Cuban Love translated into Fiesta Cubana!
by Jen Martinez
(Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)
I am a Canadian who first visited Cuba in 2001 to learn Spanish at the Instituto Superior de Arte for an intensive 2 month immersion program in Havana. It was an intense 2 months and I came out of it immersed with a Cuban boyfriend. I returned to Cuba twice a year and had a new boyfriend every year it seemed! Finally after puttting all these experiences behind me (yes the majority of Cubans take advantage of what you as a foreigner can offer, namely money and the possibility of leaving the country, luckily I found out relatively easily before investing all my heart or my money) at the end of 2004 I met a wonderful Cuban dancer from my friend's professional folkloric dance group. After about 7 visits to Cuba under my belt, I had perfected my Spanish and Salsa dancing which actually won him over! That first night we walked from Karl Marx theatre down the whole Malecon right to Prado, a good few hours. HE was the first one to invite ME for a drink - AND PAID FOR THEM BOTH! with the 200 peso MN salary he just received from performances that month.
That gesture was the first clue that he was different than all the others! He was one of the few proud Cubans who will NOT ask for things, though he welcomes them graciously if offered. I was studying and working in Cuba for 4 months and I ended up staying another 3 months til 2005 just to live with him and experience every facet of daily life there. I knew he was the right one for me because I took the time to live with him, and get to know him and the family. I only recommend marrying Cubans if you've had a similar long-term experience living there, and speak Spanish very well, as a 1 or 2 week trip meeting a Cuban at a resort for example will not work out in the end, especially if there is a language barrier. Most Cubans work in resorts for the heightened contact with money and foreigners...both can be very powerful motivations.
Anyhow my Cuban dancer and I got married in Havana March 2006, with lots of close family from both sides present, then I went back to Canada to start the lengthly invitation process and he arrived 10 months later. Since then, I have helped him adjust to a new language, culture and climate (-30C is the worst!) so that he could work in his profession and passion - as a dance teacher and performer. With a lot of perseverence and support, we opened Fiesta Cubana Dance School in 2007. Now after 2 years in business, we have inspired many students to learn about Cuban dance and culture, with several eager to go to Cuba and learn to dance and speak Spanish as I did. (And possibly they secretly want to meet a wonderful Cuban man as I did too!) Good luck, I think I got one of the few good ones left on the island!