Wow! Today was truly an amazing day. We walked the historic area of La Gran Piedra (The Big Rock) in the highest region of Cuba. The rock is of volcanic origin and is estimated to weigh 65,000 tons.
We visited biodiverse hilltops and the remains of a French coffee plantation, called La Isabelica, from the early 19th century. I felt a deep spiritual connection being in this environment. While walking through the plantation buildings, the tour guide showed us a hole in the cement floor. We found out later that this hole was made for punishing female slaves who were pregnant. The punishment was for the woman to lay on the floor with her stomach in the hole to protect the baby inside her while the slave master whipped her back.
So many emotions and feelings came over me. First, I became numb. I began to feel fear in my body, and I felt the pain in my soul. I had to process what had happened in this room.
We took a break from the plantation to enjoy the vendors selling jewelry, coffee, sugar, and artwork. We saw Cuba’s national flower, the White Ginger, called “Mariposa” meaning the butterfly flower. One of the workers in the gardens gave me one of the flowers from a very tall tree. He had to use a bamboo pole to cut it down.
I later gave the flower to my house mother where I was staying. As we continued to walk through the beautiful gardens, I saw black chickens, black pigs, and black lizards. This brought peace and beauty to me.
— Kim Morris-Newson, IU staff and African American Dance Company member
After our excursion we quickly bused over to Teatro Marti in Santiago to give our second and final performance in the Festival del Caribe. Even though we were exhausted from the day’s activities, we brought so much power to the stage. This week has been physically challenging, with multiple dance classes and rehearsals each day on top of walking the city streets and our excursion through the mountains. But something about the drum rhythms and the adrenaline on stage brought out our strength.
I think our performance today was more relevant to us than ever before. After seeing where slaves were held and understanding the pain and suffering they endured, our dance (particularly the section called “Columbus Ghost”) was so meaningful. We pushed our bodies a little harder to express the stories and feelings we had experienced at the plantation today.
Not only did we get to perform at this amazing theater, but we also witnessed performances by other companies, including an emotional performance of “Sulkari,” a traditional dance of the Orishas, by Danza del Caribe.
Today was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for which I will forever be grateful. Being in Cuba and experiencing all the cultural differences first hand has definitely changed my perspective.
— Tiana Martin, IU Sophomore studying Psychology