Culture

Cuban Professional Ballet Dancers Are Paid $30 Per Month, That’s The Same Amount Doctors Are Paid On The Island

There are a lot of beautiful things that come to mind when you think of Cuba. Cuisine, art, history… rum. But few know that the small island in the Caribean is also home to one of the most celebrated arts in the world. As it turns out, when it comes to dancem the Cuban Ballet Company brings pretty much world-class standard to the art of ballet. 

So next time you want to impress a hottie with your worldly knowledge, maybe throw a few of our obscure facts out and watch them swoon over your smarts.

1. It was founded in 1948.

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The official founding date of the Cuban Ballet Company is October 28, 1948. 

2. The official school for the company is the Cuban National Ballet School.

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While the Cuban National Ballet School isn’t technically the Cuban Ballet Company, the two are pretty much intertwined. It means that students from the School can usually take it for granted that once they graduate, they can begin dancing for the Company.

3. The Cuban Ballet Company was founded by a husband and wife duo.

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Prima ballerina Alicia Alonso and her husband, Alberto, were the founders for “Ballet Alicia Alonso.” Two years later, the two also established “Alicia Alonso Academy of Ballet.” By 1956, the pair saw their businesses transformed into the Cuban Ballet Company and Cuban National Ballet School, respectively. It’s worth noting that while the two of them founded the Company and School, Alicia Alonso has been the real driving force behind them.

4. Dancers in the company earn $30 a month.

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Since it’s a communist regime, Cuban doctors and skilled workers earn the same amount.

5. The National Ballet School provides courses for international students.

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This is a must-know for any of you who want to study ballet professionally. The International Dance Program is directed by Alicia Alonso herself! 

6. The Cuban Ballet Company incorporates Latin American culture into its dance techniques.

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Apparently, the Cuban dance form draws from its Ibero-America, Caribbean roots.

7. Unlike a lot of other countries, both the Cuban Ballet Company and the National Ballet School are funded by the state.

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And it has been since 1959 when Fidel Castro took control of Cuba.

8. That being said, the Company and School weren’t always so talented.

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Despite the fact that the two were regarded as highly artistic and talented cohorts, they struggled for money during their early years. Before 1959, they had to make ends meet without any assistance from the state.

9. Over the years, the Cuban Ballet Company has performed the likes of “Giselle,” “The Swan Lake,” and “Coppélia.”

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In doing so, the Company both choreographed and performed completely new versions of these classics. Impressive, no?

10. Students for the National Ballet School are handpicked by the Ballet itself.

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Talent scouts travel the country searching for new talent, searching for gifted students in over 14 provinces.

11. The School follows strict criteria when it seeks new students.

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Gifted students are usually trained from childhood. In order to be eligible, these kids must have good musicality, the right body proportions, and the ability to follow simple steps.

12. The National Ballet School doesn’t just teach dance.

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Once students have been accepted into the School, they typically dance from 7 am to 1:30 pm. Afterward, they then learn the French language, piano, how to read music, folklore, and a whole array of different dances.

13. It takes eight years to graduate from the National Ballet School.

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So, if you ever get the chance to see the Cuban Ballet Company, know that they’ve worked very hard to get where they are today!

14. The National Ballet School turns out 40 students per year.

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Imagine graduating from your school, knowing there are only 39 other students graduating at the same time as you. Wild.

15. The Cuban Ballet Company has created more than 600 works.

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And it’s also performed in more 60 countries worldwide. Having the Cuban Ballet Company on your resume is seen as a huge plus if you’re a ballet dancer, as it’s pretty much considered to be the top echelon of ballet training and professionalism. 

16. On its 50th anniversary, the Ballet and Alicia Alonso were awarded Lazaro Pena Order.

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Given to the Alonso by Castro himself, this is the highest civil decoration that is given in Cuba.

17. While the Ballet is highly regarded in Cuba, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t had its defections.

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The Cuban Ballet Company traveled to the US for the first time in 2003. It was during this time that five members defected, as they sought to join American ballet troupes instead.

18. Believe it or not, but Alicia Alonso still directs The Nutcracker at the Valencia Main Theatre.

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She’s literally 98 years old, almost blind, and is still the general director of the Ballet. What. A. Woman. Granted, while there have been calls to have someone else take over, Alonso keeps on with her work. Chances are, she’s never really been held back by the fact that she’s almost blind – Alonso has been working with an eye condition throughout her entire life. 

19. The Cuban Ballet Company performs to cheering crowds.

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Everyone knows Cubans know how to tur up. And it’s the same when the dancers perform. This is largely due to the fact that the arts are highly regarded in Cuba. 

