I Pro­mi­se You the Ap­ple, My Lo­ve

JO­SÉ CAR­LOS DE SAN­TIA­GO SAT DOWN WITH RAIDEL HERNÁNDEZ, HUSBAND OF LA­TE CU­BAN POETESS CARILDA OLIVER LABRA, FOR THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

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Jo­sé Car­los : On Wed­nes­day, Au­gust 5, the city of Ma­tan­zas was sha­ken by grim brea­king news: the death of Carilda Oliver Labra, a crea­tu­re who has re­mai­ned re­luc­tantly in his ver­ses to en­cou­ra­ge that vi­tal sour­ce of poetry, a poetry that stands for a le­gacy of faith in words, lo­ve and li­fe. What has it meant to you to ha­ve ac­com­pa­nied her as her husband for al­most th­ree de­ca­des?

Raidel Hernández : That is a ques­tion that can not be ans­we­red with a few sen­ten­ces. For me, it is al­most a golds­mit­hing job to se­pa­ra­te the words from the me­mory, to re­mo­ve them from their phy­si­cal di­men­sion to ma­ke that dis­cour­se, that world that can imi­ta­te with much im­per­fec­tion the what has been li­ved. The fact that her hand, her hair, her warm clot­hes, all that ma­de her in the phy­si­cal being wit­hin reach of the sen­ses, has sud­denly be­co­me a hand­ful of me­lan­cho­lic signs. What we call a word is a way to“re­build”, ne­ver to re­sus­ci­ta­te the wo­man that had not a sin­gle atom mis­sing, the one who laug­hed with her th­roat and ex­ten­ded her hand to my hand. I can­not. I am una­ble to des­cri­be anot­her epi­so­de that does not hap­pen in li­fe. Kee­ping it with me is a party, a ce­le­bra­tion in which we only sleep by for­ce. She is the hap­piest spi­rit I ha­ve re­la­ted with. De­pres­sion, and even sad­ness, be­long to ot­hers. Tho­se are things that ta­ke away from ot­hers and then are th­rown on­to the streets and in­to the ver­ses.

JC : So­me won­der how two peo­ple so ge­ne­ra­tio­nally apart had the ne­ces­sary energy to de­fend a com­mon li­fe pro­ject over the years. The­re we­re fifty years apart, which re­pre­sents half a cen­tury. I guess this has gi­ven way to mi­sun­ders­tan­dings and myths of all kinds.

RH: So­me­ti­mes peo­ple don't trust or to­le­ra­te what they can't ex­plain, alt­hough in ap­pea­ran­ce any ano­maly that in­ter­fe­res with the ru­les of co­exis­ten­ce does not af­fect them. I tell you this be­cau­se li­ving out­si­de of so­me so­cial norms not al­ways has a ne­ga­ti­ve im­pact on the group. Ho­we­ver, it is inevi­ta­ble that any va­ria­tion in the dy­na­mics of co­exis­ten­ce will be per­cei­ved as a th­reat. If this th­reat is sus­tai­ned suc­cess­fully over ti­me, the myth is well foun­ded. The myth has mul­ti­ple fa­ces; it eit­her de­mo­ni­zes or idea­li­zes the cir­cums­tan­ce. In our ca­se, this is ac­com­plis­hed with im­pec­ca­ble fi­de­lity. It has al­ways see­med stran­ge to me that so­me peo­ple do not un­ders­tand poe­tic at­ti­tu­des. Why not ex­plain that in the sa­me way that any hu­man being would ar­gue it? We fell in lo­ve. Poetry is gi­ven in what many con­si­der an im­pos­si­ble lo­ve; that of a young 19-year-old man could fall for a wo­man who was 68. This ty­pe of com­pli­city is usually inex­pli­ca­ble for tho­se who live wit­hin ge­ne­ra­tio­nally-con­ser­ved patterns.

J C : Raidel, you are cu­rrently pre­si­ding over a Cul­tu­ral Pro­ject ca­lled Al Sur de Mi Gar­gan­ta (South of My Th­roat). We ha­ve seen month af­ter month, th­rough the me­dia, the work that un­folds in­si­de Tirry 81. Tell me just a little bit about how this idea oc­cu­rred to you, this idea you took along with Carilda. Tell me about this spa­ce and how it has be­co­me, in nearly eight de­ca­des of work, an in­dis­pen­sa­ble re­fe­ren­ce for cul­tu­ral pro­mo­tion in Cu­ba.

RH: I ha­ve the sa­tis­fac­tion of ha­ving con­tri­bu­ted very humbly to the dis­se­mi­na­tion of its work, and the­re­fo­re to its de­fen­se. The

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