Updating Rita’s Wax, La Caimana | In deep


She was the first woman to inhabit the grounds of the Bayamo Wax Museum and that seemed like a Declaration of Principles. It was about Rita, La Caimana, the legendary dancer from the streets of the capital of the province of Granma. Rita was never a mirage. She existed and became one with the daily life of the town she chose to live in, because according to some voices she was born in Manzanillo. They say, but she couldn’t be more Bayamese.

Currently in the Bayamo Wax Museum there are other women. There is the unforgettable Celina González, the Queen of Punto Cubano and there is another Rita, La Única, Montaner.

Those who work at the museum placed Rita Montaner right where she should be: next to her music partner and a thousand concerts, Bola de Nieve.

Let’s go by parts.

For the National Culture

It was information that traveled slowly and when it arrived on the outskirts of Caracas it was shocking: A Wax Museum in Cuba? A museum where Compay Segundo, Bola de Nieve, Carlos Puebla, Sindo Garay and Beny Moré, among others, are present? A Museum where rootedness and identity are popularized to become spectacular wax figures for permanence and vindication? A Wax Museum that is not in Havana but in the eastern city of Bayamo, a land that counts in the origins and development of Son?

A few days later we were in Bayamo, the historic city founded in 1513 (54 years before Caracas) with its doors burned by its heroic women, who gave rise to “La Bayamesa” and the place where the remains of the incredible Sindo Garay rest. The city continues to show the cars that Adalberto Álvarez sang to with Son 14.

Permanent restorations, welcoming spaces, inhabitants full of morals and enlightenment, and an impressive cleanliness ratified what a good local government can do.

We come to you from Santiago de Cuba passing through the visual delight of San Luís, Palma Soriano, Contramaestre, towns and cities where the worthy effort is the same. And it is that in those areas the human quality is not sacrificed or dosed.

After walking a long way along the beautiful Paseo (boulevard) of Bayamo, we saw it. There, flanked by other equally welcoming venues, including the city’s Aquarium, was the Wax Museum, the only one in Cuba and possibly the only one in the Caribbean. And from one we enter the enclosure that was inaugurated as a gallery in July 2004 and became a museum with all the law in December 2007.

music wax

With the friends and colleagues who accompanied the journey, we entered an absolutely surprising space. It seemed that we were going to witness a concert, with so many lights together and so much flavor waiting. In one corner Beny (we already know that Moré wrote his name with a single N), further on Carlos Puebla sitting and as if ready to play his guitar, a little further here Sindo Garay even with a cigarette, and Bola with his piano and everything, and the Guajiro Natural Polo Montañez was there, and Compay Segundo with his eternal smile… and suddenly we saw the woman with her skirt and hair in the air. “And this one, who is she?” And there was Rita, La Caimana, as a lady of glory. “Damn, so she existed. It’s not a story.”

On one side of the image, a letter from the Museum’s workers evidenced their affection and convictions:

“Bayamo has seen walking through its streets not only distinguished patriots and relevant figures of culture, science and sports; Characters with great popular roots have also paraded. They represent intangible heritage and are part of our folklore.

Cuban society has a universe of typical characters that are reflections of the abundant fusion of cultures present in the historical evolution and in the formative itinerary of the nationality. Such a mixture of knowledge and sensitivities are the bases of the cultural diversity that characterizes us.

Perhaps someone believes that they did not exist, that they are the product of the imaginative wealth of the people. They are part of our culture and, therefore, they will continue to be endearing, close, necessary to us.”

Rita was not a singer, nor was she a scientist, but the people of Bayamo and Cubans in general recognize in her the grace and humor associated with a terrible stage in Cuba’s history. As she happens in our towns and cities, Rita walked up and down the streets of the city dragging her poverty like that “Napoleon” that Ali Primera portrayed so profoundly. And Ali said: “Society is not washed: it is destroyed or built, but depending on who does it.”

