14ymedio, Havana, January 12, 2020 — The researcher and essayist Serafín ’Tato’ Quiñones passed away in Havana this Sunday afternoon at age 77. Considered an expert in Afro-Cuban matters, the also-historian published several studies on racism in Cuban society and the Abakuá fraternity.
Born in Havana in 1942, Quiñones worked as a history professor and journalist, and was also the founder of and a contributor to numerous publications, carried out several socio-cultural investigations, and worked as a screenwriter for television programs.
Self-educated, controversial, having a deep knowledge of diverse religions and practices of African origin, Quiñones leaves a hole that is difficult to fill in the national culture.
Several of his stories, compiled under the title Al final del terraplén, el sol (At the end of the embankment, the sun) won the David Prize in 1970 and his volume A pie de obra (1990) showed his maturity as a narrator. One of his most recognized books is Ecorie Abakuá: Cuatro ensayos sobre los ñáñigos cubanos (1994), which consists of four essays of short length.
Throughout his life, Serafín ’Tato’ Quiñones dedicated himself to defending the values of Afro-Cuban culture and the participation of ñañigos and abakuá in the wars of independence. He made several documentaries that highlight the syncretic particulars of Cuban santeria, among them La magia del tambor in reference to the Batá drums.
In his book Afrodescendencias, he mixed genres like chronicle, interview, storytelling, legend, and essay to tackle the link between blackness and race, oral tradition and slavery, racism and society. A volume with a relaxed but critical tone which includes testimonies from Cubans whose activism or participation in secret societies, like abakuá, put them face to face with social and political prejudices.
After learning of his death on Sunday, on his Facebook wall, the professor and essayist Julio César Guanche published a message in homage to Quiñones. “The most learned babalawo of Cuba has died, the most complete historian of the Abakuá fraternity, a champion of the popular world.”
For his part, the professor Esteban Morales lamented the death of this “man of pure heart and commitment to the homeland… We lose him when we need him most for the decisive battle that we must fight against racism.”
One of his last public presentations happened in September when he gave the conference Addodis and Alakuata: A brief attempt to broach homosexuality seen from the Cuban popular religion of the Orishas.
His wake will be held at the funeral home at Calle 70 and 29th in the Havana municipality of Playa.
Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera
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