For twenty-five years, writing love letters has made this writer and poet known both in Cuba and abroad
Two knocks were enough for the door of the house to open. A young man was standing outside. It was evident that he was coming from far. A broad smile gave the first greeting, and some satisfaction scented the welcome. After travelling for more than 300 kilometers, he had reached half of his destination. He quickly told the reason for his presence. Immediately, a piece of paper was filled with feelings.
“The story of this man who was coming from the province of Las Tunas and was eager to write a letter to his girlfriend in Havana, where he would not arrive without it, is one of the many that I never forget. I couldn’t believe he had interrupted his journey to come to my house. For me his story and many others is the confirmation that there are many people in need of poetry”, said Liudmila Quincoses twenty-five years away from that February 14th when she dared to hang a sign on the door of her house that read: Love letters are written at any time. From eight in the morning to three in the afternoon. It was an idea born from the long nights spent with friends and surrounded by dreams, wine, the Silvio Rodríguez music, and whatever else that could adorn the bohemian atmosphere.
“It was one of the hardest stages of the so-called special period in Cuba. Since most of the time there was no electricity, we talked a lot. We exchanged mimeographed books of limited editions. It was also the time when I spent hours in the local archive office reviewing old records. I liked doing it a lot and one day I said to myself that since writing was what I did best, I would better open a desk. After a few days I received the first requests from people who wanted to ease sadness, to reconquer an old love or, simply, to say I love you or I forgive you.
“At the beginning it was a hilarious idea because nobody, including myself, believed that it would be so much welcomed and accepted throughout the country. But this job has confirmed to me that letters are very important for people because of their need to know about the beauty, about their dreams … There are many who left part of their emotional memory with me in the letters written before leaving the country, or those who survived the war in Angola and kept a letter written for the loved one. And there are also those who have allowed me to mediate in their stories, which I like because it gives me the authority to change them”, she said.
But Liudmila Quincoses has not only dedicated herself to writing. Her house, located on Maceo Street, has turned into a place for artistic creation and a venue for the celebration of events. “We created the Alternative Cultural Center Escribanía Dollz, from where we work for free offering art, consolation and love for the community”, she added.
The living room of the house becomes small for the piano concerts, the poetry readings, the projection of movies, exhibitions by Ernesto Rancaño, Zaida del Rio and local artists as well as performances of students of the Elementary School of Arts Ernesto Lecuona of Sancti Spíritus.
Five years after opening her door to letter lovers and feeling the interest of different generations on the issue, Liudmila had another great idea.
“The Love Letter Contest allows us to express all of our feelings. We classify the letters by theme: love for the couple, for the homeland, for the family, for children, for pets … In 2000, at the initiative of Carlos Sotolongo, the then Provincial Director of Culture and Art in Sancti Spíritus, the contest became was granted an international status”.
With the debt of publishing an anthology with the best letters received in the contest, Liudmila does not miss the opportunity to offer some joy and peace as a present.
“On the occasion of the anniversary of the Escribania Dollz and the Valentine’s Day, I placed several love letter in different areas of the city for people to find them and the poetic whisper that consists in changing something that someone told me in my ear” she said, while evoking the stories of those who have asked for her services. Among all of them, she treasures the request of a young man who wanted a postcard to accompany the photo on his sister’s grave.
“Those moments have been the best rewards during these years. Of course, the letters received for participation in the contest also count. We have already received nearly 4 000 this year. The winners will be announced next March 30th, and there will be a special award for the best letter written in octosyllabic verses”, Liudmila added.
Although sometimes the work of Liudmila Quincoses as a writer seems to be endless, she continues to care very much for her Alternative Cultural Center Escribanía Dollz.
“Among other things, I want to convene plastic arts workshops to restore the mural in front of my house with new paintings. I also want to continue receiving guests who are referents for the students of the local art school, and to inaugurate a cycle of conferences in order to create a writers’ school”, she concluded.