My Redemption Song

This post was written by Kikita.

A few months ago I received an email in my inbox and all it had was a picture attached.
This picture:

LA Salsa Festival 2009

Did I notice "El Gran Combo" (a group that, as a salsera, I have grown to love)? Of course not.
I only had eyes for Willy.
Immediately, I send Mami an email. There was no question as to whether we were going or not. We most definitely were.

In the months leading up to the concert, life happened. You know how it does . . . There were trips and musicals and Lucy turning 16 and milkshakes and . . . you get the picture, right?
Anyway, a week before the concert I received a reminder email.
AY CARAMBA! How could I forget WILLY??

"Mami! Willy! It's this Saturday!"
"Ay, mija, I can't go! I made plans to have a reunion with some friends from high school that night. You can find someone else to go with, si?"

I lied through my teeth, "Yeah, of course, no problem."
What to do?

I consulted with a couple of friends on the level of pathetic (adjective: causing or evoking pity, sympathetic sadness, sorrow, etc.; pitiful; pitiable) that going to a concert alone would earn you. Apparently, it's not as pathetic as I thought.
It seems there is a fine line between pathetic and cool and I just so happen to err on the side of cool. =D

So, I decided to go alone. (THAT is the key to the coolness. Deciding. I mean, I had the option to not go, but I wanted to go, so I did.)

I'm no stranger to doing things alone. I've done Disneyland by myself, dinner, the movies . . .
Come to think of it, doing things by myself is usually not that bad!

(I was bummed, nervous, and excited all at the same time.)

I was a little late getting to the venue (since I wasn't carpool), but I wasn't too stressed about it because there was no one to silently get upset with me about being late for the first part of the opening act.
I found my seat and proceeded to enjoy the music of the opening acts - standing up and dancing, of course.

LA Salsa Festival 2009 alone

I was having a great time, but I was starting to feel like the only Cuban in a sea of Latinos. So, my alone-ness was getting to me when . . .  it was time for Willy!

Every song he played, I knew. What was amazing was that every song he played I not only knew, but loved. He played my favorite NEW songs along with his older ones that still have a special place in my heart.

He even sang a duet with the late Celia about how beautiful Cuba is. They would show her singing her part on video and he would sing his as if she was right there with him. Yes, my eyes welled with tears.

As if that wasn't gift enough, Willy asked where all of the Cubans were and I realized how very NOT alone I was.

My potentially lonely evening ended up being one of the best times ever.

(So much so that I am thinking about doing this whole "alone" thing again for the next concert I want to go to.)

Then when Willy started to play his last song, I knew I was a goner.

It was my redemption song, but I knew it wasn't just mine. It was the redemption song for any and every Cuban at that concert and every one of them NOT at that concert.

It was our song of freedom.

(I admit it, I wept.)

I have spent my whole life struggling to find (and keep) the balancebetween being both Cuban and American and feeling so alone in that turmoil, as that song was playing and I looked around, I realized how many others were in that same struggle.