Friday, May 08, 2015

Buenas Tardes, Muchachitos

Felix B. Caignet was a Cuban writer, journalist, and composer. He was a pioneer of Cuban radio, and for better or worse he is considered the creator of the Latin American TV soap operas. (I'm sure you can guess what I think.)  In 1892, Felix was born on a coffee plantation in Santa Rita de Burene, Cuba, (now Palma Soriano) He was raised in San Luis a small town about 30 miles away. He was poor, but he liked story telling and that was the genesis of his career..

Some off his first writing was for a cultural magazine named Teatro Alegre (Happy Theater). In 1918 he found work at the newspaper El Diario de Cuba. Within two years he had his own theater column, “Vida Teatral” (Theater Life). Over the next several years he contributed under various pseudonyms to other publications such as El Fígaro, Bohemia, and El Sol. At the same time he wrote hundreds of songs.

He published a children’s story in 1925 called Las Aventuras de Chilín Y Bebita En El País Azul” (The Adventures of Chilín and Bebita in the Blue Country). This was how he came to radio. CMKC took him on as the host of a children's radio program called “Buenas Tardes, Muchachitos” (Good Afternoon, Boys.) It was the first children's radio program in Cuba. More here.

This was purely storytelling, and it was a skill he further honed in radio. He adapted the Adventures of Chilín and Bebita as a radio serial just called “Chilín y Bebita.” It's success allowed him to begin writing radio dramas for adults. In 1934, he wrote a series of detective dramas detective dramas based on the American Charlie Chan films. It was called “Chan Li Po.” It was broadcast on CMKD and was very successful.

He relocated to Havana and pitched his Chan Li Po series to other radio stations. He got nowhere. He only work he could find was singing on radio station CMQ. He briefly found work in Argentina and returned to Havana a year later. In 1936, COCO began to air some of his soap operas like El Precio De Una Vida (The Worth of One Life.) In 1938, he put a new season of Chan Li Po on the air with COCO radio which continued to run until 1941. He also continued to write, re-write and air other dramas and adaptations with great success. [The program was also called La Serpiente Roja] His overly-sentimental stories were catching on. In April of 1948, CMQ broadcast the most important radio drama of the decade, El Derecho De Nacer, (The Right To Be Born.) It was a block buster. It is the singular work that made him famous. In the 1950s many of his dramas were made into films. He died Havana in 1976.