Statue of Nicolas Guillen Raises Controversy Over Its Lack of Resemblance to the Poet

“They achieved the miracle of turning Nicolás Guillén into another person,” an Internet user said ironically about the newly inaugurated sculpture. (Art for Excellencies)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 12 July 2019 — With a smile from ear to ear, a sparkling look, a mane grown long and a mischievous phrase sticking to his lips, is how so many remember the poet Nicolás Guillén. As of this Wednesday, however, those who pass from through the Alameda de Paula, in Old Havana, come across a statue accompanied by a sign with his name but which bears very little resemblance to the writer from Camagüey.

On July 10, on the 117th anniversary of Guillén’s birthday, the bronze piece made by the sculptor Enrique Angulo was officially inaugurated. But the image of a man who looks at the bay in a suit and tie, hardly evokes the one who was also president of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and to whom the Cuban government awarded the epithet of “national poet,” which is still attached to him in books, manuals and institutional events.

The controversy was not long in coming and a few hours after the sculpture was presented to the public, several of those who knew the poet personally have criticized the few similarities between the figure and the author of the poem Tengo.

“They have just inaugurated a statue of Nicolás Guillén in Havana, which looks nothing, absolutely nothing, like Nicolás.I have seen many pictures of the poet in different stages of his life and apart from that, I personally saw him since 1971, when he was 41 years old, and in successive years, so I have a clear image in my memory,” composer and musicologist Rodolfo De La Fuente Escalona commented on his Facebook account.

“They achieved the miracle of turning Guillen into another person,” said another Internet user who also evoked some of the poet’s most repeated verses, especially those in which he said “I have, let’s see, / I have the pleasure of going about my country / owner of all there is in it.” Now, “besides that nothing that he said came to pass, with this statue they have taken from him his true face,” he said.

“It’s better that people do not know who this sculpture man is because if they realize that he’s the one who said ’I have what I now have / a place to work / and earn what I have to eat’, they’ll come here to make a protest,” ventured a neighbor of the Alameda, who didn’t fail to notice that “Guillen has his back to the city and is looking out to the North.”


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