The Great Beauty

THE HA­BANO BE­COMES AN ART­WORK AS IT GETS IN TOUCH WITH ITS PUB­LIC. PER­HAPS THAT EX­PLAINS WHY SO MANY CUBAN AND FOR­EIGN ARTISTS COME BACK TO THE FES­TI­VAL EV­ERY YEAR, JUST EN­THRALLED BY THE BURN­ING SUBTLENESS THE HA­BANO HAS TO OF­FER

Excelencias from the Caribbean & the Americas - - CONTENTS - BY / MELBYS NI­COLA PHO­TOS / FERVAL / ALVITE / EX­CE­LEN­CIAS ARCHIVES

Art. When talk cov­ers those terms, de­bate is close at hand. For some is all about es­thet­ics; for oth­ers, it refers to a prod­uct born out of en­deavor, ded­i­ca­tion, tal­ent and tech­nique. There's also need to speak about artists, that slew of sen­si­tive be­ings ca­pa­ble of cap­tur­ing the sub­jec­tive and turn it into im­per­ish­able art­works, send­ing vibes up and down our very souls. Hardly ever ge­niuses come to­gether, but when they do, they sim­ple make that mo­ment re­ally pas­sion­ate. At least that's how the Ha­bano Fes­ti­val feels year after year, based on the num­ber of boldface names that travel to Ha­bana, en­thralled by the mys­tique of Cuban cigars.

For their fol­low­ers, Ha­banos en­gulf many of the char­ac­ter­is­tics that make art­works go on be­yond time. If you have any doubts about this, then ask painters like Nel­son Domínguez, or mu­si­cians such as Chu­cho Valdés, Omara Por­tuondo, Leo Brouwer, Mariza, Jack Bruce, Phil Man­zan­era, Jorge Drexler, Ara Ma­likian, or some­one who was one of Ha­banos' most charis­matic am­bas­sadors: Fran­cisco Repi­lado (Com­pay Se­gundo). Ha­banos even showed up be­fore Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez, who even­tu­ally un­earthed this form of magic re­al­ism by the hand of cigars.

It couldn't be any less. Each and ev­ery Ha­bano is thought out as a unique piece. Its leaves are in­ter­twined in a sym­phony full of shades and colors of its own. It's then firmly rolled into shape. Del­i­cate ges­tures –like wa­ter­color brush­strokes- piece this com­po­si­tion to­gether that even­tu­ally finds, in fire and smoke, some kind of a voice it calls its own.

The drag turns into the cap­tur­ing of a mo­ment, a snap­shot, some de­light that im­me­di­ately leads to nos­tal­gia, nos­tal­gia that can only be reined by just an­other puff. The rings of smoke waft ki­net­i­cally be­fore the eyes of the be­holder and the Ha­bano –it just can't be any other way- be­comes a work all in it­self as it makes con­tact with its pub­lic, as if it were putting on an organolep­tic per­for­mance.

Maybe that's why in these 20 years of Ha­bano Fes­ti­vals, ac­tors and mod­els haven't been able to stand on the side­lines. Big-screen stars have hud­dled in the

Cuban cap­i­tal to puff on a good cigar all the way down to its butt. Jim Belushi, Jeremy Irons, Ger­ard Depar­dieu, Jack Ni­chol­son, Danny Glover, to­gether with a bevy of femmes, such as Mia Mae­stro, Naomi Camp­bell and Paris Hil­ton, have made head­lines by at­tend­ing an event en­tirely ded­i­cated to he­do­nism, a space re­peat­edly em­bel­lished by dancer and chore­og­ra­pher Lizt Al­fonso and her dis­ci­ples.

Yes, many of us have sur­ren­dered to the subtleness of a burn­ing Ha­bano and come back to the Fes­ti­val ev­ery year. It looks like every­body who loves ev­ery­thing that's both sen­so­rial and in­tense –once they have known and tasted its essence- can't stop look­ing for it.

There's got to be some kind of magic or con­nec­tion with those things that thrill and soothe the soul. As fleet­ing as it is, the art of smok­ing a Ha­bano car­ries a hall­mark of ex­clu­sive­ness in each and ev­ery ges­ture, a sign of grip­ping power. That's why count­less peo­ple are sim­ply cap­ti­vated by its art and its act. And as a mat­ter of fact, isn't art just ev­ery­thing that gives us the best rea­son to shiver and travel in a sin­gle mo­ment, by just pack­ing a wal­lop to our senses… just like a Ha­bano does?

Every­body who loves ev­ery­thing that’s both sen­so­rial and in­tense –once they have known and tasted the essence of a Ha­bano- can’t stop look­ing for it

JIM BELUSHI

LEO BROUWER

STEVEN SPIEL­BERG

ARA MA­LIKIAN

NEL­SON DOMÍNGUEZ

DANNY GLOVER

PARÍS H I LT O N

NAOMI CAMP­BELL

OMARA POR­TUONDO

CHU­CHO VALDÉS

JACK NI­CHOL­SON

GABRIEL GAR­CÍA MÁRQUEZ

PHIL MAN­ZAN­ERA (RIGHT) JACK BRUCE (AL CEN­TRO)

BORIS BECKER

JORGE DREXLER

SER­GIO TOR­RES

LIZT AL­FONSO

GER­ARD DEPAR­DIEU

MIA MAE­STRO

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