Cubans Cry, Sing and Celebrate Pablo Milanes
By Deutsche Welle / La Prensa
HAVANA TIMES – From the island and abroad, on social networks, Cubans have been paying homage to Pablo Milanes, his life and his songs for a week now, denying early rumors about his death, asking for his recovery at the Madrid clinic where he was fighting for his life.
Since early Tuesday, November 22, a transnational Cuba cries and celebrates him, because #PabloesCuba writes in the language of virtual agoras, and many Cubans from diverse geographical and political shores agree on that.
“National, global, cosmic mourning. The best Cuba is that of your songs, and that of your voice. Thank you for everything”, the independent Cuban film producer Claudia Calviño, based in Barcelona, writes on Facebook. “In an absent plaza we are now all gathered, singing, inhabiting like ghosts the country that wasn’t,” sums up from New York journalist and writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez, vetoed by the government, like many other Cubans, from returning to the island.
“Let’s sing to Pablo”
“If there is a voice that has always brought Cuba back to me anywhere in the world and has returned me to Cuba, my heart, it has been Pablo’s. Pablo is the voice that tells me that it was all a dream, but the dream was beautiful, even if it was a lie. For many the dream was real at some point. With Pablo I feel the loss of that dream that we have never fulfilled. That eternal dream. And I feel blessed to have had it. Above all, for having the ability to reinvent myself,” writes his colleague Monica Baro, also exiled, first in Madrid and today in New York.
“My son has just given me the sad news that Pablo Milanes has passed away. My dear little brother. What a great pain for me,” writes from Havana another legend of Cuban music, Omara Portuondo, internationally known as part of the Buena Vista Social Club: “Aida Diestro, director of the D’Aida quartet, introduced him to me and since then we have been friends and Pablo’s brothers, as I was saying. He will be in the heart of every Cuban forever, in my heart and that of my family.”
#CantemosaPablo (Let’s sing to Pablo) summoned some in Havana, for 3 o’clock this afternoon in the Vedado park at H and 21st, on a day that, on some calendars, marks the day of Santa Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians and poets.
“It has not been easy to have an opinion”
Meanwhile, in Miami, the quintessential place for Cuban exiles, some still reject the man who was for decades a singer of the Cuban “Revolution”, despite his critical views of more recent decades. But there are also those who call for a singing vigil for Wednesday, November 23, on the boardwalk of the Ermita de la Caridad del Cobre, at five in the afternoon.
Everyone evokes him with another song from his “more than 40 solo albums, with themes of love, old age, homeland, struggle, hopelessness, happiness, and the many forms of agony typical of an Unamuno,” Cuban historian Julio Cesar Guanche has written.
Pablo even challenged “Cuban ‘manliness’, that pathetic thing to which the Cuban State itself ascribes, with songs that assure ‘I prefer it shared’, or ‘we are not God, let’s not be mistaken again’, in respect for the same sex option,” recalled Guanche.
“It has not been easy to have an opinion / that asserts my vocation / my freedom to choose…”, historian Alina Barbara Lopez sings on Twitter from Matanzas: “Thank you Pablito, for being the company and the poetic and civic voice of so many generations. You remain with us. Fly high.”
“You spoke sincerely when hardly anyone your height spoke sincerely. You paid for it. You suffered without complaint. You taught us what it is to be upright and dignified,” noted Monica Baro.
He is also remembered by El País newspaper, from Spain, with an extensive dossier on that “great voice of Ibero-American music”. Pablo Milanes heads the cover of one of the main dailies in the country that welcomed him in his last hours; a country that has also welcomed so many Cubans and where Pablo “had lived for years to receive medical treatment for cancer.”
Meanwhile, the official Cuban press bids farewell to him, for the moment, with obituary notes that highlight the message sent, from Russia, by Miguel Diaz-Canel, First Secretary of the Communist Party and president of Cuba.
He recognized Pablo on Twitter as “one of our greatest musicians. Voice inseparable from the soundtrack of our generation”, and he sent his condolences “to his widow and children, to Cuba.” Likewise other officials and state institutions.
“The world of Cuban, Latin American and world music is in mourning,” wrote the Telesur network, while also highlighting the official Cuban condolences.
Cubans of several generations, and some cultural institutions, say goodbye on social networks, #EternamentePablo, from the left and the right, recalling one of his hymns “Yolanda”.
The founder and architect of the Nueva Trova sound along with Silvio Rodríguez and other musicians of his generation, died this morning in Madrid at the age of 79. He had been hospitalized on November 12th for “the effects of a series of recurring infections” that in the last three months had been affecting his state of health.
One of his last live performances was in June in Havana, in a concert transferred at the last minute to the extensive facilities of the Ciudad Deportiva, after protests from many Cubans unable to get a ticket offered for a smaller venue.
2 thoughts on “Cubans Cry, Sing and Celebrate Pablo Milanes”
I only came to know of Pablo Milanes after meeting his daughter at the gym during my first visit to Cuba 15 years ago. Sadly, this daughter also passed away this year. My sincere condolences to the Milanes family.
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