We came back from Santo Domingo with lots of great stories, footage, and, best of all, newfound friends. A big thanks to those who made our trip possible – this documentary would not exist without your help and the help of the Cimarron people of Elias Pina and Cabral. We are grateful to you.
There are so many great stories that I could tell you about from our recent trip to my beloved Santo Domingo. For example, my encounter with Hilda Maria Perez, the wonderful Cachua elder who has been sewing Cachua costumes with a 50 year old Singer sewing machine for 30 years. Our last documentary, Colores del Carnaval Dominicano, ended with a picture of her, similar to the one I am showing you here. When I was editing Colores, this picture made a big impression on me, and I said to myself, “If you ever go to Cabral, you’ve got to meet this lady.” Upon arriving in Cabral, we set out to find and interview her. My impression of her grew upon our meeting as she was every bit of what I expected her to be – a beautiful human being full of candor and enthusiasm. This, paired with the interview and her ability to sew, made me appreciate her so much more. She was so thankful for what she has and everything she has gotten from being a Cachua.
My encounter with Ramon Ferrera was just as magical. We ran into him by chance and asked if we could interview him. He graciously accepted. It happens to be that he is the oldest living Cachua. He has an amazing passion for the Cachuas traditions. After the interview I commented on how cool and original his mask was. He immediately took it off and wanted to give it to me. It is a Dominican tradition to take something when somebody is giving it to you, and as much as I wanted to take it, I told him that he would need to wear it during the day and that he could always give it to me later. We parted ways and when I saw him again a few hours later he said, “I haven’t forgotten you; I’m a man of my word”. We part ways a second time. Then, towards the end of the day on the way to the cemetery, where the Cachuas say a final goodbye to their ancestors, I see him again, but this time with a different mask in his hands. He signals me to stop, comes over, hands me the mask and says, “I am a man of my word.” I came down from the truck I was in and embraced him, thanking him as I now held the mask in my hands. I know somebody took a photo of us that day, but I have been unable to find the picture. In the meantime, I am the proud owner of a Cachua mask made by the oldest Cachua alive, and I will never forget Ramon, “a man of his word.”
I could go on telling you more stories about the gaga chieftain Cun Cun, or La Jeannette (Jeannette La Hatiana), or even being in the middle of a rural Gaga, the magical rain at the end of the Cachuas celebrations at the Cabral Cemetery, but I will let another team member tell these stories.
We had a wonderful trip and came back with a renewed interest in my roots and the importance of preserving these cimarron traditions. They ARE worth preserving!