It’s been ten long years since my visit to Cuba.
At that time, I wrote about the recording studio, Abdala, for EQ Magazine and fully expected to return soon to continue my love affair with the island, the music, and the people, but historical events botched my plans; in particular, the selection the following year of Bush and friends in D.C. and their allies in South Florida. Couple this with the strangle-hold Castro & friends have on free speech on the island and what is left is an escalation of anger and embargo policies.
These different factions closed all doors leading in and out of Cuba for citizens of the United States. Imagine. My passport does not let me go everywhere anymore—at least not without incurring the wrath of my government. Depressing. And sounds a lot like a communist country. The irony. An island a mere 90 miles from my house in South Florida is off limits.
But today, I see a ray of hope, and once again music leads the way. I watched John Denver open up closed doors in Russia in 1984 and in Havana, Cuba earlier today, Juanes, an award winning fusion rock singer/songwriter orchestrated a Paz Sin Fronteras Concert, in spite of threats from the usual suspects in South Florida—Cuban Americans who think only of revenge and retribution—not the way forward in any relationship I’ve been in.
In Che’s Revolution Square, where I stood practically alone with my daughter a decade ago, a sea of people (over 700,000) congregated to watch Juanes and friends.
And from the live feed on NBC, I could feel the joy of the long suffering people of Cuba as they exploded into song. May this be another stepping stone on the path to reconciliation between the U.S. and Cuba. I know so many Cubans on the island and in Miami that want this.
As an outsider looking in, it feels like the anger of this Cuban Civil War should have been diffused a long time ago. My own U.S. Civil War still rages on in some ways, so maybe I’m just a Pollyana. But it seems to me that if the Cubans in Miami had truly wanted to get rid of Castro they would have kept the dialogue and the doors open. Culture and human nature would have taken care of him.
But the Miami group that desires revenge and retribution on an entire island of people, who mostly had nothing to do with any of this disaster, except for their accident of birth, perpetuates a failed policy that has led to the misery of 11 million people who in many ways endure their suffering as a badge of martyrdom: the “Us Against the World” type of martyrdom.
I will never forget the college-educated Cuban girl I interviewed for my article who candidly told me off-tape in a resolute tone that she foresaw “no hope” for things ever changing for the better in Cuba. Heartbreaking. At the time, I believed her wrong, but thus far, she has been right. And things got a lot worse soon after.
I don’t presume to know how it feels to lose your home and your loved one, only to watch the villains of this crime (Castro & friends) go unpunished, and continue to survive and somewhat thrive. It must be miserable beyond words. But how does punishing an entire nation of mostly innocents fix any of this pain? Embargoes don’t work. Pain begets pain. La paz genera paz.
Thank you Juanes and friends for this concert—so nice to see Los Van Van once again. In 1999, angry Miami Cubans pelted me with cans as I entered a theatre to hear a Los Van Van Concert. As a musician, I refuse to let any one group tell me what music I can listen to. In my life, music trumps politics, especially failed politics.
Time will tell if things can really change, but maybe through new efforts and new policies, especially those of our new President Obama, one day I will get to return to Cuba and resume my quest to explore the island in the flesh, instead of in my mind.