Hilda 1: Ma Florentina’s Dress (2010)

Ma Florentina's Dress
Sumi Ink, metal leaf, and watercolor on paper, 17" X 22"

Hilda Zulueta Victoria, December 18, 2005, Perico, Cuba

This manuscript contains fragments of an interview with Hilda Zulueta.  She tells us she knows a little bit about Arará, but she has forgotten a lot due to age.  Most of the text has been sanded off to signify the loss of memory and the eventual loss of traditions over time.  The pink dress belonged to Ma Florentina, who, according to legend, was a Dahomeyan princess taken as a slave to work at Central España, the sugar refinery near Perico.  She was treated as a princess by her fellow Africans throughout her life.  Her dress still exists and can be seen in the municipal museum in Perico.  The sacred drums are shown because both Ma Florentina and Hilda Zulueta were "Madrinas de los tambores".  (Godmothers of the drums).  The drums are made of single tree trunks and are still played during ceremonies in Perico.

Bueno sé un poquito, no se mucho porque se me han ido olvidando las cosas, es la edad, ¿me entiende? Pero me recuerdo de muchas cosas porque mis mayores todos pertenecían al Arará. Mi abuelo que se llamaba Justo Zulueta, de la casa de las Mercedes, entonces los africanos los trajeron. A él lo compró un tal Julián Zulueta que era del central España. Mi abuelo tenía muchos hijos son distintas mujeres, no era mi mamá sola. El celebraba el 24 de septiembre que nosotros seguimos la tradición de celebrar ese día, el día de las Mercedes, que para nosotros es muy grande ese día. La casa de Victoria Zulueta que era africana que la crió Ma Florentina, de esa casa me acuerdo mucho, mucho e inclusive yo hoy por hoy soy la madrina del tambor ese, del tambor Arará. Ellos como soy la mayor me pusieron a mí de madrina del tambor, para todos ellos cuentan conmigo. Hay cosas que se le van porque los muchachos jóvenes son así, porque ellos me dijeron que ayer esperaban una visita y yo tuve que salir, no se si vino o no. Entonces allí es donde radica ese tambor Arará. El del medio es la caja, el de este lado el Cachimbo y ese lado el grande, la Mula. La campana, la gente le dice el 'agogo', que nosotros no le decimos así.

Hilda: Well I know a little bit.  There is a lot that I don't know because I have been forgetting things.  It's age, you know what I mean? But I do remember a lot of things because my elders all belonged to Arará. My grandfather's name was Justo Zulueta from the house of Mercedes.  The Africans brought them.  He was bought by one Julián Zulueta who was from the sugar mill "España".  My grandfather had many children with different women, not just my mother. He celebrated September 24, and we have continued the tradition of celebrating that day.  For us, that is a very important day. The house of Victoria Zulueta, the African woman that raised Ma Florentina, I remember a lot about that house, and in fact, even to this day I am the godmother of those drums, the Arará drums.  Since I am the elder they entrusted me with the title "Godmother of the Drums", and they all rely on me for that. There are things that slip away because that's how young people are…they told me that yesterday they were waiting for a visitor, and I had to leave, I don't know if he came or not.  So that is where those Arará drums live.  The middle drum is called "la Caja", the one on this side is called "El Cachimbo", and that side, the big one, "la Mula".  The people call the bell"agogo, but we don't call it that.