The space is small and familiar, it’s open air and surrounded by trees. The ambiance is generally informal and between drinks of wine people enjoy small bites. The meetings take place on Fridays, sometimes weekly and sometimes every other week, but for five consecutive years, writer Joaquin Galvez and his social group La Otra Esquina de las Palabras or The Other Corner of Words have met at Coral Gables’ Cafe Demetrio.
The meetings have been a commitment for writers and lovers of the arts who attend to listen to poetry readings, book readings and the provocative songs of a variety of troubadours.
Galvez is a Cuban poet, essayist and journalist who has been coordinating the social circle as well as writing a blog by the same name since 2009.
“The first meeting was on Dec. 4. We invited poets and editors who lived in Miami,” said Galvez, remembering the moment with satisfaction. “From the start the objective of the group was to contribute to developing Miami’s culture.”
He says that the circle “was necessary to widen the city’s alternative spaces. We had support from a range of writers and Cuban artists,” Galvez said. “As well as support from others of different nationalities and that’s why I thought it was important to reflect that multicultural and generational diversity.”
He explains that it was with that mind set that the social circle began meeting five years ago.
Members are constant and loyal and there’s a certain solidarity between writers who mutually support each other.
Galvez believes that “in general, we’ve been well received despite the fact that our group hasn’t been at the margin of controversy and debate regarding the political undertones that is brought forth by the culture of the Cuban exile community.”
Regardless, Galvez thinks it has been proven that there’s an existing public interested in culture and that people can coexist with those they disagree within the frame of democracy in which we live.
Some of the people invited to the group are writers who live in Cuba and perhaps that’s the controversy that Galvez referred to. He explains why he invited them: “I’ve invited writers that live in the island and who still form part of the official Cuban culture. I did so with the purpose of provoking debate, something I think is necessary for Cuba’s future. I did so in good faith, with the objective of having this cultural space serve as an example of what it’s like living in a democratic territory.”
Galvez emphasizes that having invited those writers to his space doesn’t mean that he forms part of the so-called cultural exchange. “If the invitation was genuine, the result was not, then unfortunately that means there’s no real will on behalf of the Cuban regime of the Castros to have a true cultural exchange.”
His social group also has strong local roots: “The fundamental appeal of La Otra Esquina de las Palabras as an independent space has been to provide a larger representation for Miami’s writers and artists,” he said.
“As an organizer, I’ve arranged it so that inclusion and quality could go hand in hand and tried to break away with old patterns that have caused exclusion in other spaces because of favoritisms,” he said.
“In other words, this cultural space has tried to integrate Miami’s culture beyond the tendencies of groups, generations, cliques, and politics.”
The habitual attendants of the group are a clear reflection of those objectives: “The public that attends is very heterogeneous given the diversity of the authors that have been invited to our events. We’ve had people of different Hispanic-American nationalities who live in Miami, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans, Argentinians, Spaniards, Colombians, Mexicans ... even some North Americans,” he says and later adds “In regards to the Cuban public, authors and artists stemming from different stages of the Cuban exile, from the beginning in the ’60s to the last wave in the ’90s and 2000.”
He notes that the diversity of the authors invited to present before the group has attracted a large local public and that people who attend do so because they’re interested in culture without focusing on the nationality of the writer being featured.
His goal is to continue the same work pace he’s upheld until now.
“I want to continue opening doors to every creator that merits it,” Galvez said. “And of course, the quality, always to keep improving it.”