Arturo Gaskins is a native of Puerto Rico, and he joined CWB – USA during our tour to the island in February, 2018. We were eager to work together again and Arturo was able to volunteer his time for CWB – USA’s recent tour to the Department of Cauca, Colombia. In this blog, Arturo writes about what it’s like to perform outside your comfort zone—only to realize that anywhere can feel like home.
Just Like Home
Everything starts when I’m invited to Colombia. I normally work at home in Puerto Rico, so I’m really happy to collaborate with CWB and CaliClown on an international tour. It’s exciting to leave my home base. I usually perform for a community I know very well, so before we leave, I research what Colombia is like: how people live, what it looks like. I’m expecting to work in poor neighborhoods and with people who are vulnerable.
I don’t know what life is like there. I have many ideas of Colombia, based on stories from people who have visited. When we arrive, I’m surprised to realize that it’s just like home. It’s incredible how close I feel to my people. In fact, Colombia is really similar to Puerto Rico. It’s the way people live, their energy and culture. Colombians are really sweet, humble people.
We have the same fruits. The same smells. Every day that we’re here, I hear salsa music. It’s just like home! Salsa music from the morning until the night. The hearts of the people are the same. The needs are the same. We have the same troubles and the same necessities. We even have the same land, but with different names. It’s just borders that make us different.
I do notice that the streets in Cali, Colombia, are much harder to cross than the streets in Puerto Rico!
When people hear Colombia they imagine a lot of stuff based on the history of drug trafficking. Again, it is a little like Puerto Rico. I didn’t go to Colombia with a concrete idea of, “this is what it will be.” And as it turns out, I feel really secure on the street. Everyone is humble and open, with energy to be better.
We’re performing some shows in hard neighborhoods. And yes, sometimes I feel uncomfortable with what’s happening around the periphery of the show. There are drugs. There is violence. But mostly there is poverty, and lots of it. The situations that the kids and the families live in is hard. It’s difficult to know that we’re performing a show surrounded by poverty. And of course, we have to keep our eyes open. But when we’re in the show, everyone is with us and we’re with them. When we’re in the show, it feels very safe because we’re all together.
Sometimes the taxi drivers don’t want to bring us to the show. They’re more afraid than us. When I wear the nose, I get to be innocent. I arrive and I get to play. I get to really see the people. But when a taxi driver arrives, he can only see the situation. Maybe he feels like he has something to lose.