This week I attended a performance of the Malpaso Cuban Dance Company. I had seen them rehearse at the Sephardic Center in Havana, Cuba when we were visiting. We naively presented this group of dancers with toiletries, as requested by our tour company. Now I discover they have been on 15 city tour of the US and this is their second appearance in the states. Another friend said they were also invited to another venue here in New York earlier this year.I felt a bit as I said, naive.
I also feel they are being exploited a bit. Not that they don,t like it They must love the attention. An American of Cuban heritage Arturo O'Farrill composed a work for them and his band was at the Joyce accompanying them. Another American choreographer Trey McIntyre has been sent under the Joyce,s auspices to write for this group.
What could be better? They were reviewed in the NYTimes! A tepid review which compared the group to a worn loved sweater..
Cuba sells tickets this year.
Happily we went to the Sephardic Center on a Friday morning and my friend and I walked back in the evening for Shabbat services.The building has many uses including a gym, a children's educational program, social services and holiday celebrations. The congregation eats dinner together after the services. We were invited and we spoke with the young woman who sang the service so beautifully, her father explaining to us that about 200 congregants would spend the holidays together.
Later I discovered that for 40 years all religion was banned in Cuba and the Jewish people had a very difficult time. As many as could do so, left.
Cubans blame America and the embargo for their economic problems. Surely the embargo hurts.There are several lawsuits that will prevent the embargo from being lifted any time soon. The companies whose property was nationalized want financial compensation. Many are corporations like Domino Sugar and Hershey. Cuba has no money to pay them and will not allow any company to own more than 49 per cent ever again, and Cuba expects 50 per cent of the profits as well.individuals also have millions of dollar law suits against Cuba?s privatization of their homes and companies. The situation is complicated and will take a long time to get sorted, in my humble opinion.
We met several entrepreneurial people who fix their old cars, make music, dance and sing. But generally, the people of Cuba have been brought up to be receivers, not producers, compliant, not competitive. I was told the sidewalks where President Obama was to walk were repaired before his visit. We were shown the cathedral which was sandblasted clean before the Pope'svisit. The other buildings in the plaza where the cathedral its in all its splendor are not clean. The sidewalks when we walked to the synagogue were not repaired. We will take from Cuba whatever will benefit American companies. Sadly I don't think we will provide much for the Cuban people.