Dulce Maria

I danced in Dulce Maria’s kitchen.

Dulce Maria is a beautiful Afro-Cuban woman who hosts musical soireés on the roof of her apartment building in Vieja Habana, overlooking the colonial Spanish Cathedral.

In a climate like Cuba, life is lived outdoors
and Dulce Maria’s roof had all the trappings of a summer-cabin living room.

The night was soft and warm,
and the air wrapped itself around you.

Passing clouds threatened to organize the humidity into rain
so Dulce Maria launched into a song to the Santeria god of the crossroads.
I looked up and the sky was clear.

She taught us how to son and cha-cha-chá under the clotheslines,
and my dancing improved dramatically with some smooth Cuban rum.

As the evening was coming to an end, the clouds returned with a vengeance and drove us all inside.
Dulce Maria, her guitarists, base player, drummers and about a dozen women jammed into her tiny, low-ceilinged kitchen.

The men started playing,
she started singing
and we all started dancing.

The rhythm of the drums reverberated off all four walls
and came down off the ceiling
and filled my body.

The air turned to liquid
and filled my lungs.

Then the song ended,
the rain ended,
and I stepped back out on to the roof
and stood under the clotheslines
as the lights in the cathedral steeple spilled out over Vieja Habana.

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