For images that were published in Cuba, see La Jiribilla's "Galería de fotos."
US-Cuba theatrical exchanges during the late 90s took place in a unidirectional manner: the Cuban diaspora in the U.S., though not in Miami, had the opportunity to get to know some Cuban artists but the opposite was not true. This is the reason why Alberto Sarraín and Lillian Manzor organized the First Monologue-Performance Festival in 2001. It was described by the Miami press as “the ten days that changed the cultural landscape of Miami” because, for the first time, the city brought 23 artists from Havana to Miami and received them with open arms. It is important to analyze the outcome of this festival at two levels: first, the impact it had on those involved, and then its impact in the public sphere. "In that brief moment… I realized how far we have come, and how, right under the eyes of both governments, the invisible barrier that has separated our communities for four decades is crumbling. Leave it to the arts to be the hammer that deals that fatal blow to this political conundrum. . . After 10 days of kisses, embraces and emotional tears what struck me most about this theater event is the banality of trying to keep our communities split" (Marta Barber 2001). And in Spanish: "En mi función de 25 años como crítica teatral en esta ciudad jamás había presenciado algo semejante. Alcancé a ver una sola presentación de este hecho histórico, este encuentro entre dos aguas en la tierra firme de la Florida, donde un público ferviente, mayoritariamente joven, abarrotó las salas destinadas al Festival sin que ocurriera un percance, ni siquiera una manifestación en contra. Actitud ejemplar y generosa de los cubanos miamenses" (Norma Niurka, "Breve pausa", 2001). The experience of the festival, the interrelational communication that was established, moved all participants to act and think differently, to open themselves to the others in our midst; it was an experience that forced everyone to change their views of Miami and of Havana, and to act accordingly as agents of that change. The festival “whose beginning initiated a groundbreaking cultural and artistic journey and whose ending undeniably opened doors long shut” (Leonin 2001). It was proof that transformative politics can take place in the realm of culture. Indeed, as one of the festival directors observed: "Much more than a display of theater, the festival has been a door that has opened a lesson in civil tolerance and peaceful coexistence" (Leonin 2001).
Author: Lillian Manzor (2012)