I often feel like I haven’t really experienced a city until it rains. As soon as the skies open up, everything one sees as normal changes. Around my home in Virginia, farmers sing praises for the health of the crops, in California, driver’s brake lights shine through the mist as warnings of unsteady steering, and in Cuba, people crowd into stores and under awnings to listen to the music that plays on.
I noticed this this morning during our walking tour of Old Havana – taking in the sites, meeting some locals, learning some history, and getting a feel for the city.
Later, we rumbaed.
By the hospitality and graciousness of one Sue Herrera, a friend of CubaNatura Tours, we clambered up a narrow spiral staircase to perch on the roof and sit in awe of the magic that is rumba. The group played and danced guaguanco, yambu, and Abakua. Not a single one of us was without a smile as we unconsciously swayed and shimmied in our seats to the rhythm.
And then it began. The rain started slow and we were glad to feel it for it was beastly hot. But, as most things in Cuba, it came on full force and started pouring. The dancing and music continued as some of us spun circles under the downpour and others closed in tight to protect the instruments.
When the rain became too unmanageable, the musicians and the group pushed their ways inside of Sue’s flat. With barely space for breathing, we conversed and gestured and laughed our way through the better part of an hour. After that, the musicians invited us to a Cuban style barbeque where they were playing next.
The rain subsided and, like the rest of Havana, we crawled out from under our shelter and checked for droplets, palms up. When all read as safe, a handful of us headed off to the barbeque to hear more rumba. What you see in the beginning of this video is the dance of the Abakua – an Afro-Cuban secret society. Shortly after, the rains came, and we were baptized on the enchanted island.
-Colleen Daly ’12