a fashion subject matter, everyone strongly commits to that subject (it happens mainly to youngsters). And I don´t mean only writers, but creators in general. I know it is an effective game to bet for a sure thing, however, sometimes the lack of passion goes to surface. That occurs with the visual arts, cinematography and art criticism, with almost everything.
I could been able to get rid of this structure, I´m sure of that, but I try to put my experiences into everything I do; I try to dedicate to every new project and not to bet merely for the new. I hate to read a short story and it seems a version of other five I have read in that same week, or when I go to an exhibition with the feeling of having seen it before. Possibly, there is much more emotional abundance for a story in a quiet minute seated on the seafront than in all the sorrows, needs and desires for going-ahead repressed for so long. I don´t mean these subjects are worn out or stale, in fact, one always can do something fresh with any subject, but many times it is necessary to get rid of easy criticism and in its place to deepen in different issues from the sensible individuality (o collectiveness) of the person, artist, and all who get involved in the symbolic production that remain in our present.
Something that interests me very much is how to universalize my direct experience with the city. And when I say “city” I mean the inner dynamics of all mechanisms that make possible its functioning. Tolstoy compared the description of a village with the world knowledge; in the same way, life in Havana and how its inhabitants think is not so much different from other latitudes in general. I think that a trivial subject or apparently shallow can be transcendental and universal, if we can make it comprehensible and settled on an unspecific place. I have always wanted to connect to anyone by using my direct sensible experience as raw material, which is the only one I can openly talk.
Tell us about your experience with the official announcement and the contest of www.havanastreetview.com.
I got the official announcement by chance through a friend who told me about the Project. I reviewed the site and I saw what havanastreetview.com was about and I decided to work for the contest. One of the categories that caught my attention since the beginning was the journal report. For me it is the same between journal report and literature, and between documentary and fiction in the cinematography: there are substantial differences in the way of referring a fact according to levels of veracity, but in both the artistic component is extremely important.
The text I sent as a chronicle, at first, was going to be a short story. But my partner (recently graduated of journalism), realized about the connection with the reality in the text. She told me You are very attached to facts. The truth is that reality exceeded me, I couldn´t turn something into fiction because it was already pretty much surrealist. I don´t know what would have Carpentier thought if he would have spent three days on the same conditions I was with my girlfriend on the bus station. For me it was very real and pretty amazing. Then, I rewrite some parts of the text and disregarded everything that couldn´t be tangible. I did keep the color of the initial narrative and the allegorical tone of language, I also simplify a little thinking on a possible publication on the press.
Regarding the prize, it was really gratifying. Calling the attention of a jury is always an exercise of reaffirmation of ego; the fact that your work is selected from a group, gives a lot of energy and desires of keep working. The havanastreetview.com fitted my interests very well. Besides the generous amount of money, I respect and admire very much the person who put the rules of the contest in my mailbox. I remember that even the uniqueness of the conditions of entry caught my attention, it seemed to me what it is: a dynamic, interesting, intelligent and renewal project.
The moment of delivery… well, the words are redundant. During the ceremony I found out that one of the members of the jury in my category was a professor of my faculty in the studies of Arts whom I appreciate intellectually very much. I saw friends, colleagues, artists, writers, professors. I think that two of the things I liked the most was that during the ceremony they mentioned the wide range of disciplines of the participants (to win in journal report being a student of Art history), and that one of the perspectives they want to approach culturally to Havana was very close to the subject I worked on my chronicle.
Read the Award: Bus station: a life experience, 3 days