At around seven in the evening I arrived at the Acapulco Cinema-Theater in Vedado, the neighborhood of the Los Aldeanos rappers Aldo and El B. I had known that it would be necessary to look for tickets days ahead of time because there wouldn’t be the promised passes and the concert would otherwise be sold out.
Though I had no luck, I still wanted to do everything possible to get in and to be there to see the event. Once there, I found good friends in my same situation. We later circulated a pass among ourselves that allowed us to get in and experience the show for ourselves.
My people! How can I describe the despair and controversy that occurred at the concert?
Firstly, outside the theater was a patrol car with camera on the roof; inside were two policemen with a laptop connected to the Internet. There were some older men, apparently from the Party, one of whom proceeded to question my friend Mario asking him to make comments about Fidel and the Cuban Revolution.
All around were adults and youths in plainclothes, some I recognized from when they slipped into the March Against Violence, in addition there were a lot of police and a rumor circulating that a truck loaded with Special Brigade troops was parked a few blocks away.
Fewer people attended than those present had expected, despite this being a Los Aldeanos concert. I’m sure that this had a lot to do with the lack of publicity, since the only advertizing even at the national headquarters of the State sponsor (the Asociación Hermanos Saíz, or AHS) were flyers posted in the bathroom; this is the same thing that is done in cinemas, theaters or restaurants as a form of contingency publicity.
In this same vein, on the cinema’s marquee was billed a performance by the children’s group La Colmenita (the Beehive) and the showing of the movie Sherlock Holmes.
As could be expected in a major concert, there was no lack of frisking, metal detectors and prohibitions of the use of video and photographic cameras, though the public took a ton of pictures and also filmed the show.
Word had it that AHS had reserved lots of seat…for members of the Cuban Radio and TV Institute and the police; otherwise the capacity of a cinema could have been considered average. In addition, passes had been given out to everyone who had worked to hold the concert in only one week.
Related to this fast-track arranging of the event, according to what a member of the organizing group told me, promotion needs a minimum of 15 days to be carried out. What’s more, though they had made a TV promo for the show, it wasn’t accepted due to the limited time to program it.
At the concert there were people protesting because they had been sold tickets at the box office that were considered fake by the time they got to the door. Some people said that authorized staff had sold them these tickets, but this wasn’t completely certain because in concerts there exist parallel illegal markets of resellers – they buy tickets for 25 pesos ($1 USD) at 7 p.m. sell them at 9 p.m. for $5 CUCs ($6.25 USD).
The opening words of Aldo at the concert were to declare they were not paid, and that they belonged to AHS and to the hearts of the Cuban people. He then announced that this concert was not political and that anyone expecting a concert like that could leave. He added that this was a concert for the Cuban people.
For the Cubans who were absent, they requested a minute of silence, which the public respected.
The guests were “26 Musas” and “Escuadrón Patriota,” which brought together several rappers: Silvito el Libre, El Enano, Soandry de Hermanos de Causa and others.
Near the end, the public requested the song “Cuba Libre,” but the singers responded that they couldn’t sing it because they wanted to go to Colombia.
In this way, he evidenced that they had accepted the conditions of the State so they would be guaranteed a trip that up to now they haven’t received. Could it be that they’ve begun to think about themselves? Then again, what human could resist the temptation that has passed by them so many times? It would be like refusing a lifesaver, though leaving behind the principles that were up to now defended? Like the Cuban people would say —with the same attitude that Aldo criticized in the documentary— “What else could they do? They’re struggling!”
It was as if the AHS was confirming its position by saying, “You never came to see us, if you had come earlier we would have given you free reign and there wouldn’t have been any conflict.”
“We did it!” shouted Aldo, running behind the metal rail erected in front of the cinema. But, as several of us thought to ourselves, “Perhaps they did it to you.”