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Like every Christmas, a few days ago I received a congratulatory phone call from my friend of many years from Miami City Pedro Yanes, Cuban bookseller from Sagua la Grande. Yanes was a partner of Germán Sánchez Ruipérez and the two built a mythical bookstore in Manhattan, Las Américas, which, according to legend, contained more than a million books in its warehouses. In addition, they published under that name -Las Américas- books and books of all kinds, they flooded the American market and their universities with books published in Spanish and they became the first sellers of books in Spanish in all the United States.

So, Pedro Yanes was a thought leaderHe was an old bookseller, who knew everyone and everyone knew him, and in the Las Americas dependencies, in Manhattan’s Union Square, professors, writers, poets lost in New York and from all the countries of Latin America. There with Pedro YanesThey had their hot seat and their conversation, their literary and political talk, so that Las Américas became a meeting point and popular academy of Spanish-language literature in New York.

In the spring of 1982 my novel was presented there in Las Américas The burned ships, which Carlos Barral had published in the Bibliotheca del Fénice, “la Fénice” para los amigos. The novel was presented by Guillermo Cabrera Infante, full of humorous humor, as always, and Heberto Padilla, the poet of the “case” that bears his name. And there were a while Francisco Ayala and Juan Benet, among other writers and teachers. It was an affectionate act, with many Latin people around, an unforgettable act for me that filled theto Las Américas bookstore and he left us forever a fond memory of that moment. I am sure that this act contributed a lot to the publisher Avon Books he became interested in the novel and published it in New York in English two years later. None of this would have been achieved without Pedro Yanes, that enthusiastic and fun Cuban whose delusional initiatives became brilliant realities in the library of a million books.

Yanes had a special friend, the Chino Esquivel, a Cuban who had been the driver of student Fidel Castro in the days of Fulgencio Batista when he was taking his first political steps and was considered a trigger-happy boy. Many years after the triumph of the Revolution, many of the waters returned to their course, Yanes and Esquivel would remember the first days of Havana with Fidel Castro, the same days that the two of them left Cuba with what they were wearing, warned by some friends of Fifo’s terrible fury.

Esquivel returned to Cuba after more than thirty years with the permission of Fidel Castro, who called him to La Coronela to hold a conversation full of memories. Castro and Esquivel talked about the old days for hours and, at the end, the dictator asked Chino how much pension he had left in the United States. The Chinese replied that about three thousand dollars a month. Then, Castro, exultant, told him that with that money in Havana he would lead the life of a millionaire. And invited him to stay. El Chino, surprised, told Castro that he was going to think about it for a few days. When he left La Coronela, he called Pedro Yanes in Miami and told him what was happening. “Get out of there immediatelyThat’s going to make you pay for everything you’ve said in Miami about him over the years, “Yanes yelled over and over again, and Chino Esquivel left Havana forever.

That was one of the stories that Pedro Yanes most liked to tell, who all day continues to stir in his memory the thousands of anecdotes and episodes that he has lived in Cuba, when he was journalist in Batista’s time, and later, as a bookseller in New York. Once, of the many that he came to Spain, he arrived convinced to open a bookstore in Madrid, “in the center of Madrid”, as he said, one more delusional project because at that time bookstores were closed in all the cities of Spain and the book market did not meet any of Pedro Yanes’ expectations. So, ultimately, the project was not done. Then worse times came and it was necessary to get rid of the Americas and its million books. Legend has it that then a book magician appeared, the publisher Abelardo Linares, owner and director of the Renaissance publishing house from Seville, who bought a million books and brought them to Spain to sell. Another delusional and adventurous story that, according to the legendary traces, this time turned out well.

Old Yanes and I remembered on the phone, many of the laughter, some of those episodes that he had already told me and others that we lived together at book fairs in American and Latin American cities, and that are part of my own memories. Every time I tell the story, someone tells me that I am exaggerating the number of books and I mention it to Yanes, who laughs on the phone and always tells me the same thing. “They are ignorant, there were many more books than a million and Abelardo bought them all, “he tells me. Anyway, there are no more stories, especially since time passes and there are no longer heroes like the old ones, nor are the adventures the same, nor does the imagination want the same. power for nothing You know, I still like black and white cinema much more than the colorful ones today and that is why I tell a historical film from time to time, like the one I just finished narrating to you today.

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