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
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