Comrade Ryan! What a magnificent triumph and a blessing your latest film is! As an African female filmmaker, born in Oakland and raised in Kenya, I want to take this opportunity to thank and congratulate you for the epic that you have pulled off with the...
Oh God of All Creation
So its taken me a while to finally “land” here. I feel like I’ve been looking at Cuba and my experience here as though I were watching fish swimming around in a tank, explaining to the tourists how the fish act and react to things and pointing out what’s interesting about their habits etc. I suppose it takes time to land anywhere so its not a big deal. I’ve had such fabulous thoughts on my own but when it comes to trying to explain it here or narrate it, it comes out as an academic analysis. Fuck academia, you can read a text book for that. (The many faces of Ekwa….shakes head….)
Today I went to the grand Cathedral in Old Havana for church service. I got there a little early along with one of my students who joined me, a Korean lady whom I really like. She’s sweet. Anyway, we got a little breakfast at a café and I had my first coffee since I’ve been here. I love the smell and taste of coffee but its usually too harsh on my stomach, but today I figured out that if I have coffee with food it doesn’t bother my stomach as much. Yippee! The omelet was whack, *shrug* Such is eating out in Havana…very hit or miss.
The service was a VERY traditional Catholic (maybe Anglican?) service, with a full entourage of like 15 men up at the altar. It was all in Spanish, but my 8 years in catholic school enabled me to at least figure out what part of the service we were in. The choir (a mix of people in civilian clothes) sounded a lot like musical theatre singers…or shall I say the songs sounded like they belonged in a musical often times…mostly because of the drum accompaniment, though the drummer would occasionally throw a Cuban twist in there by knocking his drum sticks like claves during some of the songs.
Sitting there watching the performativity of the service made me wonder how these fathers with their über-asexual religious beliefs survived in a culture as sensual and sexual as this. I mean, the English are culturally very uptight and standoffish, so Catholicism and its denial of any type of sexual interest makes sense there ‘coz that’s how the culture behaves. You shake hands wearing gloves, bow, curtsey, say things like “how do you do” and “tally ho!” and go about your business wearing 500 layers of clothes no matter what the weather. But everything about Cuban culture is so involved and personal and high in contact. People are in your business without even trying that hard. Hugging, kissing, skin exposed. Then you have this one little island (in the midst of the island) of people walking around in robes, spreading incense all over the place (God forbid that poor usher boy have asthma or allergies or something), the lead guy with a big golden stick crossing the air and nodding at everyone as he goes, the whole ritual of taking off his hat, the robes, kissing crosses, kneeling, bowing, kissing books, lighting candles, blah blah blah. How do these people live amongst a population whose very essence is closeness? And how can our one God-given ability to create, the one thing that makes us as close to a god as is humanly possible, be the biggest sin of all? If God enabled us to create in union, and that’s the one thing that you deny yourself in order to be closer to God…how does that even make sense?
Not to mention that most of the Cuban population believes very strongly in African Yoruba religions, often times in tandem with Christianity. Can the church even take this population seriously (or vice versa for that matter?) Santeria which is practiced by most has gods who’re imperfect, who’re vengeful and lustful but accessible and able to relate to human trials and tribulations because many of them fight with the same. Its worship without the veil and threat of perfection that Christianity (or even Islam) has I guess. Hm.
I went to the Museum of Art afterwards and saw lots of beautiful and dull paintings and sculptures alike. Lots of colonial portraits with über-crusty, upper-crust folks posing in grand crusty poses. Seriously, the amount of rape and pillaging that those crusty folks did in the name of God…if I were God I’d have something to say about all those people taking my name in vain. Somebody would need a lesson of sorts…a plague, a rash for heaven’s sake. Something to let them know they needed to fucking pillage in their own name and not make me look bad. *Shakes head again*
Lots of sexual stuff too (non-colonial of course.) The place was crawling with tourists, and the Cuban ushers (whose main job was to make sure people don’t touch things or take pictures) were SO eager to get the heck out of there once the clock struck 2pm. I guess I would be too. I wonder what they thought of me in my flowery khanga dress. Nobody in New York ever guesses that I’m African; I wonder what they think here.
I bought a can of tuna to make a sandwich for lunch, caught a taxi and headed home. It’s a drizzly overcast day today, perfect for staying in. I had a dream about my dad last night, something that doesn’t happen that often. He was asleep on a pile of folded and recently laundered clothes. I woke him up and he said something about being too tired to put the clothes away. I think I also have a crush on Che Guevara. I mean…in theory. He was probably the worst date ever, always running off into some jungle to fight for big ideals and stuff, not really the flowers and perfume type. So it would definitely have been a crush from afar. I’m just saying.
Oh, and I finished “Dirty Havana Trilogy” today. What a trip!