Cuba

The Artistic Curators of Ediciones Vigía in Matanzas, Cuba

Ediciones Vigía is an inspiring group of passionate artists, editors, and writers located in Matanzas, Cuba. Their craft consists of intricate and unique book-making skills in order to compose eclectic interpretations of historical and modern happenings within Cuba. These bookmakers work diligently throughout the week. Once they select a piece, their duties are divided into stations devoted to cutting, gluing and assembling. The art manufactured by Vigía is significant to Cuban culture because not only do their creations reveal the impressive creativity of Cuban artists, but also the true hardships of Cuba’s past and present. These innovative individuals form masterpieces that illustrate the multiplicity of Cuban art, perspectives and narratives. Ediciones Vigía encompasses exceedingly detailed operations because every work of art is hand-made. In addition to the productions of famous Cuban poets and authors, Vigía’s designs embrace the talent of the new generation of Cuban artists. Although Ediciones Vigía often recreates already known works, they amplify the creativity of the material with their own artistic intuitions.

 

Group photo of the members of Ediciones Vigia Credit: Lorena Sabater

 

Left photo, outside of the Ediciones Vigía building in Matanzas, Cuba. Photo credit by Ediciones Vigía. Facebook Page. Right photo, inside of the Ediciones Vigía building in Matanzas, Cuba. Photo taken by Lydia Millhon.

 

The extensive details and manual labor behind Vigía’s craftsmanship are coupled with the immense amounts of professionalism, patience and precision that this type of work requires. While the assortment of Vigía’s projects demonstrates the diversity within the team, the group collaborates harmoniously. Similarly, Vigía’s divergent compilations counter the act of objectifying Cuban identity, history and culture. Each fabrication includes a symbol that contains historic, economic, and political relevance: a kerosene lamp. Many people would rely on these lamps during the frequent blackouts across Cuba during the Special Period in the 90’s. With copious lives interrupted by extreme adversity, the lamp allowed people to live day by day. Thus, the lamp also symbolizes the restriction of necessary resources throughout the island. The kerosene lamp exhibits the strength of the Cuban people because it depicts overcoming the darkness and uncertainties that these individuals consistently faced. More specifically, this symbol exemplifies how Cuban artists and the realms of art have persevered when all odds were stacked against them. From surviving the chronic blackouts to adapting to the drastic absence of supplies, Ediciones Vigía strives to represent the multitude of layers and the exceptional complexity of Cuban identity. 

 

A beautiful display of the art inside of Ediciones Vigía that depicts the symbol of the kerosene lamp Credit: Tucker Sharpe

 

One of Ediciones Vigía’s bookshelves that showcases the diversity and creativity embedded within each of their creations Credit: Tucker Sharpe

 

Following this brief synopsis of Ediciones Vigía, I have an interview with one of the members of the group. Her name is Lorena Sabater and her energy, dedication and kindness are easily seen in everything that she does! 

 

Photo of Lorena Sabater, member of Ediciones Vigía Credit: Ediciones Vigía Facebook Page.

 

Latina Republic: How many years have you worked with Ediciones Vigía?

Lorena Sabater: I’ve been working with Vigía for 6 years and counting!

Latina Republic: What aspects of Ediciones Vigía make you stay and continue to work with this group?

Lorena Sabater: For me, Vigía is a magical place. It’s where I breathe the familiar air of art. To be in this place, you must be artistic. Everything that you imagine is possible here. This and many other things are why I stay with Vigía.

Latina Republic: What is the most rewarding part of your work?  

Lorena Sabater: Without a doubt, it is when we finish a book and the designer, author and craftsmen are all so proud of what we have achieved together. 

Latina Republic:  How do you decide on a theme, author or type of product to create? What types of characteristics do you look for in a project? Is this decision a group decision or are there specific people who typically choose the topic? 

Lorena Sabater: Within Ediciones Vigía, there is the editorial board who are generally the ones in charge of selecting the texts and authors that will be published in the year. This also includes the winner of the América Bobia contest that takes place once a year. They have to be creative and original texts that are fresh, interesting and innovative, as well as ones that take into account the new generation of Cuban poets.

Latina Republic: What is the América Bobia contest?

Lorena Sabater: The América Bobia contest is a contest that is created for all of the young and not so young writers, who want to present their work through Vigía in order to become well known. It occurs once a year with a cash prize as well as the winning work is published in Vigía.

 Latina Republic: Approximately, how long does it take to complete a work of art?

