“I am amazed to see these sculptures. can i touch her Where are you from, Quintanilla?” Admiring filmmaker Alfredo Guevara said to young sculptor Juan Narciso Quintanilla Álvarez on the day he visited the Lonja del Comercio in Old Havana to enjoy the Bautense creator’s exhibition.
This meeting with the founder of ICAIC would allow Quintanilla to establish a friendship with this well-known figure of Cuban culture and open the doors for him to later inaugurate the Strawberry and Chocolate Cultural Center in Vedado with an exhibition of 25 miniature marble pieces.
At that time the 20th edition of the Festival of New Latin American Cinema (1999) was taking place and Alfredo Guevara kindly invited a group of Latin American and Cuban filmmakers to the seat of the Council of State to share with the leader of the revolution. One of the guests was Juan Quintanilla.
“Fidel received everyone – says the Baptist sculptor – and shook hands one after the other. I was almost the last to greet him. Maybe that’s why he spent more time with me. Roberto Chile filmed the meeting.
“Alfredo introduced me to Fidel, he told him who I was and the commander started asking me questions, in a very kind, slow voice, totally different from the emotional and powerful voice he used in speeches .”
Quintanilla recalls Fidel’s emotional question about the best way to develop sculpture in Cuba and how he detailed how many resources would need to be used to encourage its development.
In addition to studying for five years, a sculptor must be able to specialize in some aspects of this artistic expression destined to enliven the life of cities, squares, parks, libraries … Foundry, or to work wood, marble, working on ceramics…
“For these reasons, sculpture must be supported by the state, since it is very difficult and very expensive; It takes a lot of resources. If you don’t have rooms and good tools, you can’t put your work into practice,” revealed the author (along with Karoll William Pérez Zambrano) of the world’s tallest Che Guevara sculpture erected in Oleiros, Spain.
Fidel listened carefully before saying, ‘How interesting what you are telling me! Can I call you later to discuss the environmental sculpture further?” Quintanilla’s response was immediate: “Whenever you wish, Commander.”
Quintanilla told him that he could locate him through Silvino Álvarez, the leader’s bodyguard and barber: “Silvino is a great friend of mine,” Quintanilla confessed, a second before Fidel replied, “And a great friend of mine too!” “
Already at the reception, while sipping a glass of wine, the sculptor saw Fidel enter and walk straight towards him with his index finger raised and put a hand on his shoulder:
“Quintanilla, I have not forgotten that I must continue talking to you on this subject that I liked very much!”
Fidel left shortly after, and the ‘secret’ of what he wanted to talk about with Quintanilla lingered among those present. But the sculptor cheerfully took care of explaining to those who were interested what the “enigmatic” invitation consisted of.
A TALENT TO RESPECT
The work of this talent from Bautense, Professor of Merit at the ISA, has been recognized worldwide. Today it is spread across more than 20 countries including Mexico, United States, Dominican Republic, Spain, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Italy, Denmark and China.
He is known for such relevant creations as the sculpture for Dr. Carlos Juan Finlay, the monument to José Martí in Montecristi, the bust dedicated to Che Guevara in the Museum of Famous Men in Texas and the bust dedicated to the memory of Princess Diana of Wales in the Lonja del Comercio (with a replica in the Foundation of the same name in England ), just to quote a brief summary of its broad and accurate gait.
In Artemisa, where his works are unfortunately rare, we remember him in particular for the bronze sculpture of Lieutenant General Antonio Maceo that stands impetuously in front of the door of the FAR Inter-Arms School in Ceiba del Agua, a piece inaugurated in 1983 , the already announced the caliber that the artist would achieve.
Today, while recovering from an unfortunate accident at his home in Playa Baracoa, the teacher Juan Narciso Quintanilla Álvarez wanted to remember this unforgettable meeting that could have been the prelude to other meetings, but certainly the workload of the revolutionary leader prevented so the wise mind of Quintanilla.
“When I was studying sculpture in Prague, I had the opportunity to shake his hand at the airport after returning from a visit to an African country. We were almost 40 Cubans and the exchange did not go beyond a quick handshake.
“After that meeting at the Palace of the Revolution, after that respect he showed me, I would have liked to talk to him again about the art of sculpture. I’m sure there would have been more unforgettable encounters,” concludes the artist, who never forgets his calm and familiar tone, nor the curious eyes of those who didn’t understand Fidel’s “enigmatic” invitation.