The Cuba of Pleasure and Pain

Dariela Aquique

One of things I did on my visit to Havana was see the film Juan de los Muertos.

HAVANA TIMES — Visiting Havana, there are several artistic choices that are hard for me to pass up. The 11th Biennale of Visual Arts was showcasing fabulous exhibits where installations, digital art and collages are integrated in such a way that post-modernism is now invading the city.

One building on Prado Boulevard is packed with giant ants, while a replica of the Trojan horse is being shown in different sites of this cultural emporium, and a huge pot with a tree planted in it adorns the Malecon waterfront – with all of this providing pleasure and joy.

Still, buildings that are collapsing and being demolished everywhere might confuse outsiders. They’re probably wondering where the visual art performances begin and end – with all this being something that hurts.

I went to the Yara Cinema to see the premiere of a Cuban film that has been getting a lot of hype: Juan of the Dead. It was directed by Alejandro Bruges, who’s always well-received by the public with each new presentation of his films.

This one is an entertaining satire of the absurd, where once again he flirts with self-mockery around a painful national situation.

It demonstrates a good use of special effects but unfortunately has an uneven cast in terms of talent, though this didn’t keep the movie from packing the theaters.

Between its excess of bad words and trite social criticism, Cubans laugh at such representations of their own misfortunes – rejoicing and at the same time grieving.

Late in the evening I went to Bertolt Brecht Café for a concert with Interactivo, one which was that much more tempting when we learned that the guest would be the renowned singer Xiomara Laugart.

But as nothing is perfect here, the first disappointment was when they announced at the entrance that the air conditioning wasn’t working.

Still, it would be worth sweating through it to once again hear one of Cuba’s finest female voices. Perspiring profusely, one wouldn’t regret the setback if they had the chance to also hear such musical masters as Lucia Huego, Martha Campos and Anais Abreu.

We drank as much beer as we could while waiting for Xiomara – and all of this made us feel happy.

Director Eduardo del Llano told me there wouldn’t be any more new episodes of his Nicanor series (at least for now). It’s a question of the budget he told me – and that hurt.

The concert started and the virtuosity of jazz fused with pop, timba, son and trova warmed up the little Brecht Theater even more.

We danced and sang along with the choruses of William Vivanco and Francis del Rio, which made us happy.

But Xiomara finally ended up not singing, she was hoarse. In any case, it was good to see her again. Showing up here and there as she visited Cuba, though she’ll later return to New York as she decided 15 years ago, as has been done by many others, and as continues to be done.

This is how Cuba is, where you live experiencing the constantly mixed and fleeting feelings of joy and sorrow, and where sometimes you’re unable to even define what you really feel.