HAVANA TIMES — Cuban singer Manuel González, popularly known as the Medico de la Salsa (“The Salsa Doctor”), declared in Miami that he has returned to Cuba to exercise his rights as a free citizen and that he is unwilling to sing Fidel Castro praises to be allowed to live peacefully in his country.
“I didn’t go back to Fidel, I went back to Cuba. Fidel isn’t Cuba. My country is sacred, my people are sacred,” the artist stated this Thursday during an interview for El Espejo (“The Mirror”), a TV show aired on AmericaTeVe-Canal 41, hosted by Juan Manuel Cao.
Gonzalez reiterated he would not renounce to his right to live in the country of his birth and added he expects nothing from the Cuban government.
A Morbid Obsession
“The government has set its sights on me in a rather morbid way,” the singer affirmed on declaring that Cuban radio and television continue to refuse to promote his music, and that the country’s cultural authorities have barred him from holding concerts at institutional venues in Havana.
The 49-year-old artist announced he will be holding a concert for his fans at Miami’s The Place club on September 12.
His return and declarations in Miami take place within the context of harsh criticisms leveled at the singer by Cuba’s official media. Pedro de la Hoz, a journalist for Cuba’s official newspaper Granma and vice-president of the Cuban Association of Writers and Artists (UNEAC), recently accused him of showing “a strong dose of megalomania, opportunism and moral turpitude.”
De la Hoz’ attacks were a response to a number of controversial statements made by Gonzalez on his Facebook page, where he suggested it was time for Fidel and Raul Castro to leave power and open a new era in the country’s history.
Gonzalez, who decided to return and settle in Cuba in October of last year, insisted he is “a free man” and will continue to express what he thinks both in Cuba and Miami.
State Security on the Ball
The artist revealed that, shortly after arriving in Havana, he was approached by Cuban State Security Agents, who tried to persuade him to “behave properly” as he rejoined the country’s cultural sphere.
“State Security called me and told me that, as I began to demonstrate this and that…and I replied that I had nothing to demonstrate and that I didn’t need them to give me any opportunity to exercise my rights, that I was the one giving them an opportunity to demonstrate that one can live in Cuba even if one thinks differently,” Gonzalez said.
Footage of singer Larisa Bacallao, dedicating a song of congratulations to Fidel Castro on his 88th birthday during a function organized by Cuba’s Young Communists League (UJC) and held in Havana this past August 13, was shown during the program.
Manolin said that congratulating Castro was a personal choice of every artist and that he would only do so if they allowed him to reside in his country without asking him to change the way he was, remove all restrictions on his music on the radio and television and permit him to hold public concerts and tell Cuba’s former leader he does not agree with him.
“If that doesn’t happen, I won’t congratulate him,” the musician commented.
Prohibition After Prohibition
When asked why he had to leave Cuba and settle in Miami in 2001, Gonzalez said he had to because the government had closed all doors for him, removed his music from radio and television and even forbid him from calling himself “The Salsa Doctor.”
“I left Cuba so people would know my work,” said the singer, who claims to have knocked on the doors of the country’s top leaders to find a solution to his case.
“The Vice-President Carlos Lage told me he would do everything in his power. Later, they told me Fidel himself would see me, but it never happened,” the author of such pieces as El Puente (“The Bridge”) and Encima de la bola (“On the Ball”), reminisced.
During the interview, Gonzalez praised former Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina, dismissed in 1999.
“Roberto Robaina is my friend. His birthday is the same as mine (March 18). We always call each other that day,” he said. “He was unjustly removed from office.”