Tato Quiñones died on January 14, 2020. Let’s hope they don’t make great apologies to him. He was an unpleasant old man like the old loners in many stories: sitting in an armchair with his cotton gown and his cigarette, graying, angry with youth, complaining about everything in a low voice. Unpleasant Tato, picúo. He barked more than he talked. He sentenced with a severe tone as if he had in his hands all the truths: “The academy is not good for much. You’re either a journalist of race or you’re not,” he once said.
Two days before he died, his mother told the nurse who cared for him not to touch him anymore. Surely he was happy, antipathy (along with brilliance) was his most preeminent trait. The honorable mention to the nurse’s mother was a patch to cover up the displeasure that afflicted him during those last two days. Tato, the ñato who wrote the legends of the ñangas, the man who threw himself on top of Belkis Ayón and her Sikán delusions, died watching his family fajarse for four kilos.
Of all the children, only one remained unclaimed. There was no need for that son, for that son is an inheritance and a will in itself. He called him: Asere Nuncué Itiá Ecobio Enyene Abacuá, but in small letters, he wrote on the cover: “a piece of the history of our people without a history”. Tato’s son is a 2015 book that won the Reader’s Choice Award for the secret brotherhood of Abacuá.
Asere… is a contribution to the redemption of a brotherhood stigmatized as barbaric and slum-dwelling. Tato wrote the book to explain that ñañiguismo is a bit of both and beyond. Juan Manuel, an old ñáñigo, told him that the jurors at Muñanga Efó, the powerhouse of Chano Pozo, would shoot at anyone for taking over a territory. “An affront here is paid with death”. Death for cleaning the honor is not a fatal destiny for an abacuá but a sort of personal realization, his only way to live in peace in the other world.
The most important thing in an abacuá is his code of ethics. Juan Manuel was raised by an African grandfather who was reluctant to have the criollos, like his grandson, practice ñañiguismo. There were precepts that impure blood would not be able to assume and certainly, it was so. Juan Manuel told Tato that an abacuá must be a good son, good brother, good father, good neighbor, a man of integrity who will breastfeed only when necessary. But in the end his grandfather was right: the Creoles degenerated the brotherhood. They reduced it to a business and a facade of expired masculinities.
The irony of the testicles
Tato did not say it explicitly, but it is the conclusion. Nymphobia is a macho brotherhood born of a woman, but to which they cannot belong, because they are beings full of defects. Fernando Valdés Diviñó, member of the Muñanga Efó power, made Tato the mystical story of the birth of ñañiguismo.
Sikán, daughter of the great warrior Iyamba, found a sacred fish in a river while washing her genitals. Sikán was menstruating and the fish rushed to her by the smell of blood. She put it in a jar and swore to her father that she would not confess the find to anyone. But she couldn’t stand it and told Mokongo, her boyfriend, a prince of the rival tribe. In the end Mokongo demanded to be made a party to the possession and all the men involved in the matter settled ancestral disputes, but Sikan was cut down.
Stupid Sikán, gossiping, menstruating lover, murdered by order of her father and her boyfriend. Today, sworn men cannot perform oral sex on a woman, they cannot touch her before or after the ceremonies. All because of a woman who was ultimately the first person to see with her own eyes the secret of the foundation.
But the weird thing is that every time a woman gets close to that world of forgetful males, she ends up getting splashed in a fatal way. It is said that Belkis Ayon committed suicide because she ended up crazy from so much desire to know a secret that was denied to her because she had ovaries; Ignacio Piñeiro was expelled from his power for allowing Maria Teresa Vera to sing ñanga in his songs; nobody believes what Lydia Cabrera’s books say because it is impossible to think that a woman could know all that she wrote, so now she is a phony.
The Parallel Story of the Firing Squad
A professor in the School of Communication told us that a renowned historian was almost shocked when he saw Innocence. The reason was his opposition (according to the professor is of all life) to the fact of the ñáñiga participation in the attempt to rescue the students. The historian is a scientist, his duty is to investigate the fact and not to deny it as a whim. But well Tato did the work for him. He didn’t give him a proof, he gave him four and the fragment of a speech of Che saying that the discovery of five corpses of black people dead by bayonet and shot that day were in the minutes. The book also contains testimonies of the time, later investigations in the Navy’s Diary and an oral tradition ñáñiga that makes a legend endure on the way to being verifiable history.
Tato tried to talk about everything he could. He spoke about Andrés Petit, a black man who went to the Vatican to ask for recognition for the ñangas and who founded a religion; he spoke about the influence of the abacuá dialect in Cuban speech, about Felipe Spínola, general of the Liberating Army and prominent abakuá. He spoke a lot, more than a Sikan, this Sikan, could use for an apology.