Mar de mil cantos

Carolina Larrosa

Mar de mil cantos (Sea of Thousand Songs), in progress
Wood, cloth, plastic, graphite, string, approx. 8” x 6” x 4”
Intermedia, Concordia University

Mar de mil cantos (Sea of a Thousand Songs) is an ecocritical examination of water and the power it holds within the Cuban cultural context. The deconstructed raft and its accompanying poem explore how members of the Cuban diaspora view the Caribbean water that surrounds them, and how it may have both physical and metaphysical agency. The poem’s title (Mar de mil cantos), written on the raft’s sail, references a verse by Cuban revolutionary poet, José Martí. The poem, a dreamlike interpretation of the island, explores memories and dreams of the Cuban waters and countryside. Based on her father’s experience as a balsero — a Cuban immigrant who sails to Miami on a makeshift raft — Larrosa’s practice seeks to examine the Cuban-American diaspora and its relationship with water. She uses magical imagery to explore the depth of the tidalectic symbolism embedded in the island’s history. Part of this understanding is the knowledge that Cuba, as a nation, has been shaped by the waters that surround it. The balsero journey exemplifies the complex significance of the sea as a source of isolation and connection, a place of departure and arrival.

Working with a delicate respect for stories that are not her own, Larrosa draws from the story of her father's crossing as she remembers it from his retellings to her as a child. Her accompanying poem offers a view of the water from this perspective, using powerful imagery to give gravity and heft to the water. Larrosa considers the cultural implications of this specific aspect of the Cuban diaspora journey — as they depart towards a new home, the travellers leave behind a land greatly impacted by the same waters which carry them away. Water is an essential part of the Cuban voice, both to those who remain on its land and to those who carry Cuba within their personal or collective memories. The water between Cuba and Miami offers more than just a passive physical presence — it is active, symbolizing the distance between a home left behind and a home to be discovered, the placelessness of the fluctuating waters entre aquí y allá (between here and there).

Dentro del mar de mil cantos
ví la isla de espuma;
Entre águas calmas, campos
dormidos, lumbre de luna
guiaba las procesiones—
no— ascensiones— de luces,
de hombres, nadando hacia
el encuentro, las nupcias
entre agua, sal, y viento
dentro del mar de mil cantos

Within the sea of thousand songs
I saw the island of foam;
Between calm waters, sleeping
countrysides, the moonlight
guided the processions—
no— ascensions— of lights,
of men, swimming towards
the meeting, the nuptials
between water, salt, and gale
within the sea of thousand songs