So far this year, there have been hardly any constructive actions within the cultural institution
It hurts to walk through the central Plácido street and see how almost all 100 doors are tightly closed. It hurts to the core to imagine, and even more so to affirm, that within it treasures are hidden and others are preserved lest they perish from dampness, mold, termites, and the decay of a thin shell. A dangerous silence continues at the Museum of Colonial Art in Sancti Spritus.
“In 2023, the investment was almost zero. We have not been able to take any constructive action,” Marta Cuéllar Santiesteban, who has witnessed what is happening inside this institution for 38 years, told the press. Our country’s economic woes are no secret to anyone, and so resources are going where they are needed most.”
The Stations of the Cross of this museum, the first of its kind in central Cuba, inaugurated on October 10, 1967, began with a plugging of the lid of the Spanish slab and, although the deplorable state of construction was not known until a few months later, ended after numerous measures, which repaired the worst of the damage, but it was still impossible to restore the 18th-century mansion to its glory.
“The most important thing is on deck. Although it no longer leaks because the Spanish slab’s downspout was destroyed, it had a very large amount of damage, and when it rains, the mud falls off its racks from the roof. That threatens what’s below. There is also evidence of a split bar that needs to be replaced. That’s supported. The carpentry is very poor. Touching up a wall is already minor, but we recognize that the paneling and carpentry work involve significant costs.”
But the love and sense of belonging of the group at the iconic house of spiritual heritage kept them from crossing their arms. Inside, the stifling silence could not fully prevail.
“We managed to paint spaces that we needed when we held actions during the technology fair La Guayabera 5.0, but we did not offer solutions to the problems that the museum really has.” “Our current reality has led us to reconsider our museological studies,” Marta added.
Although this is not the worst moment for the health of the Sancti Spritus Museum of Colonial Art since it required a general intervention in 2011 when its main lamp almost collapsed, runaway inflation and the tight budgets of the economic spaces prevented it from being finished. And as long as that doesn’t happen and much-needed maintenance compliance is ongoing, this story will never end.
“For example, in addition to not being able to fulfill our main purpose, we were also affected by the non-performance of the popular Noche de la Fuente, the room of the Spiritus branch of the José Mart Cultural Society. We learned from Juan Eduardo Bernal Echemenda himself—Juanelo—that our audience comes first. How does it work here when it’s impossible for them to walk through our rooms and admire our collections?
But if something has always shaped his group, it’s staying at the forefront of cultural work. Summer courses, exhibitions of works by artists, and the festival of the puppet have stolen some of his last hours.
“Everything we do is geared towards promotion, so people know the values that we have. We surveyed audiences to find out how they would like to see the museum when it opens, creating a montage script in keeping with contemporary terminology.
“Today the world is talking about the interactive museum, and we need to be able to do that even without touching the pieces. It would be a defeat not to be able to fulfill it.”
That’s why it’s easy for Marta Cuéllar and the other girls who follow her to find her in the three makeshift warehouses that keep the medium and small pieces of the large museum collection or among the extremely valuable furniture that’s in the corner.
“We have not stopped studying the collections and the topographical location of each piece. All technicians do background work, which is tantamount to taking a patient’s medical history. We carry out daily maintenance on the furniture. This allowed strict control over each object.
“Our maxim has always been to dream up, design, and implement campaigns that we can implement. Therefore, we insist on constant preparation in every area with our audience in mind to satisfy all their needs and interests.”
It is therefore urgent to look for all possible alternatives and stick to stopping and eliminating the traces of decay at the Museum of Colonial Art. To let time pass without the necessary intervention is to deal the coup de grace, and with it, a vast fragment of Sancti Spiritus and Cuban culture will also die. Then it won’t be worth talking about the costs, because the price for the soul of this nation will be incalculable.