Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

Marcelino Arozarena's Journey to His Roots

Academic journal article Afro - Hispanic Review

Marcelino Arozarena's Journey to His Roots

Article excerpt

Marcelino supo buscar en sus raices negras, para encontrar el definitivo perfil cubano.

Nancy Morejon

Sus antepasados fueron lucumies por linea patema, y por linea materna eran lucumies tambian . -Georgina Arozarena Himely

sone viajar a mis raices: las de mis tintes y mi comunicacion

-Betica y Nigeria

-Marcelino Arozarena

Marcelino Arozarena was one of the first, one of that triumvirate of militant Cuban poets, including Regino Pedroso and Nicolas Guillen, who added their voices to an international chorus of Black writers that emerged in the 1930s. Their voices now silent, Pedroso is remembered primarily for "Hermano negro," his song of racial protest and working-class solidarity, while Guillen is recognized as a poet, once deeply rooted in the Afro-Cuban folk tradition, who became a prolific and innovative defender of the Revolution. In the prologue to his first collection of verse, Arozarena acknowledges his indebtedness to Guillen, Pedroso, and others, but he was never an imitator, for his treatment of themes and his use of poetic devices were distinctive and original. The poet and essayist, who had a long and distinguished professional career in radio, teaching, and journalism, wrote poetry for sixty years, beginning with the publication of "Carida" in 1933, when he was only twenty-one years old, and ending with the composition of "Caldosa a Dulce Maria" and "A Eliseo Diego" in 1993. He is remembered, primarily, as the author of Cancion negra sin color (1966), a collection of sixteen poems, the majority of which were written during the 1930s, when they appeared in progressive newspapers and journals such as Adelante, Hoy, and La Palabra.1 A second volume of poems, published in 1983 with the same title, contains fifty-seven poems, including the original sixteen.2

The poems in both of these volumes examine the primary themes of Arozarena's work: the AfricanHispanic cultural tradition that is a distinct and distinguishing feature of the Cuban national identity, and a humanism, rooted in revolutionary ideology, that resists systems of oppression-colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism. Arozarena began writing in the 1930s when the Afro-Antillean indigenist movement had created a literary sensation in Europe and the Americas. Stimulated by this innovative and experimental mode of writing, Arozarena created, during his early period, poems which are profoundly African in their form, content, and sensibility. Although the tema negra assumed less importance in his later work as he attempted to broaden his thematic range, Africanisms (allusions, archetypes, and figures of speech) continued to surface in his poetry. In fact, the poet wrote "Bembeseando," a very African-centered poem, in the 1980s. Like other African-ancestored poets of the Revolution, such as Nicolas Guillen and Nancy Morejon, Arozarena was not a racial separatist, for he believed that Cuba was formed from the synthesis of both African and Spanish cultures, through a process called transculturacion. This point of view is evident in poems written at different periods. In 1953, he published "Unidad racial," a short poem of two ten-line stanzas (d*cimas) in which he condones racial equality and condemns discrimination.

Si la vida todo enlaza sin preferencia de piel, quien discrimina, hacia 61 -si es masa-el oprobio envia: (106)

In "Cubandalucia" ( 1957), one of his best executed and most brilliant poems, form and poetic technique underscore the theme of transculturation. The cultural consanguinity of Cuba and Spain is presented through parallel elements (torero / rumbero, Lorca / Guillen, and Sierra Nevada / Sierra Maestra) and an antiphonal structure-a dialogic movement between "yo" and "tu." This contrapuntal rhythm is interrupted, dramatically, by breaks and riffs, as individuals and a chorus improvise on the theme: spectators shout "*Ole! / iAlsa!", a drummer exclaims "-Zi sert", and a thicklipped Cuban speaks up, "-Baya ost* a be. …

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