Lorena Sabater: A book can be both complex and simple. It is in those moments of its simplicity that its real complexity can be found. The process can be between 1 and 3 months depending on the design, its materials, etc. It is so difficult for us to get the supplies such as the acrylics, the glue and the papers for texts, which the printer can sometimes crinkle. The printer we have, and use is one of the few that exists in the country, so when it breaks, it is such chaos-  especially when we run into needing the parts that are required to fix the printer. Also, there are many more things that sometimes make us question how we can continue with the project.

Latina Republic: Which types of resources are the most common to use in your projects?

Lorena Sabater: More or less, I answered this in the last question but essentially any resource can be used and amplified. It is up to the imagination of the creator. 

Latina Republic: What type of artistic creation is your favorite to make? Are there certain themes or authors that interest you more than others? 

Lorena Sabater: I think the best part about the works that we make in Vigía is that we never lessen or diminish the value of each genre. Everything that Vigía creates and presents is unique and original, both in the texts and in their designs. Therefore, every book will surprise you.    

Latina Republic: If you had to choose one characteristic to describe Ediciones Vigía, what would it be?

Lorena Sabater: Familiarity

 

Group photo of students and Vigía members. Photo courtesy: Lydia Millhon.

 

Latina Republic: Where have you traveled to in order to present the works from Ediciones Vigía? 

Lorena Sabater: As of now, I have only traveled within Matanzas and Havana, but the editorial visits international fairs in Guadalajara, Spain, Dominican, Puerto Rico, etc. 

Latina Republic: How often does your group visit conferences or workshops with other artistic groups?

Lorena Sabater: These exchanges are already taking place at fairs where so many artists come and share their experiences with the editorial. Of course, we would also like to experience more workshops in order to feed our creativity and grow alongside the constant, new artistic trends. 

Latina Republic: What does a typical day working at Vigía look like?

Lorena Sabater: Well, we continue to plan what each person will do, what their jobs will be and then around 10:00A.M. we all have coffee. After the tiny coffee break, the chaos begins of starting to think about what materials to use and which ones we have already. However, this is what drives us to work with such force until the end of the day. That’s why once the afternoon arrives, we already see a sample of what the book will be like. 

Latina Republic: Even with the coronavirus, is Vigía still working and creating art?

Lorena Sabater: Yes, despite everything with the pandemic turning the world upside down, we continue to work from our homes.

 

The most current project for Vigía: Here in Berlin by Christina García and translations by Linda S. Howe Credit: Ediciones Vigía Facebook Page.

 

Latina Republic: How do you think the coronavirus will affect Ediciones Vigía right now and in the future?

Lorena Sabater: This is a rather difficult question because before the pandemic, we were always in constant crisis with trying to get materials. I think that now with the country’s current situation, it could become a little bit worse for us. However, I always think with optimism. We have already gotten through similarly difficult times or even worse situations such as the 90’s period, yet we always come out with a project! All we can do is wait and see how things develop in order to determine what decisions we should make.

Latina Republic: Is there something new that you learned about yourself from working with Vigía?

Lorena Sabater: I believe that as a person develops and grows up, so does their personality and they begin to transform. Even though I have always had an affinity for art, Vigía has shown me new layers of creativity and sensitivity. Ediciones Vigía is such a marvelous place where the workers show you every day the incredible capacity of human beings.

 

More examples of the stunning, intricate and captivating hand-made art of Ediciones Vigía Credit: Ediciones Vigía, Facebook Page.






Lydia Millhon | Wake Forest University
Lydia Millhon is in her final year at Wake Forest University pursuing a major in Spanish with concentrations in interpreting and translation/localization and two minors in Latin American Studies and Politics and International Affairs. Born in Columbus, OH, Lydia always found ways to get involved with community outreach programs. Lydia’s humanitarian experience ranges from tutoring Spanish speaking children to participating in local projects to raise awareness of the U.S. Immigration Crisis and creating a bilingual portfolio for incoming Spanish speaking individuals and families with a local non-profit organization, Columbus Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS). Throughout her Wake Forest career, Lydia has taken advantage of various study abroad opportunities including two summers in Cuba studying Cuban art and literature and a semester in Salamanca, Spain studying the language, politics, and literature. Lydia strives to combine her passions for cultural studies, especially with visual arts, into all of her projects and curriculum. Aside from her fascination and participation in modern dance, Lydia has experience in theatrical, instrumental, and poetic performances cross-culturally. As a part of the Latina Republic Correspondent position, Lydia hopes to further her studies in social issues such as immigration, human rights concerns, and state violence as well as other significant cultural topics including visual arts, environmental action, and local businesses. In pursuit of global human connection, Lydia hopes to unite Latin America with and open the eyes of those around the world.