July 21, 2017, Havana

Critics

A Date that Cannot Be Forgotten: September 11 has become a date of loss and pain in our collective imagination after the terrorist attacks against the twin towers, in New York, 2001. However, Today, I am writing about another departure, perhaps more intimate because it is ours, perhaps more questionable because it was intentional, leaving behind a mystery and the terrible sensation that accompanies bitter, inexplicable gestures. I am speaking of the Cuban artist Belkis Ayón Manso (1967-1999), who one day, ten years ago, took her own life.

For us, weary of the crowds and sleepless nights, arriving in Alamar—the promised land—confirmed, among other things, that there was a place teeming with life, without hate or betrayals; a castle where we could exercise the greatest spiritual tranquility. Then Belkis would come with her enormous eyes of an Egyptian goddess, open the door and let us in, and nobody dared to get rid of this state of mind while we sojourned comfortably under her warm smile and contagious optimism.

I see Belkis as a mysteriously invulnerable woman, ready to offer the best spaghetti in Havana and the finest beer, to satiate the appetite, thirst and fatigue of the most demanding traveler. I see her with her kind and enthusiastic face, giving each of us a flow of affection and vitality.

Her being a woman does not strike me as something strange. The fact is that once again it is a woman. No matter that she calls herself Belkis (and not Sikán or Sikanekue). It does not change anything at all; neither does the different setting, nor time span, nor the details. The story unfolds again, repeatedly.