Annual José E. Muñoz Memorial Lecture: Wanton Escapes, a Primer on Flight
a lecture by José Quiroga
April 21, Friday
5 to 6:30 pm
José Quiroga, Spanish & Portuguese, Emory University
On June 28, 1856, residents of Havana were called upon to witness yet another neighbor who had decided to get himself onto a balloon and fly. Balloon flights had become a fad and a frenzy in Havana at that time: Virginia Marotte, from Orleans, was the first woman aeronaut, and it is said that Domingo Blinó ecstatically threw pigeons, flowers, poems–and apparently two goats– overboard before he crashed near the port of Mariel. The same fearless, indomitable spirit possessed Matías Perez to fly twice in his balloon, called “La villa de Paris.” The first flight was a success but it was the second, on June 28, the one that turned Matías Pérez into something more than just simply a man, or a hero, but into the very pixie dust from which legends are made. For his feat was so spectacular, so magnificent, so noteworthy and courageous, that it is no wonder that habaneros are still waiting for Matias Perez to come back in order to congratulate him themselves.
For days, weeks, and years, countless rescue missions on the island as well as on surrounding keys failed to come up with our hero or with any kind of debris from “La villa de París.” To this day, perhaps the sole consolation we can derive from this heroic gesture is just the pleasure of the tale. And then, of course, a popular refrain. When someone has left the party, or hides from public view, when something is lost and cannot be found we say that he, she, or it, “fled like Matias Perez.” Which means: it, or he, or she, is no more. Or does it?
It is from this flight that we begin. Not only to think about Cuba, about the Caribbean, about Latinxs, about Latin Americans, but also about our present moment, about our here and now, about how to vanish and at the same time defy presence and loss, how to dissolve without a clear motive, or how to respond to provocation when the only useful element in our toolbox is that of existence-as-flight. Guest appearances by Walt Whitman, Federico Garcia Lorca, William Burroughs, Salvador Novo, Ana Mendieta, Alejo Carpentier, Reinaldo Arenas, Lydia Cabrera and many others.
King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center Auditorium
53 Washington Square South
Reception to follow.
This event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and will be first-come, first-serve. The lecture will be live streamed and archived on the Performance Studies Facebook page.