The Truth on Juanes Visit to Cuba

By Erasmo Calzadilla

Peace without Borders Concert, Havana, Sept. 20, 2009.  Photo: Caridad
Peace without Borders Concert, Havana, Sept. 20, 2009. Photo: Caridad

I was resting in my room that Sunday afternoon, trying to sleep a little, while the rest of my family congregated in the living room, waiting expectantly in front of his majesty: the TV.

So what was going on in there with my family so stirred up on this one Sunday afternoon, when usually their little Sunday siestas are so sacred?

They were awaiting nothing other than the highly publicized Juanes concert.

But why did my family, made up of middle-aged and elderly, seem so anxious to see and hear this kid that none of them had ever heard mentioned?

Evidently, more than Juanes, what attracted them was the atmosphere that accompanied the concert.  Generated thanks to the political brew fermented in Miami, it was being taken full advantage of here by presenting it as yet another moral victory of the Revolution in the face of its obstinate enemies.

What would they do without these little opportunities?

And what about me? – since I was neither together with my family or in Revolution Square enjoying the concert like so many of my compatriots?

Well, hmm… I could cite the fact that I don’t like pop rock, and that the guy was completely unknown until yesterday.  In addition, the mixture of crowds and sun is not my favorite.  Then too, I was sick and tired of the “you tell me what I’ll tell you about Miami,” as well as the stench that came with it all.  But more than anything, I didn’t believe there would be more peace in the world thanks to my presence.  For all those reasons, I preferred to stay in bed on that peaceful and warm Sunday afternoon.

Juanes had already whipped up people into dancing and jumping around when I got up to go to the bathroom for a second.  And from what I saw briefly on the screen, this confirmed to me that I’d made the right decision.  I went back to bed.

I must have been…I don’t know…around five o’clock when I woke up from a pleasant dream when a familiar and pleasing melody drifted into my room from the TV set.  It was a tune by singer-songwriter Carlos Verela.

Carlos Varela, photo: Caridad
Carlos Varela, photo: Caridad

The presence of Verela at that concert was for me stranger than my family having transformed their Sunday routine.  How was it that this man -who I have always known for being rebellious and an iconoclast- was singing amid that ocean of vacuous symbols and euphoria?

Putting the pieces together I then understood: He was giving us a lesson. Now I can share the conclusions that I came to:

Juanes, someone for whom homogeneity is apparently still not a problem, invited everyone to come to the concert dressed in white in the name of peace, yet Verela appeared in his customary black attire.

Some say that he did this because he’s eccentric.  But, since when did peace have anything to do with homogeneity?  Is there anything more antagonistic than monotony, no matter what the color?  Haven’t the most aggressive and violent movements of the past century been crusades for uniformity?

So there was no doubt that gnome-like Carlos came to defend difference, and not only in the realm of colors.  Accompanied by his guitar, he sang a valiant ode to skepticism in the middle of the watered-down conviction that Revolution Square distilled that afternoon.

Here I’ve transcribed the lyrics of that song, but you have to hear it to really appreciate the beauty.

Carlos Varela singing "La verdad" (The Truth)

-Nostradamus never had the truth,
-nor the Beatles or Galileo.
-Hare Krishna never told the truth,
-nor Jesus, or Juliet or Romeo.
-The poets never wrote the truth,
-nor did the Bible or newspapers.
-Prophets don’t predict the truth,
-nor do the poor or millionaires.
-The truth of the truth of the truth is that it is never one, not mine or his or yours.
-The truth of the truth is that it’s not the same; it seems to fall in the abyss of the truth.

-Teachers never teach the truth,
-nor do the kings or the Messiah.
-Armies don’t have the truth,
-nor do laws or astrology.
-The truth of the truth of the truth is that it’s never one, not mine nor his or yours.
-The truth of the truth is that it is not the same; it suffers from falling in the abyss
of the truth, of the truth, of the truth…

4 thoughts on “The Truth on Juanes Visit to Cuba

  • Walter, I think if you re-read Erasmo’s entry you will see that he is actually expressing skepticism that anyone can have a corner on the truth, as do the lyrics of Varela’s song.

  • The way I see it, both Juanes and Carlos Varela held ‘the truth’ at the concert.

  • Thanks for these additional observations.. They add to what we have already heard about the concert. I listened to it online here in Los Angeles, and enjoyed it greatly.

    May I say, however, that tt’s always struck me as peculiar when someone claims to have “THE truth” about anything. Is there really only ONE truth about the concert? The author is a 33-year old philosophy professor at the University of Havana. Does he really think that only HE has “the truth” about the concert to which over a million Cubans came out on a broiling hot day and spent over five hours?

    The fact that Juanes invited participants to dress in white, yet Carlos Varela came dressed in black with the amusing “this is a white shirt” written in white on his black shirt belies the impression, often given in the foreign hostile media, that everyone is supposed to march in lockstep in “Castro’s Red Dungeon”.

    It also shows that Carlos Varela has a good sense of humor, and everyone enjoyed him using…

  • Of Carlos Varela I said to myself, “no one is making that guy wear white.” I was correct, but his shirt made a conciliatory statement in white letters: “this is a white shirt.” That was terrific. I liked too his back up vocalist, beautiful and energetic Diana Fuentes. She is such a joy!

    It surprises me that Juanes was so unknown in Cuba before the concert (as you say). Or maybe you assume that because you are not familiar with pop musicians, given that your prefer other types of music. Juanes and other artists, like Olga Tanon, surely seemed well known by the Cubans.

    In this article you distill water-down convictions as those you ascribe to the concert. But the concert-goers were singing, jumping and dancing, which is all the “conviction” you need when having fun.

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