On the way to the Cuba of broken dreams, according to Bibiana Candia

On the way to the Cuba of broken dreams, according to Bibiana Candia

Here is a trip to Cuba very different from what any agency can offer. A desirable journey to read, not to live. Never. Bibiana Candia (A Coruña, 1977) invented the true story of a hundred birds of prey that left hunger and poverty in Galicia in 1853 in search of the Cuban dream that enlightened so many Spaniards at the time. Far from fantasy, from the tales of Native Americans returning covered in fame and money to improve their lives and those of their loved ones in northern Spain, these children embark on a journey that at times only Moby Dick seems to miss.

But his special whale isn’t just waiting on the road, it’s at its destination.

Azucre, edited by Pepitas de Calabaza, won the Espartaco Prize for Best Historical Novel in Gijón’s Semana Negra in July. The voyage he narrates not only crosses the Atlantic at an unimaginable distance, risky for inexperienced stomachs in the holds of a ship turning at the wind’s free will. It is that with them we feel the scourge of the storm, the salt sticks to our faces like them, their vomit makes us dirty, the rats frighten us and the hole in our stomachs that started in Galicia becomes on board always bigger ship in that the cook takes better care of the sailors, of the chaplain and even of the Holy Spirit, but not of them.

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The boys arrive in Havana, a city of colors that leaves them speechless, and even the whistlers welcome them, but there will be no more joy for those who left mothers and brothers looking for letters and a crack, through which they can escape their misfortune . Once they arrive in Cuba and abolish slavery, they will inherit the cots, barracks, and even the fleas that used to bite black people. They are imprisoned, punished and deceived by a company with their first and last name: Urbano Feijóo de Sotomayor.

Candia became aware of the matter “by accident”, she says via email, when a friend told her about the story of these Galician slaves, she put them on the documentary track and did some research. “I was very skeptical at first, I thought it was very exaggerated that maybe it was just a few unlucky people and certainly not an entire state-protected company. But the more I delved into the subject and the more historical documents, press and scholarly articles I discovered, the more I realized that it was all real and a real scandal.

Thus he became obsessed with a story that was not hidden but had not transcended common memory. “We have a lot of data, articles and transcripts from the courts, but we didn’t know the story because we didn’t have the opportunity to listen to its protagonists. A human story was necessary to reconstruct this story only from the point of view of its protagonists, even if it was late. And out of that need, Azucre was born.”

Based on this research in the documents, in the letters that some could send to Spain asking for help and which, as he assures, are in the archives of the House of Representatives and Galician emigration, Candia achieves a powerful, poetic Narration It’s packed with truth pills from the sea or the harsh emigration: “We come from a place that doesn’t love us, that whips us and denies us everything. And God? If he exists, he hasn’t listened to us for a long time,” reflects Orestes, one of the protagonists.

“Azucre” is a fictional work that tells a true story. The characters are completely fictional, but everything that is told is true, it is documented.”

How much is real and how much is invented in them? “Azucre is a work of fiction that tells a true story. The characters are completely fictional, but everything that is told is true, it is documented,” Candia replies.

He worked on it, he says, as if he were writing 400 pages of stage directions. “First, I cleared up all the unknowns surrounding the case using scholarly articles, court records and newspaper archive material related to the Galician slaves and Feijóo Sotomayor’s company. Then I opened the loop to more everyday aspects that would help tell the story and make it believable. In this phase, the literature of the time, the Havana travel chronicles and the newspaper library from Galicia and Cuba helped me a lot.”

And is it harder to examine or imagine? “Imagine that, of course. Research is a matter of patience and perseverance, searching for a lead and trying not to lose it. It’s not easy, but it’s easy. Imagining, however, involves playing with resources that are often beyond our control, such as memory, empathy, concentration, or the ability to visualize. It is very difficult to tell an imaginary story without falling into simple clichés and manage to communicate it truthfully.”

The company ceased in 1855 and only then could the boys stay or return. Who knows if they continued to believe what the story says: “Understanding everything is not always an advantage.” In our case, as travelers through books, it is.

Who: Bibiana Candia, writer, born in 1977 in A Coruña. Espartaco Award 2022 of the Black Week of Gijón.

What: sugar (pumpkin seeds).

Where: From a hungry Galicia without resources to a Cuba that offers the dream of work but also the hiding places where slavery was hidden and continues.

When: The story takes place in 1853. A year of poverty, devastated crops in Galicia and epidemics.

As: Featuring a haunting narrative composed of sentiments and characters so torn by misfortune that they deeply appeal to compassion.

Cover of 'Azucre' by Bibiana Candia.

Author: Bibiana Candia.

Editorial staff: Pumpkin Nuggets, 2022.

Format: Softcover (144 pages, 16.90 euros).

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