The Communist Party newspaper Granma quoted Osmany López, the institute’s vice president, as saying the 36-year-old winner of five Latin Grammys last year ‘is very excited’ about an open-air concert that will include other Latin American stars…
Juanes may be one of the few who are excited. Cuban bloggers? The jury is still out. Faced with criticism – especially from the Cuban diaspora in the U.S. – about the political signals he may be sending by participating in the event, Juanes has defended his position both in the mainstream media and via his Twitter feed. But a few bloggers seem unconvinced.
El Cafe Cubano asks:
Now will Juanes also ask for the release of political prisoners? Will he ask for FREEDOM of Speech for Cubans? Will he ask for Democracy in Cuba?
The Cuban Triangle agrees that “his concert won’t change the world, much less Cuba”, but does concede that “it has the makings of a great success, and thousands of Cubans will love it”. The blogger does a good job of laying out both sides of the coin:
Interviewed on Univision last night (story and video excerpt here), he spoke very much as an artist, not a politician. But he also expressed a faith that his idea of a concert in Havana is not only deeply right, but meaningful in a way that approaches the boundary of politics: ‘To go play in Cuba is sort of impossible…to go to Cuba is a symbol that it is time to change minds…I want to go to Cuba with my friends to tell the world from Cuba that people need to change.’
Juanes’ initiative is drawing a reaction in Miami. ‘When talking about Cuba, one can’t ignore politics,’ Cuban American star Willie Chirino said on the same Univision program. And he’s got a point – Juanes’ claim that he’s not involved in politics, but he wants to change the world, is a little hard to grasp, even though it’s the kind of thing that artists say all the time.
The post continues:
Critics are right to point out that in Cuba, there are no private concert venues or promoters, so an event like this has to be approved by the government. Since it’s a government venue, there’s the possibility that a government official may appear on stage and make a speech. And there are those who are mystified about a concert for peace in Cuba, when Cuba is not at war. They’ve got a point too.
Some say Juanes shouldn’t go at all, and his concert will be immoral if he doesn’t bring Cuban American artists and use his platform to criticize the Cuban government’s human rights record.
Finally, the blogger declares, “I cast my vote with Juanes.” So does Havana-based Yoani Sanchez:
It appears that on the September 20th, Juanes will try to put a human face on an architectural ensemble where no one is going to go and sit placidly.
I think that Juanes should come and sing. If his subject is peace, he will have to know that this Island is not immersed in bellicose conflict, but neither does it know concord. He will raise his voice before a people who have been divided, classified according to a political color and compelled to confront any who think differently. A population that for years has not heard talk of harmony and that knows the punishment given to those who dare to voice their criticisms. We need his voice, but only if he comes to sing without forgetting any Cuban, without rejecting any difference.
Even so, Sanchez is all too aware of the political reality surrounding the event:
We would like him to accompany his song with the cadence of Willy Chirino, the trumpet of Arturo Sandoval, the rhythm of Albita Rodríguez or the sensual sax of Paquito D´ Rivera… but none of them will be allowed to be there. Juanes will enjoy the privilege of the foreigner, who on this Island is worth much more than the natives. Everything he says between songs—if he says anything—will be interpreted as his support for a system that ebbs away, as the accolade to a group in power.
It was not an innocent decision to choose the Plaza of the Revolution as a stage for his music and he will not be able to shake the political weight that it carries. But if it has to be so…then let him sing under the statue of Martí, facing the image of Che Guevara, but at least let him sing for everyone.
The Cuban Triangle, who knows that the “kids of all ages” back home “will be there for the music”, has the last word:
If they find out that some opposed the concert because it didn’t include the right political message, then they will get the idea that the ideological rigidity that smothers all kinds of beneficial creativity, expression, and enterprise – not to mention just plain fun – is alive and well, not only in the buildings surrounding the Plaza de la Revolucion.