This lovely man, who I'll call Juan Doe, had skin like fresh caramel glowing behind full moon eyes and a smile you needed sunglasses to look directly at. Juan lived and breathed dignity and danced like summer twister. Hot n furious, body twisting and contorting to match the frantic beats of the African drums that surrounded us at the sweaty dance halls he would take me to. Pure machismo was wafting out of every pore while the men (dripping in gold chains) twirled bright lipped women in sky high heels. There was a moment where my mother, who was being spun around by a coke can shaped man dressed in all silk, yelled out to me, " this is heaven!"
I LOVE CUBA. I want to eat it and keep a little piece of it inside my body at all times so I can remember one very important thing, THERE IS NO WRONG TIME TO DANCE. There is nothing more fun that watching men and women of all shapes, ages and sizes, blaze across a restaurant floor at 3 pm.
He became my city guide. Showing me the nooks and crevices of the crumbling city center of Old Havana. I got a crash course in Santeria, a mix of the West African religion Yoruba, with elements of Roman Catholic and Native American traditions. It is often misinterpreted as a ‘voodoo’ religion as it involves trance, animal sacrifice, deity worship and sacred drumming and dancing. He took me too hole in the wall lunch spots where 3 dollars would buy you the best fried fish in a heaping steaming pots of rice and beans with tons of smish smashed golden plantains, sweet and salty, crispy and soft. The best!
I remembered, that above all, people who work hard at something they love, with a higher purpose than pursuing their own vanity projects (ego) are always the happiest.
He worked as a tour guide at Cajellon de Hamel. A landmark made by Salvador Gonzalez who saw an opportunity to turn a destroyed landscape into a raw panoramic feast of the African history of slavery in Cuba. It celebrates all things Santeria, robust shapely women dance along the walls, their colors celebrating all things human, taunting me with their wonderful eyes and wicked feminine wiles. He convinced the government by pitching it as school for street kids that would teaching them how to play drums and make art. It's such a wholesome, wonderful musical place.
I had my interview interrupted by 100 middle schoolers all in fresh crisp mustard and crimson uniforms. Is there anything cuter than 12 year olds in knee socks? NO! Honestly, every single kid could have been a gap kid. I don't know what it is about the mix of Caribbean and African that produces this unreal color of golden skin, sky high cheek bones and gazelle like bodies. It's so brutally unfair that I come from potato shaped humans. These kids still have my heart. So powerful, so articulate, so wise, so sure of themselves. They were cooler than I will EVER be.
I didn't translate them for you because I wanted you to hear the power in their voice. These girls basically told me that they have dreams of being policemen, teachers, mothers, and judges, all for the purpose of cleaning up all the bad guys. They told me that they want the embargo between the U.S. and Cuba to stop. They love all things American, especially Skrillex, Rhianna, Bieber, and Vin Diesel (they shot a faster more furious more fastest the 10th in Cuba and Vin came and hung out with these kids) They told me the reason that trump was president was because Americans hate immigrants and are racist (FACT!) and that they hoped we would stop seeing immigrants as pests but as people.
Go to Cuba. Invest in her people. Donate to people who help them. Fight against that stupid man baby's new embargo's. The people there deserve nothing less than all the love and support the world can offer. It'll take time, but I want Sunshine to grow up in a world of choice.
Music : Killing Me Softly With His Song (cuba version)Omararo Portuondo
Let Me Be Him: Hot Chip