La Despedida

By Carlos Martinez, Cuba: Culture & Society, Summer 2013

Last night was our going away party, nuestra despedida. I was in a good mood the entire night. Good food. Good company. Good vibes. I enjoyed being able to have meaningful conversations with so many of the Cubans I have grown to love, but what I enjoyed most was the celebration itself. Seeing Cubans and Americans dancing and living just made me forget about everything else.

Pura vida. A quote I learned to love in Nicaragua last year. I thought back to last summer. In the midst of reminiscing, I was reminded of this motif in my life: dance. It is through dance that I have been able to connect with people. It is through dance that I have been able to build some of the most meaningful relationships in my life.

The Cubans were better dancers, but that did not stop them or the Americans from pairing up to dance multiple ruedas del casino. Afterwards, we clowned around and came up with basic line dances and combinations. We exchanged moves and laughs. We had a blast, dancing.

For that moment, we were one. It was as if every cultural and physical characteristic that made us different from one another did not exist, did not matter. The music brought us together and the dancing helped us express ourselves and communicate with one another. It was beautiful.

I jokingly thought to myself, “What if the world were like this? What if we could look past the superficial and just dance with one another?” I did not muse over this metaphor for life all night long. It was brief moment, a brief thought. After all, it was a party—our party—and I wanted to have fun.

Later that night, a not-so-sober Cuban approached me and wanted to discuss the meaning of life. I thought to myself, sarcastically, “Oh, boy. This should be interesting.” He asked me if I was Puerto Rican. I nodded. Then he shouted, “That does not matter!” I looked at him somewhat confused. He said to me, “You are Puerto Rican. I am Cuban. We are one.” Again, I looked at him with a befuddled expression.

“Your flag does not matter. Your island does not matter. My flag does not matter. My island does not matter. At the end of the day, we are human. If I stab you, what would happen?” he asked. At this point, I was afraid to hear his response.

“You will bleed. If you stab me, what will happen? I will bleed. We need to let go of these prides that are holding us back from loving one another. We are all human. We are all one.”

I looked over his shoulder and saw a few individuals still going strong (despite that fact that it was close to four in the morning), and I thought to myself that this inebriated man had a good point. Despite the differences between him and me, Cuba and Puerto Rico, Cuba and the US… we are all one, and we will always have those mediums that bring us together.