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Cutting Oneself with a Machete in Trinidad

Cutting Oneself with a Machete in Trinidad

The pictures above were taken in Trinidad, Cuba in July 2009. I was touring with groups in Cuba, showing them Cuban culture from the inside, revolving around Cuban dance and music. I travel the unbeaten path in Cuba with tiny groups, and let them experience things that will not normally be in a tour guidebook, besides mine – My Seductive Cuba.

Cuba is a messy place. It’s broken and full of paradoxes, yet it is full of heart-warming people and magical experiences. It is a place that will penetrate your heart and move it. Accepting the imperfections of the Cuban system changes your perspective on life and puts in focus what is really important – what is in your heart. It’s transformational!

When we arrived in Trinidad, the group was electrified by the beauty and could not believe how calm and colonial this little town was. We were staying in the historic part that had been restored, and it was breathtaking and so surreal. Trinidad puts a spell on every person that visits it. As soon as we got there, they understood why they needed to see and experience Trinidad – a place where time had stood still.

While the group was settling at the casas [home stays], I stopped at the various locations that offer shows to find out what was being offered that night. We were in luck! It turned out that there was an Afro-Cuban Folklore group performing that night. I reserved places for us on the spot. Usually these kinds of shows are the most interesting to watch and make you feel like you are being transported back to colonial times.

At 10 PM, we sat down over Mojitos, Cubatas and Cuba Libres to watch the show. It was the real deal. I have had the fortune of watching many shows in life and some were pretty intense, but nothing like what I have experience in Cuba, at least not before visiting the island for the first time.

They performed a dance style that came from Haiti. It was danced very differently than the way it is danced in Havana. It had the same storyline but the costumes and movements were very different. The same dance in Havana would have had more shoulder shakes, whereas in Trinidad it was danced more with open skirts and flowing shoulder movements. This is because the African dances that arrived in Cuba through the slaves came from various regions and villages and were kept in their original form in the different parts of Cuba.

Some of the dances were so intense that I’ve glanced at my group wondering if they were captivated or terrified. They were all glowing with a huge smile smeared over their faces. It was exactly what I have hoped for. This is what I’ve wanted them to experience in Cuba – the Trinidad magic.

The show included Congo dances such as Palo, Yuka and Makuta. It also included the Haitiano style, which includes Gaga, Vodu and Tumba Francesa. Each time, a different character came out and told a story through the dance. In this picture, the character used rum, Cuban cigars and a machete [knife]. Sometimes they screamed or were dancing with the knife demonstrating as if they were cutting themselves, telling the story of power, struggle and triumph. It was extremely intense to watch but also breath taking. I really think that this picture captures the feeling and intensity that we all felt in the moment. We left elevated and glowing from the experience, feeling that we were inside of a magical and interesting world just waiting to be discovered and for stories to be told about it. May 2012

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