The assiduity of the Guillén brothers

With an enviable persistence, the Guillén brothers have followed, not only the tradition of keeping the family Saint, in this case San Antonio, but above all, transforming that tradition into a sociocultural call beyond its initial motives.

Perhaps it is in this ingenious creative process that lies the originality of the cultural proposal of the Guillén brothers who, in addition, have shown retribution and gratitude towards their people and the country. Its capacity as cultural managers is not questioned, due to the fact that each June, Yamasá is the undeniable center of convocation in the family lands of the Guillén that, under the pretext of the novena to San Antonio, whose commitment comes from the beginning of the 20th century between his parents and later transferred to the eldest of the brothers, have managed to orchestrate a cultural festival that brings together a whole weekend to a diversity of cultural expressions from all over the territory, making the place a real fair and festival of folk culture crafts, presentation of groups carrying cultural promoters, researchers, artists, institutions working with the cultural theme of both state and civil society, as well as representatives of international organizations that coincide in interests, with the passion for the Dominican culture of the Guillén brothers.

But if that were not enough, the Guillén are at the moment a sample of the best of our crafts, especially that inspired by Taíno art. Their vocation for services has involved them with workshops and a craft school that operates in their lands of Yamasá where the festival takes place, which although it is accompanied by pilgrimages, prayers, masses, and other forms of religious devotion, the original motivation is overflows with an extensive, supportive and intense meeting of bearers from all over the country who appropriate the place to show their traditions: atabales, ga-gás, pri-prí, perico ripiao, tonadas of the Christ of Bayaguana, salves, palo de muerto , congos, balsié, guloyas, popular decimeros, traditional games, typical food and other manifestations of popular culture.

The cost today of such a call is a great commitment to the family tradition and the public that have already identified with it. The diversity of the organizers suggests an organizational effort to understand the authenticity of this meeting in order to distance oneself from others and acquire its own cultural identity.

The effort of the Guillén brothers in maintaining this call in the midst of so many limitations allows us to think about the complexity of this preparation that could involve a year-round planning so that things are fairly good because the groups that have been summoned have to cover the expenses, as well as part of the food that is sold. In any case institutional dependence must be avoided because it makes it lose autonomy and authenticity. However, this does not prevent collaboration from different institutions with part of the costs incurred in the festival. We know that a part of the tradition of popular culture is seen today, more than ever, threatened by the onslaught of the economic crisis and the new priorities of governments, institutions and international organizations, often far from the interests that motivate these encounters.

However, we highlight a great management capacity in the Guillén brothers, because they have managed to maintain the tradition over the difficulties, disturbed by the economic limitation, the indifference of many people, as well as by state institutions committed to this type of actions but that do not assume their role.

Despite all these pitfalls, the Guillén brothers continue unharmed like the great gladiators and you have to be in one of these calls to live the intensity and strength that emanates from them in each corner of the large family playground, in each participant group or between the organizers themselves.

It would seem as if it were a great family that joins its celebrations and that in its ancestral beginnings, the tradition was transmitted from parents to children and today it has become a commitment of the Guillén with their community, and their community with the country . The roots that the hermitage of San Antonio weaves, devotion of these brothers, radiates so much energy, that it infects us all with a particular way of celebration.

Article taken from the book Meditaciones de cultura: Laberintos de la dominicanidad. (2012, General Archive of the Nation, Volume CLII)

Carlos Andújar

Coordinator of Cultural Programs