La Manisera, A Declaration for History

La Manisera, A Declaration for History
Fecha de publicación: 
30 December 2023
Imagen principal: 

Lyssett Pérez Acosta, the picturesque Manisera, is, undoubtedly, one of the queens of Old Havana, where she is recognized as one of the women who has known how to impose her touch of magic, mythology, and popular tradition beyond her not always fruitful sales.

Interviewing her was not easy, because she changed her address not long ago and several of her “colleagues” assured me that she “had bought an apartment in Playa municipality.” But, I didn't give up, I left several messages in public places that did the trick.

In the end, she gave me a date with the promise that she was going to pour me the best coffee of my life.

“I was always a very happy girl, in fact, I was not born on this lot on Habana Street, almost on the corner of Jesús María, but on the top of Castillo Farnés, in Monserrate, on the corner of the Floridita Bar, an iconic place in our Havana,” she told me at the beginning of our conversation after silencing several of her dogs.

Did you go to school a lot?

I’m an only child on my mother's side and I began my studies at the Jinete Chullima primary school, on Aguiar Street. Then I briefly went to the “Benito Juárez” Havana Music School and finished high school at the José Martí in the Manzana de Gómez, after a stay in Quivicán.

However, sher didn't stop there?

Well, the teaching career came to me and I enrolled very excited at the José Martí school in Cojímar. However, after 2 years the director realized that she was bad at languages and promoted me to a nursery school teacher.

According to the portraits I have seen, she was a very good-looking young woman.

Yes, she weighed only 126 pounds and she was a beautiful, self-righteous, stupid and conceited black woman who was always full of suitors in the Floridita area (LAUGHS).

You sang a lot to the children...

Of course, I'm also a musicologist at nursery schools, and yes, I liked being with the little ones, I taught them lullabies and some guaracha songs, without forgetting the use of instruments like the claves, the drum, the cowbell and others, although, Over time, I realized that I didn't have much patience, really.


Lyssett quit her job as an educator in 1993 with the purpose of dedicating herself to selling peanuts on the street semi-clandestinely (“…and run for it because the police is coming”), since at that time they did not give permits to practice this profession.

Fortunately, in 2011 she obtained a license from the City Historian's Office to produce and sell 11 products, including peanuts, her safest bet, because it’s accompanied by a proclamation.

“Then, one day I was walking through Obispo and I met Leticia, a former classmate who lives in Colombia. She started singing next to me and I told her: 'Quiet, they're going to beat the hell out of us up here,' I was really scared."

"After a while, she left, and left there  for everyone to see me, but people began to buy me and I gathered up the courage and began to perform parts of “El Manisero" and I liked it, luckily, because in those days I had a huge amount of ready-made, unsold peanuts that I almost have to eat myself.” (LAUGHTER)

When did La Manisera become a popular character in the historic center?

Well, a few days later I was standing at Lamparilla and Oficio and a colleague who worked with Eusebio Leal approached me and asked me to sing a little in front of a cell phone that was linked to the historian, who immediately said: “Approved.”

After that I was summoned to his office where they gave me special approval to make this popular character. Eusebio asked me to dress in white, with a skirt, blouse, a turban and a basket. Little by little, I was pleasing him. Currently, the income is flowing a little more and I have 37 suits, many in the hands of the seamstress.

The large peanut cone that this beautiful, full of life, smiling, moon-faced black woman sells is not cheap, although her business works very well, especially among tourists who swarm around colonial Havana, who demand, exchange of the purchase, the always romantic and bohemian photo of the memory.

She also offers passersby a proclamation performed with her contralto voice and her fairy-like presence.

manisero… maní… maní
si te quieres por el pico divertir
cómprame un cucuruchito de maní.

“Commerce has a game that not everyone knows, you have to make the customer fall in love with you so that they don't forget about you, buy from you and leave you a tip. “I am not an actress, it’s my job, and I enjoy it one hundred percent,” she says.

What are your favorite areas to sell?

They are all favorites, because I don't like to be stationary. Every day I walk along San Ignacio and Madera streets, without forgetting Oficio. Likewise, I can be seen in the squares of San Francisco and La Vieja… well… I don't stop. I almost don't go to the Cathedral Square, it’s too small for so many popular characters. I respect my colleagues.

Do they sometimes ask you to sing?

Yes, of course, and I'm delighted, I like bolero, Brazilian music, salsa, guaracha... I like to challenge myself!

Lyssett, 51, is married and considers the little boys who surround her as she walks through the alleys of Havana to be her children.

I have read in some interviews that you have tried to join some musical groups as a singer...

No, that’s not true, without good backup this is impossible; however, I have sung at several family and close friend activities. Furthermore, the stage is cold, I like the direct relationship with people better, that's why I left that part behind. It's a postponed dream.

The only person I ever got on stage with was called Celia Cruz.

You have collaborated with some renowned artists as a peanut seller…

Well, yes, I appear in the video clip of the song “Yo no le temo a la vida”, by Juan Formell, one of the last ones he recorded before he died. In the video you can see this musician looking with a spyglass and, suddenly, I appear singing “El Manisero” of Moisés Simons.

And how you managed to work alongside Kelvis Ochoa…

He was recording some material on Mercaderes Street and when I passed by singing “El Manisero” he approached me and we did a duet. So, the technicians took this moment and added it to his video clip.

However, with singer Haila things were not so happy...

That's right, she came to the plaza one day and, since I had a cold, she told me that I had no voice and I held that against her. Shortly afterwards, I met her at Teniente Rey Street and we sang a little together. It was very nice.

In 2016 life gave you a gift... you were able to sing to Pope John Paul II.

Well, it was on my path. I was walking down Madera Street and the Pope was arriving at O'Reilly and we met. He asked me: “Do you know Schubert's “Ave Maria”? Yes, we all sing it, yes, I answered. Later, he gave me a rosary which I wound in my hand. I have never been able to forget that moment.

Do you have any unfulfilled dream?

I’m open to all proposals that come regarding work. For now, I will continue walking in Havana, because I have a great desire to live and enjoy.


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