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Abakuá Icon by Ruddy

'The Abakuá have a rich repertoire of tales, songs, dress, implements and drums, and maintain a language of their own...

In the 1940s Arsenio Rodríguez recorded 'El Cerro tiene la llave.' The phrase refers to Santos Ramírez moving his (Abakuá) lodge from Jesu Maria (Amalia) to El Cerro.

The lyrics use a constellation of metaphors...alluding to...the group concept shared by successful sports teams, rumba players and Abakuá lodges:

La bola se va extendiendo (The ball soars outward)

Cañonazo de 'hit' (Shot like a canon)

Con el grupito en El Cerro (With a group in El Cerro)

Que ellos saben compartir (Who know how to enjoy)

Sin alavbanza ninguno (without ostentation)

Y le cantan un rumbón (And they sing a rumba)

Calientico y suavecito (Hot and smooth)

El Cerro tiene la llave (El Cerro has the key)

Warará la rumba (Play the rumba)

Warará la llave (Play the Key)

The coded lyrics refer sequentially to a baseball game in the El Cerro stadium, to the rumba phrase El Cerro has the key and and to Abakuá mythology with the word Warará referring to a guardian of the culture.

The message is that through collective efforts team players will always come out winning."*

*Ivor Miller. Voice of The Leopard. U. Press of Mississippi: 2009

(Notes compiled by Gethin James)