By Alejandro Langape
HAVANA TIMES – In 2009, Colombian singer Juanes’ project managed to fill what was once Jose Marti Civic Square, in Havana (now called Plaza de la Revolucion) with Cubans who weren’t there to watch a parade or mass rally, who weren’t there to shout and/or carry pro-Revolution slogans, but were just there to listen to musicians from different genres, with very unique ways of singing.
Among the foreign guests that Juanes had managed to sign up to this “Peace without borders” concert was Miguel Bose, a man who in the ‘80s had made so many girls sigh thinking about a heartbreaker, who picked up on the classic Carmen’s tragic fate.
Like all the headliners of this event, Bose performed his art for the Cuban people for free, just like he had on March 16th 2008 on Simon Bolivar International Bridge on the Colombian-Venezuelan border and like he has done on other occasions too (which can’t be forgotten in these times when many Cuban and foreign artists only follow the note of whoever has the biggest pay cheque).
Moved by the huge audience who had crowded in the square, Bose said: Today, we are here making a dream of harmony, union and dialogue come true. Peace is the most powerful thing on this planet. You don’t have to say much more, the son of a bullfighter and former Miss Italy made headlines in Cuban media who praised his performance of El Muro alongside gnomo Carlos Varela.
In 1996, Bose took to the political stage and gave his support to Felipe Gonzalez’s Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), which would lose the Spanish general election to the PP headed by Jose Maria Aznar. I don’t want to and can’t forget these thirteen years of socialist government; Bose’s message had been back then and he also won some followers here.
Why am I remembering all of this? Well, because Miguel Bose recently sang on the Colombian-Venezuelan border again (Feb. 22, 2019), and because he voiced his “political” opinions there.
This time, it hasn’t been well received in our government’s buildings at all, and, as is common in these situations, the media’s response has been to defame this singer, questioning this timing in his professional career (luckily, they still haven’t started digging in his personal life), which is quite strange in a country where the media has recently been making a song and a dance over singers and/or bands that were popular 20 years ago coming to perform.
That’s to say, that the Bose who is criticizing Nicolas Maduro’s government of Venezuela is no longer the same nice Leftist Bose, the sensual Spanish singer whose sexual ambivalence on stage reminds us of that wonderful freak Freddie Mercury.
And, that’s because in Cuba, government media’s opinions about anyone famous in the Arts (or just famous) tends to go from black to white and vice-versa.
This reminds me of an article I read on the leading government website Cubadebate that talked about the concert that Joaquin Sabina and Joan Manuel Serrat gave in Israel. The writer said something like while these two popular Spanish singers were singing, bombs were falling on the Gaza Strip.
You don’t have to be very clever to pick up on the fact that the writer was relating two events that were taking place in absolute parallel and weren’t linked in any way. Any sharp reader would ask themselves if the Israeli people also didn’t have a right to enjoy these and other artists singing live, outside of their government’s politics and which these citizens who were singing along to the Catalan and Andalucian’s songs might not agree with.
As I was telling you, Bose was one of the artists who went back to the Colombian-Venezuelan border almost 11 years later on February 22, 2019, invited to perform at another peace concert. Celebrities such as Alejandro Sanz and Juanes also came again and many other singers from Latin America came to perform.
As someone who doesn’t hide, as we have already seen, Bose asked Nicolas Maduro to step down from power so as to seek a peaceful solution to the Venezuelan crisis (supreme heresy). It was enough for Cuba’s government media to hate him, to question his talent and look at everything he does with a magnifying glass.
However, he wasn’t the only one who was suddenly suspected of a fraudulent career, of insurmountably fizzing out. Jose Luis Rodriguez, El Puma, Paulina Rubio, Alejandro Sanz, Juanes himself are also not the great musicians our media once said they were.
The thing is when somebody famous says what they think and this line of thinking fits in with the Cuban government’s interests, then everything is fine and they might even be invited to the island, but, oh my dear friend, if these statements don’t suit them… well, just ask film director Pedro Almodovar what happens, for example.
In recent days, Blondie has come to perform in Cuba and soon Andy and Lucas, a Spanish duo who have a hit composed by a Cuban composer, will also come too. I don’t know what will be said about them after they perform in Cuba, but one thing is for sure, the slightest thing they say outside of what the Cuban government deems to be politically correct will make this visit their final one.
While we wait (we Cubans are like Job’s followers when it comes to waiting), I’ll stick my earphones back in and listen to Morena mia, because I am a strong believer of different strokes for different folks, and regardless of our government’s fluctuations which do unsettle me, I still like Miguel Bose.
Pope John Paul II had managed to do the same thing when he held mass in this square in January 1998.
We aren’t going to talk about what is happening with Cuban writers and artists who have chosen to seek exile and their work be ignored. Believe me, the list would be too long.