Cuba Salsa Night 2, with Yerba Buena
Century Ballroom, 915 E Pine St, Second Floor, 523-1720, Sat Sept 30, 8:30 pm, $15.
DURING THE CARNAVAL festival last year in Havana, a young Cuban I was with compared the state-sponsored fiesta to coco raspado, a common Cuban dessert. In typical Cuban fashion, the "coconut shavings" referred to are usually old and dry, so the cook heaps on tons of sickly sweet syrup to disguise the taste. The metaphor was clear: The often bitter pill of living under the yoke of the American embargo is made just a bit more palatable by the annual sweetness of the huge block party, replete as it is with legions of beautiful Cubans in thongs and pasties dancing down the waterfront malecón.
This weekend, the Cuban concept of sugar coating is coming to Capitol Hill's Century Ballroom, with a Communist-friendly fundraiser masquerading as a relaxing, apolitical evening of traditional Cuban music. The event is co-hosted by the Seattle Cuba Friendship Committee and the Seattle Cuba Sister Committee, two local ecumenical coalitions of socialists and humanitarians who are working to subvert the American embargo against Cuba. The specific proceeds of the event will help finance up to a dozen caravanistas from Seattle, who will drive all the way to Mexico with embargo-busting supplies for Cuba before flying the last leg to Havana in time for the Second World Meeting of Friendship and Solidarity from November 10-14.
That means the concert will essentially be a political evening, which could be a downer if it weren't for that coco raspado sugar coating: For just $15, you not only get a free hour of salsa dance lessons with Melinda Rector and Gustavo "El General," a local salsa DJ, but you also get a full evening of live Cuban music by Yerba Buena, whose smooth, warm renditions of Cuban ballads will allow you to test out your new salsa steps without seeming a bit too foolish. Not only that, but the Century Ballroom is a perfect location for an old-style charanga dance: The room's high ceilings and faded glamour are strongly reminiscent of Havana's own decadent state of disrepair.
Although event co-organizer Melinda Rector said she wanted the evening to be "as much about dancing and as little about political diatribes as possible," there is no question that helping to end the embargo is a good thing. Until Castro came jogging down from the mountains in 1959, Cuba was run by Fulgencio Batista, a weasel-faced playboy/ dictator who sold the country to U.S. corporations and mob syndicates. When Castro gave Cuban land back to its people, America duly wreaked upon him a vengeance of Biblical proportions: dozens of assassination attempts and 40 years of trying to make all other Cubans so hungry and miserable that they would have no choice but to whack Castro themselves. It is a testament to the power of the socialist ideal that the country still survives in its current state.
Not that everything is coming up rosas with Cuban socialism. The real problem is that socialism can be boring. Very, very boring. Remember Poland? In 40 years of socialist history, their most exciting personality turned out to be grassroots leader Lech Walesa, a shipyard worker with the charisma of a boiled sausage. Havana, the exotic capital fueled by rum and sugar, may be more exciting than Gdansk, but its brand of socialism is the same old Dullsville. For a brief, tedious taste, here is the exact itinerary of the first day of the Solidarity Conference.
Friday, November 10
10:00-10:30: Inauguration and Welcome (Karl Marx Theater)
10:30-10:45: Explanation of the program of work and rules of order
11:15-1:15: Presentation by a leader of the Revolution
3:00-5:00: Exposition by a leader of the Revolution
5:30-7:00: Interventions by the delegations
The organizers of the event want to let readers know that all citizens are invited to join the caravanistas. If you do wind up going to the conference itself, I will be the first to congratulate you on your steely resolve to risk great tedium in defense of an embattled nation. As for myself, I will be supporting the Revolution simply by buying a ticket, finding a beautiful woman to dance with, and drinking sugary rum mojitos until they throw me out.