Who’s that at the entrance of Sancti Spiritus boulevard?


Serapio was a very modest man, who walked up and down the streets almost unnoticed for a very long time. (Photo: Vicente Brito)

The boulevard of Sancti Spiritus is one of the attractions of this central Cuban city, one of the first seven villages founded by Spanish colonizers in the island.

It was built over a segment of Independencia Street. It starts next to Serafin Sanchez Park, and goes down for more or less two blocks. It’s precisely the area that marks its beginning what I want to talk about.

The area is sort of oases surrounded by trees and benches where you can seat for a rest. There are also cafes, bars, and restaurants nearby, but there is a statue which, for sure, is the most attractive feature. It is a real-size stone sculpture made by Sancti Spiritus sculptor Felix Madrigal, to immortalize late local musician Gerardo Echemendía, best known as Serapio.

Serapio was a very modest man, who walked up and down the streets almost unnoticed for a very long time. He had to work as a shoeblack and newspaper seller since early youth. He couldn’t attend school, and could hardly read and write. He confessed more than once to have lived a very hard life.

Nevertheless, Serapio became a popular musician. He used to write music for the traditional festivities that are held every year in Sancti Spiritus. His famous conga song Si tu pasas por mi casa (If you step by my house) is the best example. But this was not the only kind of music he wrote.

His conga is very well known even in the United States. At the beginning he was not granted the authorship of the song. But thanks to late Cuban singer Pío Leyva, Serapio could register the song under his name.

He described himself as a very respectful person. He said he felt loved, especially by children, who always greeted him in the street, and who liked to play around his statue. That pleased him very much.

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