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René and Minneapolis

I was in Minneapolis, absorbed among René Valdés' papers, when it began to snow. The flakes fell slowly, as if not wanting to interrupt the silence of my reading room. They were a subtle distraction, which accentuated my feeling of being in another time. I thought of the first time I saw a squirrel, which was also the first time I rode a plane and left Cuba. But I remember with clarity the animal's movement, the agility with which he could climb the tree is, and hide before the lesser threat. I know that may seem naive because it's something I had seen in dozens of cartoon characters from my earliest childhood, but that was my reaction. What matters is how that file staff was more about me than I had expected.

In one of René's photos from Rene's first summer in Minneapolis, I found the same elusive squirrel that got caught up in my memory of the fall in Vermont, when I still didn't feel like an immigrant. For a moment, I wanted to cry. Maybe thought in the tear that my Peruvian friend says, seems to set ourselves to all those who left the island—the consciousness of identity that you hurt and do not know to define.

Forty years ago, someone with a story very similar to mine, I had the same reaction. He never said, of course, but I perceived in this photo that captured his life. It was just a flash in his gaze on camera. Yet, it may be noted that uncertainty between dream and reality, which only seems to be transgressed by individual animals' gracefulness. It is the innocence of a present where there are still no deaths or bills to pay. The calm, bucolic, before the chaos.

The awareness of that momentary happiness affected me. Your photos of the first love appeared by surprise inside one of the drawers. There was this Marielito, like a Greek god, photographed by that other who discovers him with desire. And then they coincide together, both undressing with the look and collaboration of a camera that has no prejudice. A chiaroscuro where their hair seems to intertwine, strokes of black and gold coincide in that timeless moment. It is still the summer of 1980, René has just left Fort McCoy, and no one can imagine that in the same box which is to the footprint of a romance can also be found the news of death. That certainty of the ephemeral affected me.


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