The study La Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical, Testimonio de su tiempo (Pro-Arte musical society, witness to its time) by historian Irina Pacheco Valera,...
The study La Sociedad Pro-Arte Musical, Testimonio de su tiempo (Pro-Arte musical society, witness to its time) by historian Irina Pacheco Valera, the Pablo de la Torriente Brau Cultural Center’s Memory Award winner, is a just recognition of a legendary Cuban cultural institution.
Alicia Alonso, one of the greatest dancers in history, and Carmen Montejo, an outstanding Cuban actress who has lived in Mexico since the 1940s, highlighted the work of this institution and the personalities involved in its life, among them Cervantes Prize winner Alejo Carpentier.
According to these artists, Cuban theater, dance, music and literature received great moral, material and personal support from this institution, born in Havana and directed by women.
Pro-Arte “founded ballet, guitar and declamation schools, from which key figures for the future development of these disciplines in the nation’s artistic and pedagogic environment emerged. They also published a celebrated magazine and built their own theater with exceptional acoustic conditions. It welcomed renowned national and international artists and brought about that we were considered a top level artistic location in America,” Pacheco says in her book.
The book takes advantage of broad research and interviews, references to names of outstanding intellectuals, many of them witnesses to the institution’s work, and other scholars\' revelations, who evoke and evaluate from the present those days of good deeds, love and devotion to knowledge and spirituality.
The literary piece includes an illuminating foreword by Graziella Pogolotti. She refers to women\'s constant and patient work for going to open up spaces amidst the spider\'s web warped against them by culture and power.
In the case of Cuba, two Havana institutions, Pro-Arte Musical and the Lyceum and Lawn Tennis Club, both in the El Vedado neighborhood, began a kind of emancipatory movement, which not only involved the feminine sector, but also intellectuals and other social strata, through art and culture.
Such was the summoning power of these institutions that classics like Erich Kleiber, Herbert Von Karajan, Kirsten Flagstad, Pablo Casals, Yehudy Menuhin, Horowitz, Alicia Alonso and Arthur Rubinstein, among others, paraded through the Auditorium Theater (Pro-Arte’s architectural offspring).
The Lyceum Tennis Club organized recitations by José Lezama Lima and Rafael Alberti, while it rejected, as obscene, a Carlos Enríquez\'s exhibition that the author of Rapto de las Mulatas (Rape of mulatto women), showed along the sidewalk in front of today’s Plaza Cultural House.
Irina Pacheco\'s work is a critical approach, it praises Pro-Arte’s constructivist and improving efforts, analyzes the bourgeois origins of its founders, which imprinted a conservative stamp on it in regards to other alternative institutions like Grupo de Renovación Musical (Musical Renovation Group) and Sociedad Cultural Nuestro Tiempo (Our Times Cultural Society).
Nevertheless, the author takes a stand for the unquestionable beneficial results of Pro-Arte by asking the following questions: What significance did the Sociedad Musical Pro-Arte have in the Cuban cultural identity process? What role did Pro-Arte women play in the fabric of Havana during the Republic? How can the confluence of the institution and the Cuban artistic avant-garde be explained?
Irina Pacheco Valera turns to testimony in her work, for its virtues in providing “a personal look at these deeds and about themselves,” (Sonnia Moro) and because “it requires a workshop, work and not only turning out information. And this creation of information can be done in different ways: by the set-up, atmospheric elements, by dialogue,” (Marta Rojas).
The work includes a careful epochal analysis aimed at not “contaminating” experiences. It uses photographic material, family documents of the protagonists and other materials of scholars and essayists. It also quotes publications and reflects bibliographical and documentary verifications.
There are chapters in which unique moments of lyrical theater, the testimony of associates and spectators, the work in the provinces, the feverish activity, and constant effort of the sponsors and actors are mentioned.
Regarding the pedagogical aspect encouraged by Pro-Arte, there are outstanding names in Cuban arts such as Alberto Alonso, Alicia Alonso, Fernando Alonso (ballet), the Nicola dynasty (guitar), also Margarita Lecuona, Ofelia Valverde, Margot Flores and María de León, teacher Hortensia Gelabert, the brothers Ricardo and Eugenio Florit, Rafael Suárez Solís and Francisco Ichaso, among others.
The Pro-Arte debates with other artistic avant-gardes bring to light names such as Harold Gramatges, Dolores Torres, María Teresa Linares and Argeliers León.
The writer is proud of this work. She admits she enjoyed it a lot, rescuing an institution silenced by schematic and dogmatic gazes from oblivion, in the meantime contributing to the protection and preservation of the national culture heritage.
The work also honors the founders, participants and continuators of this living identifying tradition.
“To honor, honors!” said José Martí, and Irina Pacheco Valera, as a member of a new generation, has made a contribution to this legacy that also supposes a mandate of cubanidad (Cuban identity), absolute and always insufficient.
Translated by Roberto Espí Valero
Revised by CF Ray