Pérez, Leymen. Designed by Johann E. Trujillo.
Subsuelos. Mantanzas, Cuba: Ediciones Vigía, 2017.
Established in 1985, Ediciones Vigía is the best known publisher inside and outside of Cuba. Alfredo Zaldivar and Rolando Estévez were the founders of the press that gets its name from its location near the Plaza de la Vigía (Watchtower Plaza) in Matanzas, a mid-sized coastal town about 100 km east of Havana.
Typically, one artist creates a maquette for a book and a group of artisans decide how to replicate the design 200 times. The run of 200 copies was established due to the mimeograph masters wearing out, a tradition that has continued despite the acquisition of modern printing technology. The publisher has retained its focus on the community of writers near Matanzas.
The use of inexpensive and found materials are typically the only materials available to the artisans. In Subsuelos the designer Johann E. Trujillo uses red thread liberally throughout the book incorporated into many of the hand-painted and collaged illustrations. The thread is used to represent blood, smoke, a nest, and an unlucky worm. Some illustrations are stained with coffee. The spine is covered with burlap and more thread is used to connect the arm and hand holding the Cuban flag, symbolizing blood.
The book is a collection of poems by Leymen Pérez (b. 1976), a Matanzan poet, editor, and cultural promoter. Subsuelos translates to “subsoil,” as in geology. In the introduction to the collection of poems, Pérez writes how he is of the earth, the earth that is above and below the surface. Once the body has left the earth, the body opens to the light and to faces surrounding it. Each poem has been photocopied and interspersed with drawings that are reminiscent of roots.
Leyman Pérez is the managing editor of Matanzas, a journal of literature and the arts. He holds degrees in socio-cultural studies and Cuban culture, and library science. He has published eleven books of poetry, and his work has received numerous prizes.
Downtown Brown Books. Catalog 15: Cuban Artist’s Books. A 320-page catalog of more than 300 handmade books from Ediciones Vigía, Cuadernos Papiro, and Ediciones El Fortín over the last 30 years.