I had planned thirteen days of research in Havana. I did not want to allow myself to be away from my children any longer than that. I am a Cuban and therefore had little illusion about what could be accomplished in the middle of a brutally hot tropical summer. I was well acquainted with the broken machines, the blackouts the transportation problems and miscellaneous delays…
And so it was. To start with, the National Library, the main place I was planning to work in, is to be closed until the Fall. In any case, I was doubtful of the utility of a search there. People without a history have there own histories, their own stories that have always served to help people exercise the hardships of life through the dances of son and rumba for a hundred years. My theses process requires a different type of investigation, a sort of archeology- plus time and a lucky star. The lack of previous research on Cuban popular dances makes it hard to figure out the state and location of sources. It is a headache, so “Corazon con Dios y pecho al agua”, as my Granma used to said.
My first clue is Rene Rivero, I just found two three minutes clips of him from YouTube! Tall and elegant, in the video he walks around his partner Estela, while doing the most impressive “tornillos”- son figures in that man resemble a screw, standing on a foot while the woman walks helping him to turn and to be stable- Almost eighty years after I haven’t seen nothing like it. My bridge to Rene Rivero is as uncertain as the weather in Havana, with a fifteen year old address in tow. I followed the traces of an amazing unknown man toward an street I never heard of in the heart of “Los Sitios”, one poor neighborhood in Centro Havana, whose single restoration plan is to fall down. I wish I had my video ready IPod on hand to make a nice clip of my journey. Continue reading
“Ok this is all going to hell in three seconds”, I thought as I saw the airport official hand over my passport to his partner for just a little too long to expect anything good. I should add that at the time I was carrying two passports; one Cuban and incidentally expired, and the other American. I had imagined that in a way, my American passport would be like wings upon my back. I remember that upon receiving it I felt I would be free to go anywhere in the world without the dramas of visas and “permisos de salida” associated with my old Cuban passport. The funny thing was that the only place I visited after was… Cuba, the one place that will never forgive my cubaness, and will play the stigmata forever by forcing me to travel with a Cuban passport in order to enter the country of my birth, but not without first requiring that I “habilitate” and “renovate” my Cuban passport at considerable expense and for ridiculously short periods of validation. I love the picture of myself in my first Cuban passport. I was young and fresh, and hadn’t known what credit card debt was yet. I hated giving over that image of my youthful freshness to those bureaucratic maniacs. “No puede viajar con ese pasaporte”. I stayed behind in Miami denied passage to Cuba. I know… Its hell.
A dear friend called me in the midst of the craziness. She mobilized her little family of brother and mother to rescue me. Teresa, my friend’s mother came to my rescue, offering me a port to ride out the storm of bad luck and a natilla de leche to die for Teresa put my soul to rest. Teresa’s hair is very long, because she vowed years ago to never cut it until she could see her brothers in Cuba again.
I spent two days in Southern Florida. In addition to Teresa’s kindness, I received many calls from sweet people both well known and not so well known by me, all answering the single facebook post I was able to post from my phone before I lost Internet accesses. All of these people are a part of the Cuban chain of love and pain, beauty and wisdom. I’m grateful for a chance of a wonderful afternoon in the company of Ariana Fernandez Reguant and a nice descarga with the hermanas Silot. I’m grateful for that reserve of love and support in what might otherwise have been two wasted days in Miami.
Posted by Yesenia Fernandez — MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU
Posted in Field Research