Felix B. Caignet
kept radio listeners crying
Pablo Soroa Fernández
Just as no novelist, since Lucrecia
Borgia, has had as much luck with crime as the
British novelist Agatha Cristhie, no one is
comparable to Cuban Felix B. Caignet when it comes
to making radio listeners cry.
Still today across Latin America,
rivers of tears are shed by those listening to the
sad tales of Albertico Limonta and Mamá Dolores, the
main protagonists in El derecho de nacer, a
radio soap opera which debuted April 1, 1948, over
the airwaves of the former station CMQ.
The story was taken to the big
screen in 1952 by the Mexican director Zacarías
Gómez Urquiza, with Jorge Mistral and Gloria Marín
in the leading roles. Fifteen years earlier, another
one of Caignet works, La Serpiente Roja, with
the unforgettable Chinese detective Chan Li Po,
became the first Cuban film with sound.
Félix Benjamín Caignet Salomón
(Santiago de Cuba, March 31, 1892 - Havana, May 25,
1976), known among friends as Félix B, was also a
poet, a theater critic, composer, journalist, singer,
ventriloquist and – inexplicably – one of the most
severely criticized figures of the era.
The motive for such cruelty was
identified in an August 30, 1972 interview with
Caignet conducted by Orlando Castellanos, on Radio
He was the most popular author of
the day and the one who charged the most. This he
was not forgiven, but it meant little to him.
He was accused of mixing metaphors,
of being ridiculous, a tear-jerking writer, but the
success of his work was his consolation. His radio
soap operas were heard in the homes of all social
classes and these listeners expressed their
He very purposely wrote to make
people cry with his characters, since early on he
realized that many were born with pain and misery
tattooed on their souls and had so much pain and
bitterness in their lives that they never cried for
themselves. It was to be expected.
These people, he said during the
interview, took on the feelings of one or another
character who was suffering and, without being aware
of it, associated their own pain with that of the
fictitious figure, and cried with him or her.
This versatile intellectual also
created the songs Frutas del Caney - recorded
by the Venezuelan combo Dimensión Latina, and
dedicated to this beautiful locale in the eastern
part of Cuba – and Te odio, perhaps his most
Even without having written his
famous radio soap operas, this last composition (I
hate you and still I love you, I hate you, but I
can’t forget you…) would have been enough to make
him worthy of the fame he enjoyed.
In his native Santiago, it was sung
by the Trío Matamoros; in Havana, Rita Montaner and
Barbarito Diez with Antonio María Romeu’s band,
while in the United States, Bing Crosby made it a
hit with a well-done translation.
He was too much for the writers of
the neo-colonial republic, a man born on a coffee
plantation in the municipality of San Luis, in the
former province of Oriente, who had known poverty
and opulence and who, according to Oscar Luis López,
was one of the five pillars of Cuban radio all-time,
among generations of writers, announcers, directors
and musical arrangers who have participated in radio
broadcasting in Cuba.
Within his own homeland, he was
vilified because of envy, nothing more than
The people, for whom he created
El precio de la vida and Ángeles de la calle,
and the children who are now grandparents, to whom
Aventuras de Chelín, Bebita y
el enanito Coliflor, recall his name with
His remains which were initially
laid to rest in Havana’s Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón,
were moved to Santiago de Cuba December 25, 1992 and
buried at the foot of the hills in Carney, alongside
his parents, as he had requested.