HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 25 —“What was and isn’t, is as if it had never been” is one of the many sayings heard daily from my grandmother.
Today I was walking down Enramadas Street, a commercial artery and the most central street in the city. What I heard was not silence, but one of those amateur musical groups (pseudo-cultivators of our traditional popular music) sounding horribly. The racket was coming out of a place where in the past we could always enjoy a welcome theatrical function.
The Teatro de Relaciones was an emblematic troupe in this region of the country. It would perform satires or short comedies in the middle of a park, square, street or a portico, with the actors interacting with the members of the audience, who always anxiously awaited them.
The Cabildo Teatral Santiago was its precursor, though this company too has now vanished. The theatrical works that it put on maintained that tradition for many years. However the aim was slowly lost. Physical death, emigration, exodus to the capital as well as a greater interest on the part of young people in more experimental and avant-garde productions spelled an end to the Teatro de Relaciones in Santiago.
No matter what the circumstances, objective or subjective, whenever I walk down Enramadas Street I feel a certain bit of nostalgia as an ex-actor (not of my own will). I recall my former teacher and director, who —like so many others— is no longer with us.
People who are unaware of how I feel will make chance comments to me like, “Why don’t they ever have theatrical performances here in the park?” or “Do you remember the Teatro de Relaciones?
The question “Do you remember?” is a phrase heard every day by Cubans. It’s almost common place to describe some event or production that no longer is, like being in front of a store window displaying items you can’t buy with the currency you earn.
“Do you remember the good carnivals?”
“Do you remember the aroma of that good perfume?”
“Do you remember the malta sodas, or beef?”
The Teatro de Relaciones remains in the memory of those of us who were in it and with the audience members who applauded it and miss it. Those who never saw it will not know about its existence, and so I have to paraphrase my grandmother’s words: “What was and isn’t…”