So What if She Can’t Dance and Sing: A Testimony from the Afrohabanera

Dawn Duke


From the early 1990s, a new film gained momentum in which there were no actors, i.e. contracted, paid, and famous, rather ordinary people, residing at the fringes of society, who momentarily were on camera, guided by a director determined to film realistic images. Cidade de Deus (Brazil), Pixote: a lei do mais fraco (Brazil), La vendedora de rosas (Colombia), Rodrigo D (Colombia), and Ratas y ratones (Ecuador) are examples.  There is little footage about Cubans during the Special Period (1989-1995). Further, until then no production had directly and realistically focused on Afro-Cuban women. Rolando Díaz’s 1998 production, Si me comprendieras (If You Could Understand Me) offers an opportunity to contemplate her version of the Special Period. Havana comes alive, embedded in that artistic technique of presenting the black female body as the medium for navigating issues such as culture, revolution, and nationhood. While music and dance serve as the point of entry for displaying the fabric of society, they transition into tools that assess how empowered Afro-Cuban women have become during and after the Revolution, especially at the time of the filming thirty years later.


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