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 CONGA LESSONS AT THE BAY OF PIGS           52 MINUTES

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In 2002, three Americans traveled to Cuba under the U.S.  Government's People-to-People exemption of the Trading With the Enemy Act, which at the time allowed for educational and cultural exchanges between the U.S.and Cuba.

The original purpose of the travelers had been to avoid the more than forty years of political drama inherent to American-Cuban relations.  

Instead, they sought to immerse themselves in the vibrant musical culture of Cuba.   They wanted to experience firsthand this small impoverished island with which the American government had all but totally prohibited commercial and cultural contact.

In Havana, the men stayed in what is known on the island as a "Casa Particular" (or private home) this one owned by an elderly woman named Estelle.  Here they paid  for both room and board while taking in the city's famously crumbling facades and its stunning Afro-Cuban music. 

Later they headed south with a driver toward the Bay of Pigs and the cities of Trinidad and Santa Clara.  Their final destination, however, was Santiago de Cuba, where they were invited to stay at another "Casa Particular," this one owned by Cesar.  In fact, Cesar had asked the travelers to attend his family’s holiday feast and while the music and lilting rhythms of the island dominate most of this video, it is this day of Christmas spent with Cesar that gives these 52 minutes an unexpected weight.

Here the American filmmakers realize that it is impossible for Americans to visit Cuba only for its music, that Cuban-American politics is the subtext of nearly everything. 

Here the momentous Bay of Pigs fiasco is recalled and the injustice of its aftermath on the Cuban people – continuing now for over forty-two years – is carved into memory forever.

Yet, this is not merely a meditation on some poorly understood historical event or of some small Caribbean island.  This is, ultimately, a parable for our post 9-11 world where, with our "War on Terror," all of us should wonder if the same errors will be made now as had occurred in the Cold War, and whose effects will linger long after the conflict itself is over.

Produced for Atlantic Productions by Charles Lyman.  Co-Directed by Charles Lyman & Peter Melaragno 

Written, Narrated and Edited by Peter Melaragno.  Copyright Peter Melaragno 2003.

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