Cat’s Curiosity: The Hidden Country

11 August 2011

Written by: Cat Brooke

I recently went to ‘Ballet Revolucion’, the Cuban ballet, and before you groan and shut your browser in protest…I’m not going to bore you with a review (although it is the most spectacular ballet I’ve ever seen and you should see it).

During the show a woman behind me whispered – loud enough for several rows to hear – ‘oh, my, they are so buff’ and proceeded to giggle excessively.

Now, there are many things about this that seriously bother me. But I have a word limit, and not to get too deep and meaningful, but what about the man behind the mask?

I understand and accept that everyone sees with a different perspective, but it worries me that people are potentially walking around with their eyes completely shut. I’m not saying that I didn’t notice the abs. What I saw first was a group of people who would have never expected to get on a plane in their lives, let alone travel overseas. These people earn $15 a month whether they are a dancer or a doctor.

Clearly what I saw and what this woman saw were two completely different things. The sad thing is, she’s not the only one. Most people who watch this ballet will see good technique, great choreography, sexy abs, while they sip their ridiculously priced wine during the intermission and be pleasantly entertained. I’m just curious…how rose coloured are those glasses you’re wearing there?

Viewers don’t realise that the only reason that they are able to be entertained like this, is because the government has given these performers permission to leave the country. I guarantee you that if they experience the luxurious way we live and want to stay, they won’t be let back into Cuba easily – and if on a very slim chance they do get back in, the government will have taken their home. Still enjoying the show? With every perfect turn, and every seamless dance, I felt more and more conflicted.

These amazing Cuban dancers absolutely deserve to be here. They deserve to be able to take their show on tour. But what about the thousands of other Cubans that are stuck, hoping one day their lives will improve?

To anyone looking in, Cubans by all means appear free. They earn their wages, they chose their profession, they have a great education system, they can marry who they like and have a family. But what you may not think about is what’s beneath the surface: what good is an education and a career if you can never learn more than what you’re told? If you can’t put things into practise and experience them?

Granted, Cubans listen to what they want, say what they want and the government isn’t going to storm their house. But, then again, the government doesn’t need to. They’ve been controlled for so long, they are completely lost between who they want to be and who the government has shaped them to be. What’s worse is they don’t even try to fight it because they know nothing will change.

I guess what I’m trying to get at and what will constantly bother me, is how people are not aware of this – it’s literally in front of us and people still aren’t asking questions deeper than ‘how did he get such amazing abs?’

The amount of ads I see trying to raise money and awareness for third world countries is phenomenal, yet not one of them even touches on Cuba. And why would you bother looking further into this country – on the surface they are poor, but they have enough. They survive, so they slip under the radar. When’s the last time someone asked you to survive on $15 a month (yes, I know that’s relative)? And when’s the last time you were only allowed to use restricted access internet (and yes, Facebook is included in the restriction)?

I’m not trying to fix world hunger; there are plenty of people working on that.  I want you to look at the places that simply go unnoticed. Cuba, just like its inhabitants, is stuck, and maybe if we all look deeper it will become unavoidable for people to not look back.

Cat Brooke is a final-year Bachelor of Creative Arts student at La Trobe University and is part of upstart‘s editorial team. You can follow her on Twitter: @CathrynBrooke