20. A documentary was made about the Cuban Ballet Company.

PBS / Mirror Dance

Well, sort of. “Mirror Dance” follows the lives of Cuban-born identical twins, Ramona and Margarita de Saá, as they navigate their roles in the Ballet and international politics. In fact, Ramona is currently the director of the Escuela Nacional de Ballet in Cuba.

21. Did we mention that the Cuban Ballet Company founder Alicia Alonso is a Prima Ballerina Assoluta?

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For those of you who need to brush up on your ballet terms, “Prima Ballerina Assoluta” is a rare title awarded to ballet dancers who have had a prestigious international career, or have given exceptional service to a particular ballet company. While there’s no universal procedure for awarding the title, usually a ballet company, government or head of state is responsible for recognizing the efforts of the ballet dancer in question. And Alicia Alonso? She’s had such a long, storied ballet career, it’s undeniable that she epitomizes the role of a Prima Ballerina Assoluta.

22. The Cuban Ballet Company’s principal venue can be found in Havana.

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The Great Theatre of Havana is where a lot of the Company’s performances can be seen. As much as it’s a huge effort to have to travel to Havana to see the Company in action, we can imagine that their familiarity with the stage must make their performances that much more amazing!

23. The Cuban Ballet Company is known as the “Ballet Nacional de Cuba” in Spanish.

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It makes sense, really, since it’s the top tier ballet company in Cuba.

24. The founder of the Cuban Ballet Company was still dancing into her 70s.

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Alicia Alonso gave her last performance in 1993 when she was 72.

25. Some of the very first dancers at the Cuban National Ballet School include Ernesto Alvarez, Sadaise Arencibia, Elier Bourzac, and Joel Carreno.

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If you couldn’t guess, these dancers are a very big deal when it comes to ballet.

Which fact surprised you the most? Let us know on our Facebook page – you can find it by clicking on the logo at the top of the page.

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Culture

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Jorge Rivera-Pineda / Mexico Broadcasters

It is no secret that Mexican society is often affected by displays of homophobia. Even though there have been great advances such as the legalization of same-sex marriage in some states, the largely Catholic country is home of opinion leaders who are conservative and whose masculinity seems to be constantly threatened by anything that doesn’t spell out “straight.”

Added to this, Mexican political discourse is anchored in a solemn approach to institutions and the myths of the wars of Independence and Revolution, the two historical moments that have defined Mexican political life and foundational narratives for the past 200 years. So a recent painting hosted at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, perhaps the most iconic building dedicated to the arts in the Latin American country, made conservatives poner el grito en el cielo, as it dares to reimagine one of Mexico’s revolutionary leaders as a queer character.

For many, Zapata is akin to a deity and the image of heroic masculinity. The painting is, however, incendiary for exactly that reason, because it challenges notions of sex and gender in a day and age were some parts of Mexico are progressive while others remain under the dark clouds of discrimination and segregation of LGBTQ communities.

So this is the 2014 painting “The Revolution” by Fabian Chairez. 

The painting depicts a male figure who resembles the revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, a cornerstone of Mexico’s Revolutionary War. Zapata was beloved by indigenous populations and gente de campo who believed that other revolutionaries were forgetting the most marginalised sectors of society.

But there is a twist: here, Zapata is naked, wearing heels and being totally gender-non-conforming as he rides a voluptuous horse. Chairez told Reuters: “I use these elements like the sombrero and horse and create a proposal that shows other realities, other ways of representing masculinity.”

Definitely not your usual depiction of the times, but surely a piece that is confronting in the best possible way. The painting was chosen as part of an exhibition on the revolutionary hero, but things got nasty. 

Zapata’s grandchildren have spoken out against the painting in the most homophic way, and things got bloody.

Zapata’s family demanded that the painting be taken off the exhibition because it allegedly “tainted” the public image of their grandfather. Let’s take a minute here and think about this: it is actually the worst possible kind of homophobia, as it implies that being queer is wrong and that it would be a blemish on Zapata’s legacy.

There were protests inside Bellas Artes and university students defending the work and freedom of expression actually got into a fistfight with farmers who stormed Bellas Artes chanting homophobic slurs and threatening to burn the painting in a gross display of toxic masculinity and an Inquisitorial outlook on life and art.

As reported by CE Noticias Financieras, Federico Ovalle, leader of the Independent Central Of Agricultural and Peasant Workers, said: “The picture denigrates the personality and trajectory of the general and it seems to us that presenting this figure is grotesque, of contempt and contempt of the peasants of the country.”

Luis Vargas Santiago, curator of the exhibit ‘Emiliano Zapata after Zapata’, told Reuters: “Of course it’s fine if they don’t like the painting, they can criticize the exhibition, but to seek to censor freedom of expression, that’s different.” 

The painting can stay, but it is being censored anyway.

