By Rebecca Bulnes
By Lee Zimmerman
By Rebecca Bulnes
By S. Pajot
By S. Pajot, Liz Tracy, Kat Bein, & Sean Levisman
By Kat Bein
By Ashley Rogers
The couple crams their collection of more than 1500 CDs and an equal number of albums and cassettes into the pink two-bedroom ranch in Little Havana they share with their two children and Vanessa's parents. Precious Moments collectible figurines share the nightstand with a mixing board and a digital recording system. A PlayStation game threatens to drown out the snippets of songs Carlos selects, as their eight-year-old son battles dinosaurs and unsettles the discs scattered across his parents' double bed. The Manas supply music not only to Clasica but to the locally based Nica Records, as well as to a wide circle of friends. Vanessa adds to their collection by scouring the bargain bins across the city, while a cousin who DJs at radio station Stereo Hit in Managua sends her recent Nicaraguan releases and rare vintage finds. Asked why they bother listening to the radio with so much to choose from at home, Vanessa confesses that she keeps four radios going at all times at a branch office of Union Planters Bank, where she works as head teller. "They can fire me, but I have to have my music," she says with a laugh. "And I can't carry all these CDs there every day." Carlos agrees: "We listen to the radio because you don't want to be changing the disk yourself every couple of minutes. We give Clasica the music we want to hear and let them play it."
Back at the microphone, Barbarita obliges, announcing in Spanish Abba's 1976 glitterball classic, "Dancing Queen." With the Swedish superstars' squeaky harmonies in the background, the DJ recalls how "American" music invaded the revolutionary Cuba of her youth. "Back when I was thirteen, fourteen years old, the music had to be American, even though we didn't understand the lyrics. We used to tape Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, the Eagles, groups like that, off radio stations from up here in Florida." By the time she entered the theater program at Cuba's prestigious National School for the Arts, the young Barbarita had joined a group of friends imitating Abba at Havana's Miramar Theater. As "Dancing Queen" fades, she plugs her morning show, proclaiming, "She is the queen of the night, but I am the empress of the morning." Empress, Virgin, Marilyn Monroe. Barbarita -- like Clasica -- confronts the juggernaut of American culture by imitation, challenging the tyranny of the U.S. music industry by making the songs her own.