Friday, December 19, 2014

Cuba Feliz, America Feliz!

Comida rica, musica para llorar y bailar, cantantes elegantes y tristes, coches viejos, revolucion....

Delicious food, music for crying and dancing, elegant and sorrowful singers, old autos, revolution - that's the idea I have of Cuba. If it's a narrow vision, that's because Americans haven't been able to travel there for many, many years. But now:

"Change is hard –- in our own lives, and in the lives of nations.  And change is even harder when we carry the heavy weight of history on our shoulders.  But today we are making these changes because it is the right thing to do.  Today, America chooses to cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future –- for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere, and for the world."

Wonderful!! And to celebrate the announcement that the United States is, at long last, re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, I want to offer up this wonderful video of a serenade in the streets of Havana. The song is sad, but if you take the time to watch all the way through, you'll see the joy slowly growing in the faces of those musicians, and the camaraderie they share, and the beauty of that woman they're serenading, and the quick glance we get of people in the street.  Here's to getting more than a quick glance - here's to getting to know the Cuban people better.

Pope Francis and President Obama, among others, worked to open up paths of communication after more than 50 years of stubborn silence (not to mention a long campaign of poisoned cigars and exploding seashells, and USAID's infiltration of hip-hop groups,  - ??? - for Heaven's sake....). A short poem first, in the voice of Rosa, a character from Margarita Engle's lovely verse narrative, The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom:

I love the sounds 
of the jungle at night.

When the barracoon
where we sleep 
has been locked, 
I hear the music
of crickets, tree frogs, owls, 
and the whir of wings
as night birds fly, 
and the song of un sinsonte,
a Cuban mockingbird, 
the magical creature
who knows how to sing
many songs all at once, 
sad and happy, 
captive and free...

songs that help me sleep 
without nightmares, 
without dreams.

 She sings: "...and I cry without you knowing that my crying has black tears, like my life."

The Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted today by Buffy at Buffy's Blog. Head over there to see what other people have posted.


  1. Love the trumpet, the voices, and the street scene. We are so fortunate to have glimpses of other cultures instantly through videos and poetry--and perhaps soon the Cuban people will also share this good fortune! Yes, speaking to one another and building bridges always makes sense!

  2. Thank your for this timely post and video, Julie! And for sharing Margarita's beautiful words.

    I'm so proud/fortunate to know folks like both of you through this online community - wishing you a warm & wonderful holiday and creative new year.

  3. Thanks for the poem and serenade! I'm also looking forward to more than a glance -- I didn't realize President Obama had been working with the Pope to open up diplomatic relations.

  4. My computer won't play the video, but Rosa's own serenade carries enough peace and joy...thanks for this post, Julie!

  5. Heidi, if my embedded video won't play for you, can you go to YouTube and find it? It's wonderful! I used the search terms "Cuba Feliz" and "Lagrimas Negras."

  6. Jama, I'm especially glad to hear Pope Francis was involved because I think that might make a difference to many Catholics in Miami. Fingers crossed they are not going to be open to something he took part in, and that they won't be bitter about Castro and old family histories.

  7. Thank you, Robin! I feel the same way.

  8. This is so powerful, Julie. Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. Joy! Thanks for sharing this happiness!!