When we arrived in Cuba, as soon as we hit the ground, the effects of the embargo were vividly clear. It’s like the entire country was frozen in time from the 60s, with old cars and architecture.
Getting through customs was a challenge. There was little organization, mostly people being herded into a line that was too long for the space we were in. Eventually we made it through, though, and we were greeted by a street band as we waited for our taxis. The Cuban countryside is gorgeous.
As far as the eye could see, we were surrounded by miles of tropical forests and mountains. Horse-drawn carriages traveled on the streets alongside the old cars, buses, and taxis as people walked on the sides. Most of the buildings here do not have air conditioning, and if they do, it’s only in certain rooms. Otherwise, the only way to stay cool is to carry a fan, a bottle of water, and a sweat rag everywhere you go.
After we dropped our things off at the hotels and met our hosts, we attended the opening ceremony of the Festival del Caribe. There, we saw performances from many of the groups that we would be working with throughout the week, ranging from traditional dances to contemporary dances to steel drum bands to live singers.
After the performances, we went to a drum ceremony. The celebration was in honor of a the Orisha Ochun, the goddess of fresh water and love in the Santeria and Ifa religion. We witnessed and engaged in poetry readings, songs, and dances to honor the Orisha.
This entire day, we were thrust into Cuban culture and traditions, and I’m excited to see what more is to come.
— Ryan Malone, IU junior majoring in Theatre