HAVANA TIMES — There was a time when the Beatles were censored in Cuba, though today their songs are almost a part of the “official discourse.”
Paul McCartney just turned 70.
Perhaps to someone of the heroic epoch of that Liverpool band, it was a group that was never surpassed – and that someone would probably be right.
But today, when I heard on TV about Paul’s 70th birthday, what first came to my mind was the generation that he represents and everything that we owe to it.
It’s not only their music, it’s not just the Beatles, it’s also a way of living in freedom, and an amiable communion that comes from our parents, the parents of the first global generation…those baby-boomers from the USSR, the USA, Cuba, Spain, Czechoslovakia, GDR and many other countries (some of which no longer exist) who “also grew up on ‘Yesterday’,” as it’s sung by the Spanish artist Ana Belen.
It was also their sexual revolution and all the sincerities of those ‘60s that later generations didn’t live through.
I thought about the hundreds of Cubans who were sent to the UMAP* — probably the most ecumenical institution that has existed in the recent history of Cuba — many of them for having listened to the Beatles. There’s a brilliant song by Carlos Varela in which he sings, “When the Beatles records came out / you couldn’t have them.” So distant a time – and so recent…
I thought about the leftists of that time, many of whom didn’t have the slightest idea about how people lived in Cuba, perhaps dreaming that Che’s guerrilla troops smoked marijuana and that the beautiful women in Cuba’s volunteer militia expanded their minds with LSD.
Nothing could have been further from the truth: the reality was quite unique, and quite hard.
Some of the lefties (the not so alienated ones) of the ‘60s were planting bombs by the ‘70s, the “prodigious decade,” also called “the decade of lead”: The Brigate Rosse, the Weathermen… McCartney’s generation taught us that it was possible to achieve truth and freedom through rebellion, but also that now we don’t want to use violence to achieve it.
I thought about the three other Beatles of course, wherever they are, along with Mr. Taxman and Dr. Roberts.
I thought about the English working class…about how John Lennon (the “Working Class Hero”) returned his Order of the British Empire to the monarchy, while “Macca” (as the London tabloids call Paul) still enjoys the noble title of “Sir.”
I thought about Winston Churchill (why him?… well, because he was the prime minister when Paul was born and when Britain was no longer so alone against the Nazis: Victory in Europe was guaranteed in the long run by the huge front that the soldiers of the Red Army covered with their bodies).
I thought about the Cuban rockers: the old ones who still love the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Pink Floyd – and the more recent ones, for whom none of those groups even play rock.
In any case, beyond such an exercise in memory, let’s wish long years of “peace and harmony” to McCartney. May he continue singing and one day return here to our island, perhaps this time not incognito.
(*) Military Units to Aid Production, a type of forced labor-camp system that existed in Cuba for a couple of years in the late 1960s. These had the supposed aim of “eliminating social evils” and housed homosexuals, Christians, rockers, hippies, avant-garde writers, all kinds of strange characters, as well as the future members of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and those of the Nueva Trova Movement. The UMAP system has been strongly criticized (even officially) in recent years.