A Special Easter Week in Cuba

Obama and The Rolling Stones

By Pilar Montes

Out in front of the US Embassy in Havana. File photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Very few times before have as dissimilar events – comparable only in the excitement they have caused among the population – coincided in Cuba chosen as their stage.

There is but one topic of passionate or controversial conversation in Cuba these days: the visit of the US president and the concert to be staged by the British band The Rolling Stones.

The sojourn by the legendary English band had been talked up for long and had seemed something as impossible as the lifting of the US blockade on the island.

Now, these two historic events will be forever linked, as the visits of the US president and the longest-playing rock band in history (with over 30 albums under its belt) are to be separated by a mere 72 hours.

Barack Obama’s visit, set for March 20 – 22, coinciding with the beginning of Holy Week, will be fully covered by hundreds of different media from around the world, while the concert that young and aging Cubans have dreamed of for decades will bring a close to this eventful week on the March 25th.

It is certain the final outcome of these two visits will be satisfaction, as the Rolling Stones suggest with their famous song.

Baseball Diplomacy

A US president in office will visit Cuba for the first time 88 years. The previous one was Calvin Coolidge, who disembarked from a battleship, a symbol of the times. Barack Obama will arrive on Air Force 1, accompanied by his family, government officials and businesspeople.

Obama, the bearer of good tidings that will make trade between the two nations easier and give more US citizens authorization to travel to Cuba through people-to-people programs, will make a triumphal entrance, even though many demands have gone unanswered by both sides.

Just as ping-pong was once employed by Richard Nixon as a diplomatic tool to bring about a thaw with China in 1971, baseball has been chosen as the vehicle for rapprochement between the two countries, as this sport is part of the identity of both nations.

When news of the baseball match that Obama would be attending spread, the locals became desperate to get their hands on tickets for the game, scheduled for March 22 at the Latinoamericano stadium. There, the Cuban national team will be pitted against the Tampa Bay Rays.

On the 15th of the month, there was word tickets for the match had begun to be sold at junior and senior high schools, as well as universities and work places.

To buy the tickets, one did not have to be a member of the Communist Party or Young Communists League or any other organization, only offer proof of studies or work, or so a number of my neighbors who’ve already set aside a spot at the stadium told me.

They say the stadium’s surroundings have been painted and asphalted and that the people living near it have to thank the US president for his visit more than others.

A Concert, a Year and 62 Containers Later

British Ambassador to Cuba Timothy Cole said he was proud for having contributed to the holding of this historical concert. “I feel very happy that it was made possible during my time here,” he told the press.

British Ambassador Timothy Cole

The Vice-Chair of the Cuban Music Institute Osmani Lopez told newspapers that the Sports City grounds can accommodate 400,000 people.

Around 70 workers (including construction, lighting, services and production personnel – are working in the mounting of an 80 by 56 by 20 meter tall stage.

The production of the show has proven a considerable challenge owing to the 62 containers of equipment the band sent over and the needs of the concert, said Lopez.

Those who haven’t followed the career of the Rolling Stones, on hearing they are referred to as “Their Satanic Majesties,” will probably ask themselves whether they are in heaven or in hell.

It’s a good question, particularly if one has seen the band’s Facebook page, where we find tattoos with motifs related to the mythical band: this time around, the big, gaping mouth that sticks its tongue out is decorated with Cuban flags, waves and palm trees.

The truth of the matter is that Cubans are in ecstasy, in anticipation of a Holy Week full of unprecedented developments.


22 thoughts on “A Special Easter Week in Cuba

  • March 29, 2016 at 3:46 am
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    Is that a trick question, without a question mark?

  • March 23, 2016 at 8:10 pm
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    Weird response. USA vs. Cuba in a war? A real war? It would last 3 days. Don’t be silly.

  • March 23, 2016 at 7:36 pm
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    What does that even mean??

  • March 23, 2016 at 7:11 pm
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    well since you copied and pasted a previous comment of yours, I think it’s only appropriate I copy and past my previous comment to you.

    I’m almost embarrassed reading this diatribe. Firstly, my fellow Cubans are not reading this site in English. Beyond that, due to different levels of censorship, this site is not readily available in Cuba. All the same you would be better served to post this in the havanatimes.org en Español.

    Christian, you do realize that nothing is free in life, right? Someone has to pay for it. And Cubans pay dearly for healthcare, education and substandard housing. As for trying to paint life in the USA as some type of honey trap, you must be aware that Cubans today ate fully knowledgeable about life here. Cubans have been coming back and forth from Cuba to Miami and the rest of the US that they know the value of life here.

    As for racism…..it’s much worse in Cuba than in the US, by far. Cubans of African decent make up almost 70% of the population yet are way under represented in government and the tourist industry (which are the plumb jobs in Cuba). Just look at the minuscule representation of blacks in the audience during Obama’s speech to Cuba.

