MAKUTA DRUMS BEAT THREE TIMES FOR BENNY MORÉ
A few blocks from the Historic Center of Santa Isabel de las Lajas, we come to a house made of rotting wood, painted white, with blue doors and large windows, and a gabled roof. On the last of the three steps of the entrance, a grayedhair lady welcomes us. She wears a brown skirt and a white blouse with a sharp neckline. She also wears a headscarf and just behind her right ear she holds a white basil branch. Her name is Madelaine Hernández and she is the director and cultural promoter of Makuta folkloric group, from the Congo Chapter. To enter, she tells us that we should lean and touch the stone three times with the right hand, a sort of permission to be granted by some deity; and, of course, carry a basil branch behind the ear for the duration of the presentation. Inside we stand in front of an altar with yellow candles dedicated to San Antonio de Padua, Ogun the warrior and, of course, I could not miss the Elegguá, always behind the door. The Chapter, created in 1886, treasures the makuta drums that were in the barracks of the Caraca sugar mill, where the slaves would take refuge, to forget about the whipping and to create their art without restrictions or any considerations. It was a true sacred temple where only one race mattered: the human race! The community project owes its genesis to the restoration of the Chapter in 1998. It received the Premio Memoria Viva Award from the “Juan Marinello” Cuban Cultural Research Institute in 2005, the Jagua Prize, and it was also declared Grupo Portador. The dance structure consists of two parts: the Ceremonial of the Flag, which consists of three chants for which doors and windows must remain unblocked, and a second part named Jindinga, in which the drums, protagonists of the show, occupy the center of the scene. The ceremony ends. When leaving, we follow the tradition by leaving the basil branch, already withered, over the stone. But I am pensive, with desire ... and almost by instinct I ask Ogún for a wish, and then I feel that voice in my head that bewitches me and invites me to move again towards the three drum beats, this time singing with him.