…and calling things for what they are
By Mauricio Mendoza Navarro
HAVANA TIMES – While peacefully sleeping at noon on October 17th, my day off work was interrupted by the stunned voice on the other side of the line, of a friend who told me, “Alicia Alonso has died.”
Sometimes I see myself as an insensitive person who doesn’t get upset by certain matters, but analyzing the situation, I have come to realize that people are a little incredulous when it comes to death.
Alicia Alonso was almost 100 years old, it made perfect sense that she would have to rest one day and depart on her journey towards God or hell, depending on what she was like as a person. I didn’t know her personally so I can’t weigh in as to where her spirit will end up after her body packed it in.
There’s no doubt she was a great ballerina, but I can’t overlook the fact that she lived quite a nice life because of Communism, which gave her status and advantages because of her talent. While I prefer to go to a rumba party in a dilapidated tenement in Central Havana, I do occasionally go to the ballet and I always pick up on the same thing… there are almost no black or mixed-race dancers in the cast. It’s as if they all had vitiligo.
Directed by Alicia Alonso herself, Cuba’s National Ballet has always seemed like a racist and classist institution to me, and we all know how picky she was when it came to choose her dancers. Sometimes I think she could have gone to study a summer course in Nazi Germany when she was a young girl (because of the period she was born in and its historic context), and that it could have shaped her aesthetic preferences forever, who knows… I’ll leave that to other researchers.
This woman’s death doesn’t really affect me, in fact, I believe people were paying tribute to her even before the wake. I believe that her accepting they change the name of a building as important as the Grand Theater in Havana (previously the Garcia Lorca), and replacing it with her own while she was still alive, is a great lack of humility and a narcissistic act.
It goes without saying that I believe in Federico Garcia Lorca’s work and ideas more, as well as his contribution to global literature and theater, than in Alicia’s comfortable and obliging work in the country of utopias.
So, my most sincere condolences to this woman’s family, who are the only people I can understand are grieving, but I ask everyone else to be objective, to accept death like any other life process and save themselves from chewing my ear with chronicles of a death foretold.