Source: Internet

Rita Salazar Sánchez did not have her face washed. She rebuilt her life, transforming her condition without taking away the gift that makes her immortal: dancing. And it is that Rita, La Caimana dressed her walks with spontaneous dancing every time she heard a son montuno, a guaracha, a rumba. And she danced so well that then the passers-by rewarded her with their applause and monetary collaboration. How would it be the matter that “Los Compadres”, Lorenzo and Reinaldo Hierrezuelo (since Compay Segundo had already left) dedicated a song to her that put Rita’s name and art in circulation all over the world: “How Rita dances, the Cayman ”. They surely saw her in Bayamo and did not escape the charm of the dancer. And look, there are versions and versions of this guaracha. “Bayamo has two things/ that Havana does not have/ a very beautiful story, and a Rita, La Caimana”.

The Cuban State took charge of the life of Rita and her children. She had a home, love and rest, and when she passed away, a few years ago, the news reached the national front page. Rita died in Bayamo claimed as Heritage of a city that respects itself.

And then it turns out that the makers of the wax images, the members of the Barrios family from the town of Guisa, in the same province of Granma (whose capital is Bayamo), echoed themselves and all the residents. Thus, Rita, La Caimana, together with Sindo, Beny, Compay, Puebla, Bola, Polo Montañéz and other figures, and together with a beautiful wax forest that contains the flora and fauna of the area, await the visitor, not only to vindicate the life and work of the popular cultists but the surroundings and the story told and sung of the island in the shape of an alligator, that Rita was La Caimana.

Source: Internet

The impact produced by the Bayamo Wax Museum for the vindication of Cultural Diversity is similar to that produced when one is in front of the sculptures made by José Villa Soberón, who lowered the statues from the pedestals and placed them on the streets (Beny Moré), in the squares (John Lennon) and even in everyday venues (Hemingway in his favorite bar, El Floridita). It is that the Cubans in that sense shed the invading Eurocentrism and placed the vitality of their full, diverse and one culture at the center of their recognition. The reparation is also history.


Rita, La Caimana, despite the years that have passed since the opening of what was first a Gallery, continues to be one of the figures that most captivates both Cubans and foreign visitors, especially Caribbean and Latin Americans. She surprises the public who visualized her as a vedette according to what they imagined when listening to Los Compadres, and they come across the spontaneity of that figure that came from the hands of Rafael and Leander Barrios Milan, the artisans of Guisa, the sons of Master Rafael Madrigal neighborhoods.

In the case of La Caimana, prejudice has not been lacking because “how can a woman who spent her time on the street be in a position like Benny and Martí’s.” They forget that the paths of culture lead to permanence when they are authentic and a reflection of the people who live and catapult them. In the collective imagination of Bayamo, Rita was always something more than a woman who danced in the streets.

Currently, the Bayamo Wax Museum has grown to the level of exhibition halls. It has rooms for Natural Heritage, Victims of Terrorism, Personalities and Cultural Diversity. It has also been enriched by the incorporation of high exponents of Cuban history and national culture. There you can now see, in addition to Benny, Compay Segundo, Rita La Caimana, Carlos Puebla, Sindo Garay and Bola de Nieve, Gabriel García Márquez and Ernest Hemingway, Rita Montaner, Celina González, Juan Formell, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, José Martí, Teófilo Stevenson, Nicolás Guillén, Faustino Oramas and Luis Carbonell. On the waiting list were Alicia Alonso and other luminaries of art and culture.

As a Gallery it was born on July 14, 2004 and as a Museum, with all of the law, it emerged on December 29, 2007. It is unique in Cuba and the Caribbean. In Latin America, only Mexico and Ecuador have Wax Museums.

The polychrome wax molded by the Barrios brothers is certainly a wax that vindicates and calls, that impresses and leaves a mark, that of the history of characters that in their own way sowed fertilely in the Cuban and Latin American conscience.

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