    “I always find it curious that its always those that do not live under the heel of Communism that sing its praises the loudest. The waters that separate Cuba from the US are littered with the bodies of those who see Cuba differently from you.”

  • March 23, 2016 at 5:40 pm
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    Uninformed –when quoting sources you better check them out.
    A little further down in the Guardian article you quote ia the following :

    Christian-Fredrick Mattner 2d ago

    All this protest against against the breach of Human Rights by the Cuban Government could be understood IF IT CAME FROM A PRESIDENT AND A NATION WHO ABIDED BY HUMAN RIGHTS AGREEMENTS—AS LONG Guantanamo is used –on Cuban soil –for torture and daily breaches of Human Rights—Barrack better shut up.

    Raul made this point today–underlining this issue.

    I like to share a letter, that our Free City of Danzig Trust published last week in Havana:

    English Text

    OPEN LETTER TO MY CUBAN FRIENDS —

    on the eve of the visit of Barrack Obama to Cuba.

    By Christian-Frederick Mattner, Prof.Dr.hc religious economies

    Amigo mios–

    The USA is the eternal Imperialistic anaconda who continues, to wanting to ‘swallow’ Cuba.

    Now that the end of the embargo is in sight you–my cuban friends must be patient, join forces to rebuild the damaged Cuban economy.

    The economy that was damaged during 60 odd years of injustice through the US embargo.

    The Cuban social strucures, in place, are unique in the world and can now be made to succeed finally, through having —soon–unrestricted access to the world economies and money markets.

    Cubans, please, do not be tempted to fall for the US promises of having a life of luxury —telling you that all you have to do is to get rid of Fidel and your government–to live in paradise.

    The Americans –and even some of your friends and relatives who went to emigrate to the US as economic migrants–may create to you the illusion, that life in the USA or under the rule of theUSA –will provide all you have lacked economically to date.

    For what you may gain in the short term–Coca cola, newer TV’s & cars, access to Drugs and the American way of life—

    YOU WILL LOOSE everything that your parent have fought for and died for.

    YOU WILL LOOSE free housing, free healthcare,free education, free electricity, free water, AND that you can be free from exploitation by the Capitalists.

    Remember why the Revolution happened–remember what Cuba was like under Batista and the rule of the USA.

    Do you want a return to these dark days of oppression?

    I have been many times to the US and have seen with my own eyes the homeless and sick people, living on the streets/without shelter.

    I have seen people begging for money to buy drugs,drink,foods and for medical care.

    I have experienced racial discrimination – seen regularly non whites being beaten/or killed by the police.

    A none white ,unless his name is Barrack Obama is still a second class person–the constitution does not protect him as it will protect the white people.

    ASK YOUR FRIENDS OR RELATIVES who visit you or send you presents–THE FOLLOWING QUESTION :

    IS A CUBA WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS OF THE US EMBARGO/ NOT A WEALTHIER CUBA / NOT A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE THAN THE USA?

    Iam a lecturer of economics and as such have been working –between 1984–1993 in the USSR/Russia–lecturing to soviet state officials–hoping to prepare them for the change, from state/planned economy to a free/ but totally selfish capitalist economy.

    DID I SUCCEED IN MY TASK?

    NO.

    The Russians –not knowing any different after 70 years Soviet education, just fell for the dream world, of the Western way AS SEEN IN AMERICAN MOVIES.

    I coined a phrase; they fell for COCA COLA DEMOCRACY.

    The Russian people, at that time handed over power to the Mafia/ to greedy selfish people/ex state officials who robbed the state assets for their own benefit–and now live the life of billionaires in the USA & Europe.

    SELFISH IS THE KEY WORD.

    Selfishness is the big enemy of a social market orientated economy.

    My belief is simple :

    any social/just economic system —

    wanting to be successful for ALL THE people of a Nation

    SHOULD PLAN THE ECONOMY on the principles of

    SUPPLY AND DEMAND

    & producing effectively through

    JUST Profit Sharing

    (justly proportioned between CAPITAL AND LABOUR)

    If people believed and obeyed the 10 commandments of the bible,

    dropped their Selfishness/Greed

    and followed the BASIC ECONOMIC RULES–

    we would be a better people, have less crime and much greater social equality.

    MY CUBAN FRIENDS, THE FUTURE IS IN YOUR HANDS.

    BE Patriots , love your nation and build on what good basis your parents have created for you.

    If people believed and obeyed the 10 commandments of the bible,

    dropped their Selfishness/Greed

    AND followed the BASIC ECONOMIC RULES–

    we would be a better people, have less crime and much greater social equality.

    MY CUBAN FRIENDS, THE FUTURE IS IN YOUR HANDS.

    Live as Cuban Patriots–the social platform your parents have created, is the envy of the world–now with Capital soon being available–you can create also the wealth the Cuban Social society requires to fund itself.

