Cuba: Dumpster Diving to Rescue CultureFebruary 1, 2013 | | Print |
Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — I want to talk about my first experience with buceando (“dumpster diving”), which is what we call the activity of searching through the garbage to salvage reusable items. The incident took place a few weeks ago just one block from the University of Havana.
While my partner Jimmy and I were carrying an old wrought iron gate, which a good friend gave us for the door of the little room where we live, we came across a dumpster full of old records and magazines.
Without hesitating, I dropped the gate and began rummaging through the records. Being the music lover I am, I couldn’t resist the temptation, even though I don’t have a record player at home.
I wasn’t by myself in that task. An older man was also busy rifling through the trash. He was only looking for the magazines though, of which there were also plenty. Those ancient copies of Bohemia Magazine — which for decades was ranked among the top journals on the island (and even on the continent — were now just lying there, dying.
The interest of my fellow diver wasn’t intellectual. He intended to sell the magazines as “recyclable material” to pick up a few extra pesos. I watched the end of those editions with sadness, but I focused on the vinyl discs.
There were complete collections of the most important American jazz musicians of the past century. They were RCA Victor records piled one on top of the other, stripped of their original covers but conserved in plastic wrapping.
Along with those were Russian editions of the most unexpected pieces of classical concert music, performed by virtuosos from every nation.
Me, a frustrated musician and inveterate music lover, I walked away relishing the recordings of Chopin, Schubert, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Ravel, Stravinsky, Mahler, Bach, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and many others, while Jimmy confined himself to asking me where I thought I was going to listen to them.
I even I found an edition of “Musica Electroacustica (Time),” directed by Juan Blanco, in which four young Cuban musicians began their bold audio experiments back in 1986.
Soviet, American, German, Spanish and Cuban labels were all represented there.
Other discs had hymns, patriotic songs by Juan Almeida Bosque, and even the recording of a speech by Ernesto “Che” Guevara, which appeared wasn’t going to be rescued by anybody.
Two children came later and also loaded themselves up with a significant number of magazines to sell to “booksellers.”
An older couple (a Cuban woman and a Spanish guy) also took a plunge. They kept yelling that this seemed like a crime and that it was incredible that, in a country with so much culture, there would be someone who would throw away such valuable objects. They picked out four or five albums and walked away without coming out of their astonishment.
As for myself, after picking out a large number of records I was forced to make a second selection and eliminate some since I couldn’t carry all of them. So, I packed my backpack, slung it on my back, grabbed the heavy gate we’d been carrying and I walked away with Jimmy.
That next day, bright and early in the morning, I returned confident that the huge volume of items couldn’t have been taken away – but it was too late. That preceding night, a garbage truck had come by and picked up everything. The only things left were a few broken records lying in the street and the cover of a Bohemia being run over by the passing cars.
Together with my good friend Mario Castillo, we’ve managed to come up with a place to listen to those old records. We also now have a turntable, which was given to us by another friend. Now we’re only in need of the speakers and to keep on “diving” for more forgotten LPs.