Cubalandia Comes Ashore In Miami

Written By ArtBurst Team
January 26, 2016 at 6:48 PM

The interactive performance, Cubalandia, which makes its U.S. debut this Friday as part of the Out in the Tropics festival, invites Cubans to embark on an almost impossible journey: a vacation in their own country. Directed by Nelda Castillo, founder of the Cuban theater group El Ciervo Encantado (The Enchanted Deer) and performed by Mariela Brito — the two co-created the piece — Cubalandia begins with the character Yara La China raucously offering tours of Cuba in the country’s two currencies: the peso in which Cubans earn their salaries and the Cuban convertible peso (called the CUC), which is the necessary currency for food, travel, and hotels. Regular pesos earned don’t add up to many CUCs, so Cubalandia’s dark comedy sets out to expose the hypocrisy of this two-tiered economy. When Lillian Manzor, professor and founding director of the Cuban Theater Digital Archive at the University of Miami, saw the performance in Cuba, she was surprised by its humor, a departure from the group’s more serious style: “It’s a performance where you laugh with the main character, but it’s a laughter that really makes you think about what’s going on. It reveals the way in which everyone participates in an underground economy.” Cubalandia will be presented in Spanish with English supertitles at the Colony Theatre on Miami Beach. We recently had the opportunity to ask Castillo about Cubalandia and the group’s U.S. debut. What was the inspiration for Cubalandia? Cubalandia emerged at a time when the government announced the extension of self-employment in Cuba. Consequently, the self-employed individual as a figure burst onto the national scene. From there, we began a research process that culminated in the debut of the stage performance where there are two protagonists: Yara La China and the audience, where her potential clients are. She offers excursions in Cuba’s two monetary systems and in each package she recommends strategies for recuperating expenses. Does Cubalandia use props? To illustrate her itineraries, Yara chooses a fragmented map of the island. The map, called “Doble Moneda” [Double Currency], was created by artist Lazaro Saavedra. It serves as a backdrop and reference point throughout the entire performance. Since the performance is a dialogue between Yara La China and the Cuban public, what adjustments have you made to present the work to Miami audiences? I don’t believe we’ve had to make many adjustments since Miami audiences are — for obvious reasons — very familiar with the reality in Cuba. Cubans who live in Miami are not only knowledgeable about the issue, they are part of it. What might slip past European or Latin American audiences will be as clear for Miamians as it would be for audiences in Havana or Camagüey. Is there anything else you would like audiences to know about Cubalandia? We are very happy that this will be El Ciervo Encantado’s first performance in the United States. We have great hopes for our performances in Miami since, after Cuba, it’s the place where the work makes the most sense because it’s a reflection on issues for which all Cubans suffer. This article first appeared in the Miami Herald

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