Follow along for the Busboys and Poets Travel Tribe’s Cultural Exchange trip to Cuba (July 6-13, 2022)

By Andy Shallal (@andyshallal CEO/Founder, Busboys and Poets)

Nicolas Guillen’s office overlooks the lush gardens of the Union of Writers and Artists. It is frozen in time. The rotary telephone. The Royal typewriter. Even the original chair and desk. No one uses the office now. It is on display for the public. A snapshot of history. A reminder that culture matters.

Today the room is jam packed with visitors. Members of the Union. Witnesses to the unveiling of a plaque that commemorates Langston Hughes’ visit to Cuba in 1927. And then again in 1930 and 1931.

Pedro de la Hoz (the Union VP) is holding my hands. Pushing through the crowd. HIs smile widens as we enter the room. I have a surprise for you. He says. Pointing to a cloth covered plaque on the wall.

I stood beneath it. Awaiting instructions for the unveiling. Smiling at the photographers. Imagining that fateful day when Guillen and Hughes met. Two different men. Of mixed race. Two different cultures. With one common dream. A world where race didn’t matter. Where Black or white. Whatever you may be. Can share the bounties of the earth. And where everyone is free.

placa conmemorativa UNEAC 1

The Minister of Culture stood next to me. To his right was Luis Rivas the Union president. Pedro stood by my side. And then with the count of three. With cell phones held high. And cameras at the ready. With one swoop. Four hands reach up and pull down the cloth. Exposing the plaque. Which read…

Langston Hughes 
American Poet 
Born February 1, 1902 
Nicolas Guillen 
Cuban Poet
Born July 10, 1902

Lots of hoots and hollers follow. Heartfelt applause fills the room. And for a moment we are not Cuban or American. Not black or white. Just human. Scrunched together on this hot humid summer day. Manifesting a reality that only poets can help us dream.

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