Jack & Ayda Lucero Fleck
Singing at the Casa de Trova, the historic gathering place for troubadors in Santiago.
Singing at Salon Vitrales--a small beautiful hall with a modern art stained glass ceiling and indoor landscaping--with a Venezuelan chorus who cheered us on throughout the festival, and a Cuban chorus, Amantis, who sang like angels, as did the 26 Cuban choruses participating in the festival, as well as the approximately 20 choruses from all over Latin America and from Sweden and Spain (and ourselves, of course, the only U.S. chorus in attendance).
Listening at an informal gathering to the national chorus of Cuba--truly a breathtaking, emotional experience to hear the richness of these voices against the backdrop of hardship in Cuba and knowing the unjust reality of continuing U.S. hostility to Cuba.
Hearing the a cappella sound of Vocal Sampling--a group which incredibly duplicates the sound of a full percussion conga band using only their voices.
Walking into the Sanctuario del Cobre--a sacred basilica for Catholics and Santeros (an African-based Cuban religion) and hearing a Cuban choir sing "Deep River" the Negro spiritual from the U.S.
Performing at Sala Dolores, a former church, now an acoustically designed concert hall with 200+ seats (it was packed), singing our hearts out, and getting a rousing standing ovation.
Watching an Afro-Cuban folkloric dance presented by a troupe of medical students--called 3 de Deciembre--an intoxicating blur of colors, rhythm, motion, sensuality, and celebration.
Visiting the AIDS sanatorium outside of Santiago to see the humanity of the Cuban AIDS program--comfortable apartments set on a breezy scenic hilltop and AIDS/HIV positive residents who choose to live there.
Singing Silent Night at a Baptist church--the congregation in Spanish and us in English--and feeling the heartfelt warmth of ordinary Cubans.
Singing Son de la Loma--which Lichi called the "Hymn of Santiago"--while parading through the streets with several other choruses and a crowd of Santiago citizens the last night.
Talking to several of our friends that we met in 1993, and learning that living conditions have improved, albeit slightly, since 1993--food is more plentiful, transportation is more available, and tourism, despite all of its negative contradictions, is bringing in foreign exchange.
Along with these highs, we experienced complete exasperation in failing to gain approval for our instrumental teacher Guillermo Cespedes to travel with us--a close encounter with Cuban bureaucracy and inefficiency. And, regrettably, we were often besieged by children, hustlers, and poor people asking for money or gifts.