The Cuban Exile in Havana / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

”Departure” is a performance by the company The Enchanted Deer that tackles the drama of those who left Cuba. (The Enchanted Deer)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 27 February 2017 — From the beginning you feel that something is missing, you shift awkwardly in the seat in the small room at The Enchanted Deer, although you want to seem calm. After a long version of Amazing Grace, you will be detached enough to take in what follows. The stage is lit, before us, almost like a mirror, and other rows of seats appear, occupied by photographs and a woman. The actress Mariela Brito leads us through a national memory that is not spoken of but that is among us, we Cubans, with an almost physical presence.

Mariela, in a colloquial tone, tells us why many of those who left went away, stories very similar to those we tell of our own families, between friends and acquaintances. But beyond the stories told, like empty rafts float others, those who didn’t live to tell and who are, somehow, the protagonists. This is the absence that the audience can fill with its own memories.

The staging, deliberately slow, allows us to digest, metabolize facts, moments that mark one of the great dramas of our country: the family and social fracture. As if that were not enough, a screen runs through the successive departures of the last 58 years. Scars that we carry and that – the performance is here to remind us – do not end.

The audience interacts with the performance ‘Departure’. (The Enchanted Deer)

At the end of the performance, the audience is invited to approach the proscenium and interact with the photos, read the texts in the form of short letters that accompany many of the images, confirm, now closer, that they are indeed Celia Cruz, Jorge Valls, Cabrera Infante or Ana Mendieta, along with Maria, Juan or Manuel. The empty seats seem to tell us: Do not forget. Do not forget, with that dangerous selective oblivion that does so much damage to society and that history needs to reconstruct.

Inevitably, the site acts as an emetic. The accounting of this period, begun in 1959, raises the question of whether a project built at the cost of such sacrifice, the exile and death of those who are beyond the performance on the stage of The Enchanted Deer, of those who are absent, was worth it. But this is a brief chronicle. That would be a very long reflection.