Passion, pride bring revolution in Cuba to life
BOSTON – The distance between Cuba and the United States is about 90 miles, but when you are a refugee adrift in the treacherous ocean waters between the two countries, it might as well be a million miles. And while many left the island nation in the last half-century in search of a new life, many have never had the chance to return.
Some have. Former Red Sox star Luis Tiant returned dramatically in 2007 after 46 years away, an event captured in the documentary “The Lost Son of Havana.”
Marissa Chibas’s family played a very strong role in the revolution that rocked Cuba, and put the country on a path that has seen it estranged from the United States for almost 60 years.
She recounts her family’s involvement in the one-woman show “Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary” now being performed through Sunday under the auspices of ArtsEmerson at the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre at the Paramount Theatre.
“Daughter” is a piece Chibas performs with passion and pride, putting herself in the shoes of her parents Raúl and Dalia, as well as her tortured uncle Eduardo.
She has one foot in the United States, where she was born and grew up in New York City, and one back in Cuba, where she explores how the events before her birth impacted her family members, shaped and influenced her relationship with them and fueled her desire to visit Cuba and explore her heritage.
She weaves a tale of stories and anecdotes about how firmly rooted her parents were in the island’s life; Her mother was a runner-up in the Miss Cuba beauty contest the year before they fled the country in a small motorboat in 1960.
There’s the harrowing tale of the phone call that saved her father’s life while he was in the hands of Batista’s forces and about to be killed, and the humiliation that led to her uncle Eduardo – a prominent radio personality and a candidate for president – to commit suicide.
Eduardo founded Cuba’s reformist Orthodox Party in 1947, determined to root out corruption, encourage a free market economy, and push back against the influence of the nearby U.S.
A young Castro was also a member. But after warning of an impending coup to be led by Fulgencio Batista, the past president and military chief, Eduardo shot himself in his radio studio while there for his weekly broadcast. In her show, Marissa speculates that a source betrayed him or that he was set up.
Raúl, Marissa’s father and Eduardo’s younger brother, took over the party and it was a proud moment when he and an economist named Felipe Pazos later co-signed Castro’s the Sierra Manifesto in 1957, which was seen as a milestone in Castro’s burgeoning rebellion.
Raúl, a major in the Cuban Army, was heavily involved in the Castro revolution but when he confronted Fidel with his concerns over his direction after the revolution, he realized he and Castro were at odds and he would have to leave the country for he and his family to be safe.
Marissa eventually visited Cuba in 1993 Cuba and unearthed pictures and other treasures of her family in archives, some of which she sprinkles around the stage as a way to make connections with the past
It all unfolds in a compact 65 minutes, aided by apt projections, tastes of Cuban music and a sprinkling of Spanish phrases.
Raúl Chibas died before “Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary” made it to the stage in its final form. Marissa did, though, get to perform it in Miami with her mother in the audience.
“Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary” is Marissa Chibas’s family album brought vividly to life, a very personal chronicle of her family’s role in a story that is still playing itself out, what with the U.S. government’s recent rapprochement with Cuba.
“Daughter of a Cuban Revolutionary.” Directed by Mira Kingsley. Presented by ArtsEmerson. At the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre, Paramount Center, April 27-May 1. Tickets: $10-$60, 617-824-8400. www.artsemerson.org