Cervantes and Dulcinea-Ulcinj-Montenegro- Translated by Anida Resulbegu

It is said that the best known Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, spent 5 years of his life in the fortress of the coastal town of Ulcinj. It is there that he got captured by the notorious 16th century Ulcinj’s Pirates . Afterwards he ends up exhibited at the slave market. Furthermore, he was forced to buy back his freedom, and also pay personal tax(harac) ,all a very prolonged venture. His enslavement has been registered in his official biography but the legend continuously revives it in various versions. It is said that he fell in love with a local girl from the Old Town. Getting his freedom back wouldn’t make sense to him without taking the local girl with him. She gets the role of Dulcinea in his masterpiece “Don Quixote”. The other part of the book has to do with a lot of history which demonstrates that is not only a legend.

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Legend or history indeed it got revived in the Old town some 500 years later, presented as a theatrical piece.

The story begins with Captain Arnaut Mami (Atif Hasanaga), returning home after seven years at sea. As a highly skilled sailor he managed to bring back with him a couple of slaves. Two dark-skinned, as the Ulcinj citizens called them people of color, and one quiet and svelte young man. He called them his “trophies”. After welcoming and respecting the captain which in his belt holds two guns and in his head a red wrap which does not cover the earring in the right ear he immediately puts on sale his slaves but the white one turns out to be a different story. Once set on the stone, usually the place where slaves were sold, unto him he finds a letter sealed by the King of Spain, Philip the second. Afterwards he decides not to sell him and writes a letter to the King of Spain requiring a fixed sum of 500 golden coins as a condition for his release. When the slave is presented with the name Miguel de Cervantes (Muho Uruçi) and declared having noble origins as the legend says, the mighty captain names the boy Servet and gives him freedom to move inside the fortress.

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In the writers biography it is stated that he was a Turkish slave from 1575 until 1580. In the theatrical performance captain Arnaut Mami is known for mistreating Turks during the war into the sea and subsequently capturing Spaniards slaves. Cervantes in his book “Don Quixote” mentioned a gracious girl who lived in the fortress of Ulcinj. The legend says it was Mehmet Beg’s daughter in which Cervantes fell in love. Outside the performance, is a version of romance between Fatima and Servet without hands who sings beautifully. It is believed that Cervantes’s truth was hole behind Servet’s story.

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In the play,written by Flutura Mustafa ,who herself plays the role of Dulcinea, Servet’s lover is named Fatima. During his stay in Ulcinj ,he accidentally meets Dulcinea near the well. After their separation he immediately runs to his room where he sits and writes: “My longing for Spain was relieved by the girl wearing a scarf which bares resemblance to the pearls under the oysters”. From this moment on seems that heroism and patriotism are swapped with a more romantic storyline. In this part, the 16 other protagonists of the show make an exit. From this moment the stage belongs only to Cervantes and Dulcinea. Beautiful Albanian and Spanish songs,and the exchange of letters between two lovers made Cervantes forget that he was a slave, whilst Dulcinea fell in love for the first time. Even though still not knowing her name,Servet now worries about asking for Dulcineas hand ,knowing that her father Mehmet Beg (Shefqet Luca) is a very strict man.

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The director, Emin Halili,said that the performance was well received , and praised for its level of artistic and dramatic achievements even by the National Theatre of Kosova . “I was pleasantly surprised. I did not expect such a good performance. It was beautiful, smooth, accompanied by flowing acting” he said. According to him another beautiful thing that impressed him was the language in which the performance was played. Actors speak the local dialect.

“It was a beautiful native form which succeeded perfectly on stage. The sentences were well formed. Tonight I was impressed there” he said, while adding the higher the cultural exchange between Albanians, the better they will get to know each other.

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Cervantes begins to negotiate through captain Arnaut Mami with Mehmet beg who refuses to accept the Spaniard because he was a slave, but after his tribute(harac) arrived and now he became noble, Beg changes his mind about the fate of his daughter, Fatima. After a traditional wedding Cervantes and Dulcinea depart for Spain where there are accompanied by the strict captain Arnaut Mami. The director Munib Abazi that he tried to turn the Servantes legend in a ‘’Romeo and Juliette’’ but in a local style. There is a legend that Cervantes was in Ulcinj and Dulcinea was his love.

“I wanted to produce a theater play even with the lack of professionals. I took the risk, and relied on the help of others” he stated.The performance required over 4 months of hard work,and the director says that it is dedicated to Kosovo

This performance has also revived the market within the fortress and the life of that time. Even pirates dance “Dum sharaveli” which is the most unique part of the choreography in the region.

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“At first we need to elevate the theater in Ulcinj which is extremely necessary because there are young people who are studying dramaturgy and costume design. Secondly it is best Ulcinj to be announced as city of Cervantes. I would propose to put a bust of Cervantes in prisons of the Old town” he said. In the play also starring Albana Kurti, Januz Abazi and Barbana Draga. Abazi states that Ulcinj Albanians consider Kosovo as the first place for every need. Atif Hasanaga also states that is was not easy to perform in Pristina(Kosovo). “I do not know if it was noticed that we had great emotions, since we are in Pristina” he said while adding it was an amateur troupe. Sitting in the theater “Dodona” Mirsad Gjoni who studies in Pristina seemed as he were in Ulcinj. “We from Ulcinj sometimes need cultural events from our hometown” he said.

Despite that Cervantes doesn’t visit Prishtina in any of the legends, he has chosen to share the performance one night with Kosovars. Along with the story and the love for Dulcinea.

Source: Koha Net