Catalonian Influences in the Caribbean

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In the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, the opening of the cultural program “Catalonian Influences in the Caribbean” evoked the various periods in which Spain too was a country of emigrants. As the Havana Times reports, for reasons of an economic, political or other nature, the richly endowed American possessions of the Spanish crown— or the newly independent republics, depending on the historical moment— once represented the dream of a better life for many Spaniards. 

With the aim of recovering and strengthening the cultural and emotional bonds between Catalonia and Spanish-speaking Caribbean nations, the program “Catalonian Influences in the Caribbean” was organized by the Casa América Cataluña. This institution was started by emigrants who returned to Spain after the Spanish American War and the loss of their former colonies, Cuba and Puerto Rico. In Barcelona they first founded the institution (then named Club Americano) in 1911. CAC is now a non-profit organization that works to spread Latin American culture in Catalonia, as well as that of Catalonia throughout Latin America.  

The program “began its tour in the Dominican Republic with an exhibit of the work of Catalonian-born photographer Wifredo García Doménech.” Then it traveled to Puerto Rico, where renowned Spanish cellist, director, and composer Pablo Casals resided in 1956, and where the annual Casals Festival has been held ever since 1957. The exhibit “Pau Casals and Life in Exile” was dedicated to his memory. The last stop on this Caribbean journey was Cuba, where various events were held in Havana and Matanzas. One must remember that 19th century Cuba was the “golden age” of Catalan emigration.

In Matanzas, large religious celebrations were held dedicated to the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron of Catalonia. A film on a related tradition, Colla of Montserrat, was also presented. In Havana, the program included the inauguration of the exhibit “Barcelona-Havana: The Modernist Mirror.” Featuring the artistry of Catalonian photographer Pilar Aymerich, whose photographs brought to light the influence of Catalonian modernism on Cuban architecture as well as decorative art, as reflected in furniture design and funerary sculpture. Recognized Cuban architect Daniel Taboada referred to architectural elements and the influence of art nouveau style in his presentation “Catalonian Architecture in Cuba,” delivered at the Casa de las Américas. Events included the presentation of Joan María Ferrán’s book La saga de los catalanes en Cuba [The saga of Catalans in Cuba]. With a foreword by Catalonian architect Isabel Segura, the book contains information spanning from the arrival of that group in Cuba prior to 1780 to the revival of Catalan migration at the beginning of the 20th century. The commemorative events highlighted the Catalan presence as a major cultural and economic force in Cuba.

The closing of the event of “Catalonian Influences in the Caribbean” will be held in Catalonia in 2010. At that time, many of the peninsula’s traditions and customs that continue to flourish in the Caribbean will be presented.

For full article (in English), see http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=13801

For photo (of Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira in Havana) and related article (in Spanish), see http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2009/07/07/barcelona/1246953814.html

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