Juan Abreu

In Barcelona with Juan Abreu

MIAMI, United States. – Very close to Barcelona, ​​at the distance of a short and efficient train journey, lives the Cuban writer and painter Juan Abreu, together with his family, in a cozy and hospitable house.

Years ago, since we met in Miami, I have the privilege of his friendship. During my recent visit to the Iberian city, we spent hours talking about our common intellectual interests while we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch, prepared by Juan himself ―who has developed a taste for gastronomy―, served with wines and exquisite liquors.

Juan belongs to a lineage of relentless authors, the Abreu brothers, legendarily close to Reinaldo Arenasand harassed, mercilessly, by the Castro dictatorship.

They are owners of a furious literature that aspires to perfection and universality, marked by the traumatic totalitarian experience, from which they finally managed to free themselves.

Said dichotomy has produced an essential bibliography in contemporary literature, which renowned publishing houses, however, tend to obliterate, because they do not coincide with their troubled illusions of revolutionary utopias far from their comfortable lives.

While a good part of the Cuban intelligentsia knelt before their victimizers and the “solidarity” foreign colleagues asked them to resist the ignominy with submission, Arenas and the Abreu were the reminder that all was not lost in that gloom where “nobody listened ”.

Free, Juan has never given in to political correctness for the sake of pleasing ranks of his peers who seek consensus and he makes it known from his newspaper-tribune emanationswhere he gives an account of personal happiness and human stupidity in all its numerous variants.

There is no way to be indifferent to Juan Abreu’s provocations. They are short, withering texts, full of truth and sarcasm, without losing the ability to interact with the reader in a fun way.

Recently, the Editorial Hypermedia has published the second volume of emanationswhich includes the texts that appeared between 2012 and 2015.

In the prologue of the book, which belongs to another Cuban iconoclast residing in Barcelona, ​​Jorge Ferrer, one can read: “And literature and life, understood in the manner of Juan Abreu, are anything but stealing the body, sheathing the pen, shut up. In fact, they are the exact opposite.”

During the year 2015 I learned about Juan’s efforts to create a kind of very particular and rebellious artistic tribute, painting the faces of those shot by Castroism, since the initial days of 1959.

It is estimated that close to 6,000 people died in those onerous circumstances and Juan managed to register some 200 of those anonymous faces from old photos that were sent to him mainly by relatives.

Faces of those shot by Castroism painted by Juan Abreu (Photo by the author)

My arrangements for the exhibition to appear in one of the galleries of the Miami-Dade Collegewhere I worked at the time, never achieved the success that was expected in our community, repository of so many tragedies caused by Castro’s violence.

During my visit to Juan and Marta’s house, I was moved to see in a space with high walls, many of those paintings with happy countenances and full of life, shining, as when they were happy people, determined to practice vanishing dignity.

In the distant community of Valldoreix, our benefactors, who offered their lives to stop the catastrophe that would come, look at us and even smile.

My friend Juan Abreu has numerous other highly enjoyable books, such as that part of his memoirs that he has titled Under the table or the novels Goddess Y Gym of a frank eroticism, without holding back.

Juan reminds me of those rockers or cowboys classics that blend with the horizon at the farewell. It is an intellectual telluric force that we cannot underestimate. Fortunately, its fixity is already guaranteed.

In Barcelona with Juan Abreu
Faces of those shot by Castroism painted by Juan Abreu (Photo by the author)

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