Artists, ath­letes cling to their dreams on Ha­vana rooftops

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

HA­VANA: These are hot, hu­mid days in Ha­vana. When the af­ter­noon breeze sweeps in off the sea, Wil­liam Roblejo steps onto the roof of his build­ing, draws his bow across the strings of his vi­o­lin, and runs through his reper­toire of mu­sic to soothe an anx­ious city.

Ac­cess to a rooftop and a breeze is a cov­eted lux­ury in the Cuban cap­i­tal, ar­eas of which have been in lock­down over the coro­n­avirus pan­demic for sev­eral weeks. On other Ha­vana rooftops, the coun­try’s top bal­let dancer rolls out a mat and runs through his po­si­tions and pirou­ettes, an Olympic pen­tath­lete lunges at an imag­i­nary ri­val with an epee, and a Gre­coRo­man wrestling cham­pion pumps iron.

Cuba has im­posed lock­downs only in cer­tain bar­rios, but the gov­ern­ment has called on peo­ple to stay home as the num­ber of con­firmed in­fec­tions climbed above 1,500 this week with 64 deaths.

With tem­per­a­tures ex­ceed­ing 30 de­grees Cel­sius, wa­ter short­ages in some ar­eas of the cap­i­tal and long lines at food stores, Cubans have grown more anx­ious un­der weeks of con­fine­ment.

Adrian Sanchez, first soloist at the Na­tional Bal­let of Cuba, fears above all that his mus­cles and his pos­ture, used to a daily nine-hour train­ing regime, will at­ro­phy. “When all this is over we have to re­turn to the bal­let, and if we come back un­trained, that will be very hard,” said Sanchez, 22.

He prac­tices “two or three hours” a day on the roof of his build­ing, reached through a sky­light and over­look­ing the iconic Rev­o­lu­tion Square. “That way the time goes by faster, and I don’t feel I’m be­ing locked up so long,” he says. Like ev­ery­one else, a good part of his day is spent queue­ing up for food.


Af­ter decades of liv­ing un­der a US block­ade, Cubans are adept at mak­ing do, even un­der the most dif­fi­cult of cir­cum­stances — not least their ath­letes and per­form­ers who now have to find a way to pur­sue their dreams dur­ing the un­cer­tainty fu­eled by the pan­demic.

Leydi Moya pulls out her epee to prac­tice her fenc­ing as part of her prepa­ra­tions for the next Olympic pen­tathlon event, when­ever that may be. Moya, youth Olympic cham­pion in Sin­ga­pore 2020 and triple-medal­list at the Panamer­i­can Games in Lima last year, was re­turn­ing from a train­ing camp in Mex­ico when the pan­demic hit the re­gion.

She knows that the makeshift train­ing reg­i­men she is re­duced to at home is a far cry from Olympic­stan­dard fitness train­ing. “Per­for­mance is go­ing to drop,” she ad­mits. It’s a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion for Daniel Gre­gorich, a Panamer­i­can cham­pion in Greco-Ro­man wrestling at his 87 kg weight level, who made Cuba’s Olympic team at a re­cent qual­i­fy­ing event in Ottawa, Canada.

“Sport is health, sport is life and at least it calms my anx­i­ety,” the 23-year-old said be­tween ses­sions of lift­ing weights and do­ing push-ups.


Roblejo, the mu­si­cian, is at times frus­trated by not hav­ing his usual con­cert au­di­ence be­cause “mu­si­cians are used to de­liv­er­ing art live.” But he is also grate­ful for some of the quar­an­tine’s gifts as he plays on his rooftop above the de­serted bar­rio of Playa, where the lulling sounds of the sea are more no­tice­able now there is no traf­fic.

“I have to thank this quar­an­tine a lit­tle bit, be­cause I stud­ied a bit more and I think I’ve ad­vanced in my mu­sic. Now I want this to be over so that I can show it,” said RobLejo, head of the string sec­tion of Ha­vana’s Con­ser­va­tory. In many ways, he ad­mits to be­ing “very happy. I’ve been locked up and play­ing alone at home for 20 or 25 days now.” Psy­chol­o­gist Pa­tri­cia Ares, writ­ing in Granma, the daily of the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party, said “all of us will have to learn to live with ad­ver­sity. “We can­not avoid the wind, but we can build wind­mills.”


HA­VANA: This com­bi­na­tion of pic­tures cre­ated on April 24, 2020 shows Cuban mar­tial arts ex­pert Ale­jan­dro Lopez, dancer Adrian Sanchez, Greco-Ro­man wrestler Daniel Gre­gorich and mod­ern pen­tath­lete Leydi Laura Moya train­ing in their rooftops in Ha­vana.

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