On the series: Voices del Camino is our series of stories and reflections from the company, while on tour. El camino, in Spanish, literally means "the road"; but el camino is also the journey that we're on towards witnessing, creating, and sharing the beauty and complexity of humanity, and towards transforming our world through love and movement.

Stops 1 & 3: TX & TN | Southern Hospitality and Southern "Animosity", by Chris Cuenza

Chris flashes a smile for the camera while leading a Rueda workshop

Chris flashes a smile for the camera while leading a Rueda workshop

It so interesting that when people talk about “the South”, there are two things that seem to always come out: Southern food and Southern hospitality (I loooove Southern food, by the way!) Now, Southern hospitality is alive and well in Texas and in Tennessee. The local people were extremely welcoming and extremely nice. They made staying in a city that I have never been, feel as if they’d opened the doors to their own homes. There was a warmth that came from the community—a warmth that didn't make me feel like a visitor, but rather as if I just moved to the neighborhood and my new neighbors were welcoming me with fresh baked pies. It was beautiful. I swear, if the whole world acted with Southern hospitality, it would be such an amazing world (not to mention, we’d be extremely really well fed!). 

But there’s a flip side to this hospitality. I think I want to call it “Southern animosity”.  It’s a condescending and sometimes hostile vibe given to people of color. I don’t want to say it was racism, and we didn’t feel it from all the Caucasian people that we encountered, but when I felt it, it was definitely heavy. Coming from a big city like LA, that is a melting pot of so many different types of people, this animosity started to really stand out to me. 

The company all went out one night to a local bar in Midland, and the entire time we were having fun and dancing together, a [Caucasian] man across the room stared at us—like a lion about to pounce on its prey. It was definitely not a welcoming look, to say the least. And then we overheard people saying things about us—or even TO us—that made me feel like they were trying to be the “cool group in high school,” judging us because we didn't buy name brand clothes. Except, it wasn’t about what we were wearing…

Now being a man, of course I wanted to puff my chest and “go caveman” on some of these folks, but instead I tried to put my energy and focus on the warmth that was given by the majority instead of the cold received by the few. The warmth that we received from Robbyne 

and her community in Midland, TX, and from the waitress from Gus’s Fried Chicken in Memphis, TN, and from the students of University of the South in Sewanee, TN… We can all take a page or two from their handbook, on how to welcome new faces to our communities. To the South: thank you, and I shall see you soon.