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Comparsa Raices Cubanas is a traditional, Cuban-style group in its first year of Carnaval participation. The company was founded by Susana Arenas and Ramon Ramos, two professional dancers arriving to the Bay Area from their native Cuba in the last five years.
Raices Cubanas itself is comprised of a number of Susana and Ramon's dancers, students and friends as well as students from Cesar Chavez Elementary School. Common to all members is a love of Cuban music. The group brings a "cubanilla" or uniquely Cuban flavor to this year's parade in celebration of the spirit and sabor of Cuba.

This year's theme for the group is "From the Cabildo to Carnaval," and incorporates elements of traditional Cuban culture. Cuba has a distinct history as a Spanish colony populated by slaves of African descent and Chinese laborers. The "cabildos" - loosely, ethnic associations - had an important role in the island's history as safeguards of African culture. At these neighborhood locales, Africans of a specific heritage would meet and engage in practices from their homeland.
Cuba's African-descendant population was most heavily influenced by the Yoruba people of modern-day Nigeria; the Yoruba religion is the most widely-practiced in Cuba to this day. This culture was preserved in the cabildos dedicated to its practice.

Yoruba religion involves worship of and communication with a group of "deities" called Orishas. The Orishas manifest different aspects of nature and the human character. A group of dancers will represent the Yoruba cabildo, portraying the Orishas through dance and elaborate costume.
The Orisha at the center of the cabildo is Obatala, the mother / father of the world, represented in white. Obatala will be shown in the comparsa in male and female manifestations (Obatala can be either,) and will also be given tribute in a large altar on the float.

Obatala is important to this year's parade because this Orisha embodies peace, the theme of this year's parade. It unfortunate that the United States Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has recently placed Cuba on the list of terrorist nations, causing strain in diplomatic relations between the two states and complicating travel for citizens of both nations, making it harder for Cubans and Americans to maintain one-on-one relationships.

In addition to the cabildo representation, Raices Cubanas will also have a "comparsa" group dancing at the front of its procession. Comparsa (or conga) is the traditional Cuban, Carnaval street-dance, derived from the slave marches only occasionally permitted. The comparsa parade with hand drums, parade drums, gongs and brake drums played with iron rods and sometimes incorporate an interesting instrument called the "Chinese trumpet" which reputedly was introduced to Cuba in the 19th century by Chinese laborers. The Raices float will transport a band playing comparsa music and the comparsa dancers will be represented in "guaracherro" costumes of red, white and blue, the colors of the Cuban flag.

Comparsa Raices Cubanas invites you to join us in celebrating the Cuban spirit, perseverant and vibrant in these difficult times.


Painting in logo Raices Cubanas by Sue Matthews

 
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