Excerpt from The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Black Cathedral

by Marcial Gala

The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala X
The Black Cathedral by Marcial Gala
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2020, 224 pages

    Jan 2021, 224 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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"So was Columbus white or black?"

"White, Guts, blond and blue-eyed."

Basically, he knew a lot for a brown kid, 'cause that's what he was, brown, but I liked him; it was the other one I couldn't stand, he was too pretty, always so clean, always reading. His parents treated him even more gently than the girl, who really was hot.


He hated for his son to sing. If he came home early from work and heard Cricket's voice, he'd say to everyone, "Blessings," and then he'd say, "One artist in the family is enough. Come in, David King," and the kid would go into the house without daring to lift his head to look at his father. We soon found out that he beat him, Guts was the one who said so; he went up on the roof, peeked in a window, and saw how old Stuart removed his wide leather belt to hit his son on the back. After that, we thought Cricket wouldn't sing anymore, but with that kid, singing was an obsession. As soon as old Stuart went out to the shop with his mechanic's tools, Cricket would start singing. It didn't matter to him if it was a Marco Antonio Solís song or a bolero by Orlando Contreras, it didn't matter if Aurora, Berta's mom, took out her guitar to accompany him or if Nacho Fat-Lips started to play a rumba on the box drum, and when there was no accompaniment, he did it a cappella, Cricket sang whatever. His mother would come to the door and say, David, please, stop that, your father will lose it with me.


The Church of the Holy Sacrament of the Resurrected Christ … When Stuart arrived from Camagüey, no more than a dozen people in Cienfuegos had heard of our congregation, and across the whole province, there weren't even twenty of us, eight of whom lived in Aguada and three in Cruces, making it difficult to depend on them for anything practical. The pastor of the Cienfuegos Sacramentalists was named Basulto, an intelligent young guy, but cold and aloof. Arturo Stuart had charisma and a knack with crowds, he was a natural leader, and a church like the Sacramentalist one, which is inspired by ancient Greek rites, fit like a glove on someone given to manners and mystery. Besides, he had his son Prince. The kid knew how to speak. He knew how to be convincing. He had read the Bible with purpose and knew how to cite verses correctly. Even his siblings would fall silent, watching him as if the angel of the Lord himself were speaking through his mouth. Everybody liked that; Cubans have a penchant for the corny and sentimental, and on worship Sundays, Basulto's house would fill up. Certainly another factor was that Arturo had cemented friendships with the denomination's pastors in several U.S. states, and they began to send us contributions, or assistance, as we also called it. Such assistance took the form of electric razors, soap, toys for the children, shoes, clothing, and kitchen utensils, even Bibles, worship books and videos, which gave us an idea of the Sacramentalist church's power in the U.S. In six months, we went from twenty people to almost a thousand; few, in a sense, but for a congregation as strict as the Sacramentalists', that was legion. So, Basulto's house, big as it was, came to be completely insufficient, and we decided to worship at the house of our good sister Elizabet.


I had killed my first guy. I slashed his neck and didn't stop until his eyes were like a dead cow's. "Who has the biggest cock now?" I asked him, then I cleaned the switchblade with the sleeveless shirt he had been wearing to show off.

"Now what do we do, Gringo?" Pork Chop asked me.

"That's the easy part. We cut him up—the guy came from Cabaiguán, no one is going to miss him. You'll see. Get the bike, but pedal slowly, you don't want anyone to mess with you, and start telling suckers that you have some high-quality meat. When you're done with that, go to the hiding place and bring over the boning knife. But first, wash yourself and change your clothes, 'cause you fucking reek of moonshine."

Copyright © 2012 by Marcial Gala

Translation copyright © 2020 by Anna Kushner

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