To Esteban Grau, representative in Matanzas of the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation of Nature and Man (FANJ), I surprised him in the midst of «putting in waist» those abandoned garages on Narváez Street, where for now it is hard to imagine a modern center audiovisual with cutting edge technology.
I asked for five minutes of his time, but I managed to round them to 15 because I took advantage, my usual trick, of his inability to resist talking about what he loves.
For now they call it the Grotto of San Juan to that new 3D room that little by little takes shape in the still unfinished Narváez river walk, located in the Historical Center.
It will have an area dedicated to exhibitions of nature photographs, a snack bar and the room itself with capacity for 50 people where they will be projected in audiovisual third dimension on the Cuban natural heritage and the rest of the world.
This «reconquered» space, as Esteban called it during the talk, will be a beautiful gift to the city of San Carlos and San Severino de Matanzas, the neoclassical one of Cuba, in this year of the 325 anniversary of its foundation.
3D glasses and images projected in the 4K format or ultra HD (high definition) will give the touch of realism to the experience of traveling, without renouncing the comfort of a seat, exclusive scenarios of the geography of the largest island of the Antilles, commonly outside of scope for an average person.
«With this center we intend to educate people through the image, to bring them closer to the knowledge of the Cuban natural heritage and its protection, with an emphasis on karst. We speak of beautiful formations, but also important for life «, explained the expert.
«We are the headquarters of the Bellamar project created 15 years ago, which has traveled to Cuba and part of the world to capture three-dimensional images, for this reason we want to give the city a room to cultivate love for that underground heritage hidden in the darkness.
«The 3D project of the Cuban natural heritage began in 2003 and since then we have walked a lot, I think we have incredible things and it is worth showing them here in this new space,» said the also member of the Speleological Society of Cuba.
«The new room will be the headquarters of the audiovisual project Cuba: the other dimension, and we will have the possibility of enjoying this material here, as well as others like Fábrica de Cristal, Bellamar revealing secrets or Cuba of water and stone».
A score of works between photos and three-dimensional videos, the result of work developed over a decade by a multinational team of speleologists and lens artists (La Salle 3D International Team) in landscapes and underground cavities of the world, is an invaluable treasure that will be disposition of people living in Matanzas.
«Here they will see Cuba in another way, especially children, young people, the elderly, here they will find a place where they will not have to go down a rope, or crawl or spend days walking in the mountains and they will see natural places as if they were in front of them. »
But there is something even more important than the luxury of experiencing with our senses an exotic place without really being there: it is about protecting those scenarios, whose irresistible appeal makes them vulnerable.
Esteban explained: «the processes that allow the formation of crystals in the caves are hydrothermal, the human presence breaks the balance of those conditions. For example, the Great Paleocaverna Bellamar is considered so beautiful for its crystals because it has had a good balance of different parameters inside.
«If we arrive with large audiences to a cave, in the first place always a part is destroyed to be able to pass, then we change its climatic conditions because we generate heat and we expel CO2 when breathing.
«What about the 3D image? For it brings us closer to the same cave without altering it, reproducing every detail of human vision. Today we are able to achieve this, we have the technology for it like never before.
«Grau feels grateful for the support of the local authorities, of the friends inside and outside the Island, and together with the rest of the workers engaged in taking the project forward, he faces objective and subjective obstacles that appear almost daily.
National Parks such as Guanacahabibes and Viñales, Las Terrazas, Zapata Swamp, the spectacular caverns of Bellamar and Santa Catalina, or the stalagmite of Martín Infierno, considered the largest in the world, can be seen as never before thanks to the efforts of the adventurers of these times, equipped with cutting-edge technology.
But also the third dimension will allow even the least able in the water to disinhibit for a while and explore the fascinating underwater universe of Jardines de la Reina, considered one of the sanctuaries of diving on a planetary scale.
«I think we are pioneers in Cuba in modeling caves in augmented reality. We already did the first one: the Los Cayucos cave and the material we will premiere in November at an international anthropology event in Havana.
«Cayucos is a lost cave of Cuban heritage, located in Maisi, is one of the most important ceremonial sites where aboriginal idols have been found. The place is spectacular: a small cave, but magical, as we say.
«We just arrived from there, we did the tests with the new photography modeling programs. Almost five thousand photos had to be done to achieve this modeling. Simply awesome!
«It is still in half resolution and we are taking it to maximum, it will be something that we will have ready in 2019. We can put on the 3D glasses and walk that cave without moving from the Narváez promenade.
«Although we have had success with the experience of presenting our work in scenarios such as the Cuban Art Factory and the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, both in Havana, in reality everything we did belongs to Matanzas, the city that has inspired us», assured Esteban Grau.
Luck is cast and it seems that La Gruta del San Juan could become a perfect space to satisfy curiosity, experience the ephemeral illusion of entering the unknown, suggest new challenges, conspire in favor of nature.