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Cuba: Concert for Peace?

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“Juanes en Valencia” – photo by mtraker, used under a Creative Commons license. Visit mtraker's flickr photostream.

The Cuban Institute of Music has announced that popular Colombian singer Juanes is scheduled to perform at a “concert for peace” in Havana come September 20th. Repeating Islands blog confirms that:

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.

The thumbnail image used in this post is by mtraker, used under a Creative Commons license. Visit mtraker's flickr photostream.

7 comments

  • t. perez

    Regarding Juanes Cuba concert:
    The Pope spoke at the same place years ago. Some said at the time that Cuban communist goverment will open up, that things will be different and…HELLO!!!THE POPE, MAN ..and lack of all human rights continue to prevail for cubans, whom, for lack of free international supervised elections continue to vote “with their feet” and leave Cuba as soon as they have a chance.
    To Juanes …no song or good musical intentions, if that is that that you want, is going to change or bring “peace” to a 50 year regime (FIFTY, OK?) that is at war with its own people. FIFTY years Juanes. Man had not landed in the moon when Fidel was already a dictator for more than a DECADE -loved by the left- that has almost destroyed Colombia, your country. Juanes, dont forget to say at the Paza de la Revolucion, VIVA Che! who shoot cubans before you where born.

  • cannot wait to be there in Septiembre

    he is a hero and also is in ALAS

    Viva El Frente!

  • brain food

    Juanes, the only dignified way to carry on with the concert, is to change its name to “FREEDOM WITHOUT BORDERS”, and urge the Cuban dictatorship to allow freedom of expression and to free the hundreds of prisoners of conscience jailed without trial. Otherwise it’s just a publicity stunt.

    http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/cuba

  • Alicia Perez

    Juanes concert in Cuba (\Paz\ Without Borders) is not likely an innocent gesture by a well educated and travelled artist. There is no war in Cuba. Why a concert for PEACE ? Why not a concert for Liberty ?

    Is it too risky to ask for liberty and release of Political Prisoners.
    Is LIBERTY a dirty word, forbidden, tabooed, not to be heard or whispered ?

    THERE IS NO FREEDOM OF SPEECH OR EXPRESSION in Cuba. There is oppression, dictatorship, censorship, imprisonment to those who oppose or criticize the regime.
    Why doesn’t he visit Dr. Biscet in prison ? A man held in captivity, in poor health, denied his human rights for preaching the words of Ghandi and Thoreau.

  • rene montero

    abajo juanes…chavezy castro

  • juan M. Diaz

    Juanes would have sang for Hitler as millions were being killed in concentration camps. He is morally bankrupt. Cuba is at peace. What Cuba needs is freedom. Why not a concert to promote freedom in Cuba, Juanes? Step up to the plate and do your part for FREEDOM!!!

  • […] in Miami, however, were not amused… uanes may be one of the few who are excited. Cuban bloggers? The jury is still out. Faced […]

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