A Single Bird with Broken Wings

Leonid Lopez

Manu Chao concert in Havana.  Photo: Caridad
Manu Chao concert in Havana. Photo: Caridad

Located apparently on the left wing of the political songbird -which is not very agile, and on most days feeds like birds of prey- were the recent concerts in Havana by Juanes and Manu Chao.

One of the artists dedicated his concert to peace and the other to Che.

The first thing that went through my head was that it was good that people in Havana could have two concerts to have a good time, whoever or wherever they came from.

The second thought, forgetting the skies through which the political warbler flies, was that it would be good to have opportunities for other forms of music – other shows with different colors and even different aromas.

It doesn’t matter if these colors were red or blue or black or white.  But as I’m not a friend of the humanist who drinks from any glass in the name of harmony between people, I prefer to choose the glass and the wine that I understand is the best.

Manu Chao performed his concert in homage to Che – the Che that has now ceased to be a person and has become an icon.  The depth of your thought didn’t matter, or even the depth of Che’s, if you wanted to feel part of the pure at heart, those committed to humanity, then you could unite with the choir of the followers of Che.

I don’t know how much Manu Chao studied the figure of Che, but since he gave this concert in Cuba I can allow myself to speak about the ignorance of Cubans on this subject.

Outside of the story of his victories in the central Cuban city of Santa Clara, his defeats in the Bolivian jungle, and the pages of his diary (of which some were never published, since they were supposedly lost), few people in Cuba know a great deal about Che.

What they do in fact know is that everyone rushes to sell their books about him to venders, who in turn sell them to foreigners at much higher prices.  In addition to that, people have only seen the photos and videos of Che doing voluntary work, his pose as the warring angel, and a few words in a letter that they tell us he wrote.

To me it seems of little value to turn oneself into a blind follower of him or to speak in his name.  However, it hasn’t taken long for many in the world and a few in Cuba to turn him into a guide and render him up as a divine cult figure.

Perhaps this is because he appears lofty and striking in his uniform, struggling for freedom for the oppressed peoples in all corners of the earth.  Seen this way -without wondering the real implications of his struggle and his ideas in peacetime, after the revolutionary triumph in Cuba- this almost inspires giving a concert.   Marx and Hegel have not been so lucky; they’ve been criticized and revised.

On the other hand, or the same hand, Juanes gave his concert in Havana in honor of peace.  Though Che didn’t have the fate to be questioned for a long time, peace itself has had a long history indeed – and much ink and blood has been spilled in its name.

Juanes September concert in Havana.  Photo: Caridad
Juanes September concert in Havana. Photo: Caridad

Maybe this is why it is so widespread and internationally accepted, and anybody can now speak in his behalf.  This is how it should be; anyone should to be able to speak about whatever pops in their mouth.  Notwithstanding, it would be good if those who speak of peace or celebrate it were to speak or sing of it with some depth.  Questions and proposals are plentiful given the importance of this word for the lives of people.  If this weren’t so, why do they use the word?

Maybe peace opens doors to a market or, better yet, surrounds the heads of those who mention it with a halo of beauty and kindness that forever justifies their existence.  I don’t know what Juanes’s motivation was, but I believe that his impact in Cuba -which was his speaking out, and supposedly his concern- did not go beyond entertaining people a little.

This was no doubt a good thing, but peace didn’t vibrate a great deal through the place nor through the audience, who continued worrying under the heat about how they were going to come up with a little money to maintain themselves and their families.

In this and all periods it is important to speak of peace and independence.  A long time ago, I was taught to divide the left from  right in Cuba.  To the right are situated those currents of thought that call for private property and free enterprise. In short: the selfish life.

To the left are currents who are the friends of social property and the rights of the majority.  In short: life in support of the people. This has been a way of giving a name to the good and bad of social being.

I believe the picture is more complex, but even if the need for these antagonistic poles was true or useful, a long time ago the rostrum of social well-being has been occupied by merchants of words looking out for their individual well-being.  Though they may be well-intentioned individuals who use mediocre ideas out of moral, intellectual and other forms of cowardice, they shut their doors or murder the bodies (or worse, the souls) of anyone who tries to delve deeper into their superfluous phrases full of hate, or at the least tasteless.

The left is undermined by such men.  I don’t know what Juanes or Manu Chao think of this, or whether they care.  I wish them success in support of amusement and even in peace and the struggle for the freedom of people to find better paths.