Latest Cuban TV soap opera is fuelling debate

Extract from article by Víctor Fowler Calzada in Juventud Rebelde:

One of the dialogues in the most recent episode of Aqui estamos (We Are Here for You), the Cuban soap opera now airing on state-run Cubavision primetime on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, caught my attention in particular. The conversation not only summarized the essence of the events we have witnessed so far on the show, but also foreshadowed a transcendental truth about what is still to come.

In the scene in question, Adonis -a young actor, member of an amateur theater troupe currently struggling to stage its first play- tells the director of the group, Pedro, that he had a conversation with his father about his future. This is a central issue because Adonis' father thinks the theater business is not a serious or promising occupation. Pedro (played by actor Enrique Bueno) replies that it is true, that maybe those who take their chances for a life of theater have a few screws loose. Nonetheless, he insists, if this is really Adonis' (Armando Gonzalez) true passion, he should pursue his dream and enroll in an acting school to become a professional actor. The suggestion surprises Adonis, who considers himself an ignorant person. The idea had never crossed his mind, and he asks his friend if he really thinks he is good enough, not for supporting roles, but to become a "real" actor. Pedro's affirmative answer comforts him. "If you want to go for it," he said, "we are here for you."

There is no need to be a connoisseur of Gerard Genette's pioneering elaborations on paratextual theory to know that the title of a work is a powerful symbol for viewers and readers when it comes to decoding the message of a television series or a piece of literature, an appealing construction that somehow conceals the author's need for understanding. Although titles are external to the narration, they work as huge telescopes that help us grasp the larger picture.

Through this lens, the conversation between Adonis and Pedro is fundamental, because these characters embody most of the contradictions which are to be settled in the unraveling of the show. Adonis stands out for his attractive looks, his vulgarity-filled language -suitable to a young go-getter who grew up in slums- and a renewed marginal ethics of loyalty to his fellow-delinquents. Pedro, on the other hand, lacks such physical attributes, and speaks in a high register. He is an intellectual who dreams of developing a creative project of his own and leads a life governed by idealistic principles of solidarity, personal sacrifice and the pursuit of truth.

A good example of his moral standing is his reaction when his new girlfriend, Estrella (played by Grettel Cazon), invites him to move in to her place when Pedro's despicable uncle evicts him from the room he had been renting. Pedro's sole concern at the moment is to give the impression that he is one of those "hillbillies from the country trying to take advantage of the situation."

The elemental (physical, intellectual and ethical) polarity between these two characters gives rise to an ethical question. This is how Pedro's words, "We are here for you," should be understood. By advising Adonis to seek professional training, he is opening a door to knowledge that was previously closed for him. Both young men will face different reactions from the people around them, especially those who know that marginal ethics crumbles in moments of crisis. Two good examples are Adonis' father, an ex-convict who is struggling to reintegrate into society and live a straight life, and Dennis (actor Kelvin Espinosa), a friend of Pedro's who abandons the theater company to find a better-paid job, giving up on his old dreams to find the new meaning of his life in ordinary pleasures, such as fancy cloths, good food or beer. This is why the referred-to conversation reflects the most profound, basic structure of the story: it is a Bildungsroman, a story about two young men fighting for their future.

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