As reported by Agence France Presse, the authorities decided that the painting can stay, but with a caveat: “But the Mexican Revolutionary hero’s family will be allowed to place a text beside it stating their strong objections to the work, which shows Zapata draped suggestively over a white horse with a giant erection.”

And the image will also be sort of hidden from public view (which, to be honest, might only increase the influx of visitors to the exhibition).

As AFP continues: “Under the deal, brokered by the Mexican culture ministry, the painting by artist Fabian Chairez will also be removed from promotional materials for the exhibition, “Emiliano. Zapata After Zapata,” which opened last month at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City.”

Even Mexican president AMLO, who has declared his admiration for the revolutionary hero, got involved, ordering his culture minister to get involved. 

So was Emiliano Zapata a queer revolutionary hero? Perhaps, but that is not the point!

For years, historians have tried to get a glimpse into the man who was Emiliano Zapata. Some claim that his overt displays of macho masculinity were perhaps a way to silence any rumors regarding his sexuality. But the point is that it does not matter, or it should not matter, for any other reason that historical accuracy. And it isn’t anyone’s business, is it?

From Wearing Lucky Underwear To Hanging A Goat, These Are All Of The Bizarre Traditions That Could Get You Love In The New Year

Culture

From Wearing Lucky Underwear To Hanging A Goat, These Are All Of The Bizarre Traditions That Could Get You Love In The New Year

When it comes to the year’s final stroke of midnight, y’all know the whole world knows how to turn up. Live streams from across the globe have shown all of the colorful, lively and spectacular ways nations, cultures and people ring in the new year. But the truth of the matter is, that when it comes to the moment the big ball drops, it’s really the people in Latin America that have a leg up on having a good time. With so many culture and traditions, New Year’s Eve celebrations in Latino households get wild.

From starving down food at the stroke of midnight to setting things on fire these are some of our favorites.

1. Cramming grapes down your throat at midnight

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Just at the stroke of midnight, people across Spanish-speaking countries like Cuba and Ecuador measure out 12 grapes and pop them into their mouths. One grape is meant to be good luck for each month of the new year. It’s a pretty cute tradition if you think about it!

2. Sweeping down the house

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The tradition of keeping up with a broom can be seen in various Latin American countries. In some peopleclean and sweep their home to ensure they’re “out with the old” in others they toss out their brooms to symbolize this.

3. Tossing a bucket of water out of the window

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Various Latin American countries get rid of evil and the old with this fun tradition. Some countries like Cuba toss out buckets of water from the front door or window of a house to dump out all bad luck that could come in from the new year. No word on what could happen if someone’s standing below the dumping of water!

4. Selecting all of the underwear and organizing it properly

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The tradition of new underwear for the New Year can be seen across countries throughout the world. But in Latin American countries many believe that the underwear you wear for New Year’s Eve can have a big hand in what ultimately happens to you in the year that comes. For example: red underwear brings in love, yellow underwear brings in fortune. Whatever you do! Don’t wear black, it’s said to bring bad luck.

5. Circling the block with a suitcase

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Eager for a travel adventure in the New Year? Many Latin American cultures subscribe to a believe that if you walk in a circle with a suitcase around your home or neighborhood jet-setting opportunities will come for you in the new year.

6. Getting lit with some effigies:

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For people living in Panama and Ecuador burning “muñecos” — or effigies of famous people, is a way to do away with the old. People who keep up with tradition put muñecos on display after Christmas and then burn them in a bonfire.

7. Ringing in the new year with some carols

Mexicans in Colorado and New Mexico keep up with the caroling tradition by singing  “Dando los Dias” for neighbors on the night of January 1st. On their journey singers are supposed to set out to find anyone by the name of named Manuel and go to his house after all St. Emmanuel is the patron saint of new years.

8. Exchanging hands with silver

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Countries throughout Latin American believe that it is good luck to hold on to silver to bring good fortune in the new year.

9. Sounding off and shooting some bullets into the air

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Gun control people! Still, in Latin neighborhoods in Miami, you can hear the sound of guns being sounded off into the air as a celebration.

10. Hanging with some peeps in an old graveyard 

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For the New Year, Chilean’s often hangs out in Chilean graveyards to say goodbye to the dearly departed.

11. Storing up and stashing back the cash

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 In Ecuador, hiding money around the house is thought to bring prosperity. At the very least, if you’ve forgotten where you’ve hidden your cash and end up finding it again a few months down the road, it’s like getting free money.

12. Donning white

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For a fun Brazilian new year treat, wear white underwear or even dress completely in white! If you do this while jumping seven waves and placing flowers into the ocean you might not just get good luck with money, it could be love and advancement too!

13. Popping off with the fireworks to burn up an Effigy

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Paraguayans and Colombia ring in the new year by creating an effigy called the “Año Nuevo.” They then set it on fire with fireworks at midnight to get rid of all of the bad luck.