By Pedro Quiroga Jiménez Photos: José Meriño and Jorge Pérez
When we got to the town of Puerta de Golpe in Pinar del Rio Province and entered the Patio de Pelegrin (Pelegrin's Courtyard) we had the immediate sensation of being in some part of heaven.
Puerta de Golpe is a small town near the city of Pinar del Rio in the western area of Cuba, 13 5 km west of Havana. One of its most distinguished inhabitants, Mayito, short for Mario Pelegrín Pozo, is the creator of a place that captivates all passersby.
Six years ago his courtyard turned into a singular community project with many exotic fruit trees: soursop, orange, coconut, plum, custard apple trees and many others. Flowers find their space here too with orchids and night jasmines providing a pleasant smell throughout the patio. There is even a mini-zoo with sparrowhawks, turtles, a crocodile, two Santa Maria serpents (endemic Cuban snake) and sweet water fish.
Beyond all the natural mixture, cum national model of urban agriculture, it is through the intense artistic performance there that the place has gained energy. During the academic year, students from area schools meet in the patio for special music. dance, literature, sports, recreation, public health and other lessons. In addition, each Wednesday third agers meet there for evenings of danzon (national Cuban dance) and on Saturday afternoons poets and singers promote the most authentic traditions of the Cuban countryside.
Once upon a time
The loquacious and restless Mayito told us that the idea to create this space arose on March 19, 2002, at the celebration for San José, the town's patron saint. Puerta de Golpe is divided by a railroad track and someone had the idea of a competition between each side.
The two sides: Puerta and Golpe presented the best from their creative potential including from wine makers, weavers and painters as well as pastry cooks and cockfight trainers. Each sought a space and showed their results.
As expected, the triumph was collective but something had to be done so as not to leave all those people waiting a whole year for similar encounters.
"So, the patio stopped being my sole space and to everyone's pride, it has become a cultural institution never before seen in this town."
The Patio grows
Pelegrín's patio is one of the most important projects of the Community Initiatives Reference and Exchange Center (ClERIC in Spanish), an institution attached to UNEAC the Cuban Writers and Artists Association, contributing with resources and training to improving the quality of life and strengthening the presence of art and culture as a foundation for sustainable development.
Mayito explained that different institutions approach the project with the same spirit, recently the Cuban company Cubahidraulica that plans a circular stream to make an even more pleasant environment. Also, the Cuban Culinary Association is preparing a training course for professional cooks who will later relocate in Pinar del Rio restaurants.
"On top of that, I am planning to build a couple more rustic cabins as lodging for those coming to work in the projects" says Pelegrin.
The opening of a modest art gallery and pottery workshop and the expansion of an organic garden that contributes food to the people working there, add to the growth of Pelegrin's patio, that has become a little taste of paradise in Puerta de Golpe.
Mario Pelegrín Pozo (Pinar del Río, May 24, 1956) primitivist painter, art instructor and cultural promoter. Graduated in 1978 from the Pinar del Rio Provincial Fine Arts School. His work has been seen in Mexico, Canada, Spain, Venezuela and St Vincent and the Grenadines. His many awards include the Craft Mastery Award from the Cuban Cultural Goods Fund and the Cuban Artists and Artisans Association's grand prize for his contribution to craft development.