Cuban Contingent Memories of Jose Artiles
The Cuban Scout Contingent left Havana on board two Super Constellations and landed in Miami about an hour latter. After we cleared Customs we boarded three Greyhound buses. A couple of drivers later and several days later we arrived in Canada. We sang all through the US and drove at least one of the drivers nuts!
My recollection of the opening ceremonies are that I had never seen so many different Scout uniforms! I also remember Lady Baden-Powell being there.
One of the things that I found interesting were our tents. They were very big and looked like teepees. Also, I don't know if it was because of daylight savings time, which we were not familiar with, but the Sun didn't seem to set till 9 PM. This was all very different for us. I remember the day we left an almost melted stick of butter on a table, and when we got up in the morning, it had regained its consistency. That made us all think that if that happened in Sept., we certainly didn't want to see a Canadian winter! The thought still makes me shiver...
An amusing culinary story, at least from my point of view, was when we were all invited to a banquet in Ottawa City (don't remember why). It was a room large enough to hold all of us. I think we were about 150, or so. The food was delicious but, the hit of the occasion for most of us was a dish that was served in a bowl and had a crust like a pie. We had never seen this and had no idea how to eat it. So we all paid close attention to our hosts, who, first used a knife to cut the crust. Then a fork to eat it. And, finally, a spoon to eat the contents. As I said, it was a hit!
One of the activities we enjoyed most, was meeting Scouts from all over the world and admiring, and in some cases, trading badges, etc. including uniforms. I wanted a German uniform. I thought the lederhosen were, to use a current term, cool. But I was never successful. A friend of mine was able to trade for a Scottish uniform, kilts and all. He is now living in Miami. I doubt whether he still has the uniform.
I also remember being taken by train to the Canadian National Fair in Toronto. Among the various, gadgets, events, amusement park rides and exhibitions there was a life size statue of Lord Baden-Powell made out of butter. There was a contest to guess how much it weighed. I have no idea how heavy it was or who won. That night, on the way back, Scouts from all over the world gathered at the very large train station and we all began singing various Scout songs and dancing in what must have been one of the longest conga lines I have ever seen. We finished the night by singing Auld Lang Sine in our respective languages. It was very moving.
Finally, one of the highlights of our trip was when our contingent presented a plaque to the city of Niagara Falls commemorating 19th Century Cuban poet Jose Maria Heredia who wrote a very inspiring ode to Niagara Falls back in the 1800s. In the 1980s I visited the Falls with my son and I saw the plaque. However, since then, it seems that it apparently was damaged by the weather and has been replaced.
Even though there have been many changes in my life, including my somewhat sudden change of address, I now live in the USA, I can hardly believe 50 years have passed! It's a shame that, because of previous commitments, I can not attend the reunion this time. However, I'll make sure my calendar is clear for the 100th anniversary.
Jose Artiles, Texas
Jose Maria Heredia
The original plaque placed by the Cuban Scouts was replaced in 1989. The plaque is located at Table Rock near the brink of the Falls.
Jose Maria Heredia (1803-1839), Cuban poet and patriot who sang to Niagara and, as Jose Marti said, awakened "an ever-burning passion for freedom" in the hearts of all Cubans.
Thou flowest, on in quiet,
Till thy waves grow broken midst the rocks,
thy current then shoots onward like the irresistible course of destiny.
Ah, terribly the rage — the hoarse and rapid whirlpools there!
My brain grows wild, my senses wander, as I gaze upon the hurrying waters,
and my sight, vainly would follow, as toward the verge sweeps the wide torrent.
Waves innumerable meet there and madden —
waves innumerable urge on and overtake the waves before,
and disappear in thunder and in foam.
They reach, they leap the barrier — the abyss swallows insatiable the sinking waves.
A thousand rainbows arch then, and woods are deafened with the roar.
What seeks my restless eye?
Why are not here, about the jaws of this abyss,
the palms — ah, the delicious palms —
that on the plains of my own native Cuba spring
and spread their thickly foliaged summits to the sun,
and in the breathings of the ocean air
wave soft beneath the heaven's unspotted blue?
Hear, dread Niagara, my latest voice!
Yet a few years, and the cold earth
shall close over the bones of him who sings thee now.
Thus feelingly, would that this, my humble verse,
might be, like thee, immortal!
I, meanwhile, cheerfully passing to the appointed rest,
might raise my radiant forehead in the clouds to listen to the echoes of my fame.
To the Niagara from the Cuban People, October 1989
"Ode to Niagara"
William Cullen Bryant thus translated the lines:
Thou flowest on in quiet, till thy waves
Grow broken midst the rocks; thy current then
Shoots onward like the irresistible course
Of Destiny. Ah, terribly they rage, —
The hoarse and rapid whirlpools there! My brain
Grows wild, my senses wander, as I gaze
Upon the hurrying waters; and my sight
Vainly would follow, as toward the verge
Sweeps the wide torrent. Waves innumerable
Meet there and madden, — waves innumerable
Urge on and overtake the waves before,
And disappear in thunder and in foam.
They reach, they leap the barrier, — the abyss
Swallows insatiable the sinking waves.
A thousand rainbows arch them, and the woods
Are deafened with the roar. The violent shock
Shatters to vapor the descending sheets.
A cloudy whirlwind fills the gulf, and heaves
The mighty pyramid of circling mist