    MartinLuther King( the murdered black american Rights activist)

    said —

    “WE SHALL OVERCOME”–

    VIVA CUBA– VIVA LA REVOLUTION– WHICH WILL BE CONTINUING

  • March 23, 2016 at 5:29 pm
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    Enough is enough –don’t ask for the response you’ll get in return for another attempted invasion.There are still enough
    heads to launch a strike –mate

  • March 21, 2016 at 7:05 am
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    I don’t know where you live Mr. Weaver but in Chicago, McDonalds and Walmart serve a function for all. First off both stores are generally spotless with clean bathrooms and in the case of McDonalds tables and chairs where I often see homeless and the elderly sit for hours undisturbed. If I want to get some good bargains, I shop at Walmart where in some cases the difference in price can be as much as 40% less. I also love mom and pop shops as well but again, I disagree when folks criticize these staples of US commerce and in fact applaud and am grateful for their existence. Cuba will benefit by so many of our major corporate stores, in my opinion.

  • March 20, 2016 at 8:07 pm
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    Or else what? Boycott iPhones? No Madonna concerts? Exactly what are these fearsome consequences to our “acts of imperialistic aggression”?

  • March 20, 2016 at 7:26 pm
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    ….as for my “nom de plume”, it is as real as your Christian Fredrick Mattner. In the future you should concern yourself with the comment and not the person

  • March 20, 2016 at 7:22 pm
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    I’m Cuban my dear and although I do not partake I am aware of areas you can score weed. Hard drugs however are not prevalent in Cuba. But that can be explained by the totalitarian nature of the government. Very little of anything gets in.

  • March 20, 2016 at 12:02 pm
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    Make no mistake–the world is watching and is NOT going to swallow another act of imperialistic aggression of the USA. Enough is enough

  • March 20, 2016 at 11:01 am
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    No drugs in Cuba-
    -tell me where you can find any dealers.
    I’ll report them straight away.
    Somebody that hides behind a pseudonym but hasn’t got the balls to stand up by name for his comments — hasn’t any balls or is a paid agitator .

  • March 20, 2016 at 10:56 am
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    Bravo well spoken–the free democratic world is concerned about the fate of the Cuban people.We all must support Cuba even more –to achieve economic success with out the ‘bloody’ yankees.

  • March 19, 2016 at 8:00 pm
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    “Aboard a flight” Have heard about cruise ships? As for drugs, I don’t hear much about cartels in Cuba. You’re just being a little too cute.

  • March 19, 2016 at 2:56 pm
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    So now it’s a “vast batistano fringe”? Do they multiply or are the ranks replenished by those who fled the island.

  • March 19, 2016 at 2:53 pm
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    Other than a cheep and obvious insult aimed at Americans what do you mean by your statement? You know very well that travelers are unable to take so much as a nail cutter aboard a flight, much less guns. I always leave my trusty Colt 45, and my Ruger Red Label, over under at home when I travel. Although, much like Santo Domingo, Cuba could probably attract an American sporting crowd were they to offer Trap, Skeet, and dove shoots. As for drugs, those can already be found in Cuba.

  • March 19, 2016 at 2:04 pm
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    I just hope that when the American tourists start to flow in earnest that they remember to leave their drugs and guns at home. And don’t start looking around for a McDonalds Restaurant or a Walmart.

  • March 19, 2016 at 1:05 pm
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    So who picked you to speak out for the “rest of the world”. As far as I have experienced, most people don’t care much one way or the other. I don’t think “supporting dissidents” who oppose a communist dictatorship upsets people as much as you think.

  • March 19, 2016 at 11:46 am
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    While the vast Batistiano fringe in the U. S applaud the support of dissidents on the island, the rest of the world views it as a bullying tactic that harms everyday Cubans. Of course, the Batistiano fringe in the U. S. could care less about how such things disgrace the U. S. around the world even as such things as supporting dissidents, the embargo, the downing of Cubana Flight 455, etc., garner Cuba sympathy and friends internationally. The 191-to-2 UN vote each year reflects the fact that the world doesn’t think innocent victims, like the 73 people aboard Cubana Flight 455, were the “bad guys.” Yet, Batistiana propaganda and intimidation in the U. S. says otherwise.

  • March 19, 2016 at 1:25 am
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    I agree. The spotlight on Cuba should also help to curb the weekly detentions of the peaceful Ladies in White protesters. I can only hope that the Castros will be on their best behavior, at least for the next 2 weeks.

  • March 18, 2016 at 7:03 pm
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    I think the next few weeks will awaken the world’s eye towards Cuba. Good or bad, folks will see for themselves my President, and the greatest rock band of all time. While few ever thought this possible, we’re days away from this historic moment in time. I saw some clips of the recent Major Lazer concert in Havana and the kids, some 200,000 plus were well behaved, had a ball and seemed to know this compilation group which amazed me. I mean how? The forthcoming events will be a glorious respite for Cuban’s and bravissimo!

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