By Alfredo Prieto

photo: Wikimedia Commons
photo: Wikimedia Commons

Just recently, well-known singer-songwriter Juanes traveled to Cuba to work out the details for giving a concert there.  Though the visit was brief, he was able to take a stroll through the streets of Old Havana, where he was greeted spontaneously by fervent fans.  This evidence indicated that the notion of an isolated Cuban people – so defended in South Florida – doesn’t add up; otherwise no one would have recognized him.

This same experience has also been shared by others, including musicians Kevin Richardson and Howie Dorough (two of the Back Street Boys), who came to Cuba on a completely non-publicized visit – to cite only one example.

Upon Juanes’ return to Miami, the weight of tradition began to bear down on the artist.  The Colombian-born singer was immediately accused of acting in complicity with the socialist regime and “changing his black shirt for a red one” – obviously another over-the-top allegation.  In addition, he was threatened with a boycott and the destruction of his discography, an experience that others who have dared to cross the circle of ashes have suffered.

One is left with the impression that these people particularly like to go after those who live in their town.  Recently several American actors, who Miami political elements relate to like butter on a skillet, traveled to Cuba for exchanges with members of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), but no verbal tsunamis ensued.

Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion is the venue for the Juanes concert on September 20th. Photo from May Day 2009 by Caridad.

Put otherwise, it is obvious that thoughts of the old-timer exiles about cultural exchanges and visits to the island are usually of no interest to Hollywood artists, who as liberals (in the main) completely ignore; even when that peculiar claim that “came off as termite-eaten closet” attempted to pigeonhole him as a communist.

But Juanes is hardly the village idiot, and he has solid convictions.  It doesn’t take a sociology graduate to note that the action of this South Florida resident expresses tendencies of change in Miami-Dade County… ones that challenge the perspectives of the aging political exiles, as is unequivocally revealed in survey after survey.

Moreover, before coming to Cuba the singer touched base with the office of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as White House officials and the Cuban Interest Section in Washington DC.

To make matters worse for the hardliners, the State Department in fact backed the idea of his playing on the island, though without supporting him officially.  At heart they are in favor of these types of cultural exchanges because they increase understanding between peoples – an idea that, surprisingly, is subscribed to by both governments, though for different reasons.

“We hold nothing but respect for Juanes and we hope he has good luck with his project,” acknowledged the State Department spokesman.

Juanes will join Silvio Rodriguez and other international artists at a Peace Concert in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolucion on September 20. Photo: Caridad

For the Cuban side, the designation of Revolution Square as the setting for the concert implies a change in the unpopular practice of putting popular musicians from the United States into theaters (Havana Jam, 1979; Music Bridges, 1999) and allowing entrance by invitation only – with the exception of the concert by the rock group Audioslave at the Anti-imperialist Bandstand in 2005.

This will guarantee a heterogeneous and diverse public, as is Cuban society, although accusations of “controlled access” and repression of the participants continue to be broadcast with obstinate persistence in the South Florida media.

Meanwhile, Cubans on the island continue to live their lives amid countless problems, yet they are prepared to receive – without obstacles – the icon of Latin pop-rock.  For his part, Juanes has decided to put his shoulder to the dead weight to open the door to his own answers and to bring his music live and direct to the people, like those who he ran into on his brief walk through historic Old Havana.


Alfredo Prieto

Alfredo Prieto: I was born in Havana, a fact that’s not so common around here these days. Most of my family emigrated a long time ago to the United States, something that motivated me to study that country a little to try and understand it. I learned some English, and later I improved a bit more through direct contact with US citizens in their homes and above all in their universities. Later I found out that this was called “sleeping with the enemy”, but I confess that I never saw one in front of me. I’ve had many invitations, but as of six years ago I can’t go back because they changed the rules of the game. I’ve been the editor of the magazines, Cuadernos de Nuestra América, Temas and Caminos. I now work at the publishing house of the Cuban Writers and Artists Association (UNEAC) and I’m writing another book. Like my aunt, I am a declared fan of strawberry cheesecakes… and of Stevie Nicks, Fleetwood Mac’s ex. If any of you know her, please give her a flower for me.

10 thoughts on “Juanes Cuba Concert Stirs Miami Pot

  • PS…there is no RIGHT or LEFT to freedom…Freedom is simply, being FREE and having your human rights respected. Many in the Cuban EXILE Community know what happened in closed doors before 1989, before Fidel had to open it’s doors to the rest of the world. YOU, the public, are impressed by its new remodeled tourist beaches, hotels, and “antiques.” I remember swimming in those same now “tourist only” oceans, which had petroleum and pieces of turd (yes, feces), floating in the water. These have been cleaned up for you, but only you, if you visit.
    Alfredo, where you born and raised in Communist Havana? Then you would know that ALL artists there are censored, unless you surrender to the Communist control. I come from an entire family of artists, and have many atrocities to tell. My father also belonged to the UNEAC, but has since been ERASED. Why? Because his name tells a horrific story of artists censored, oppressed and tortured in Cuba.

  • Daniel Lopez, are you serious? Exiles come in all ages dear. I happen to be in my 30’s, born in Communist Cuba, and now an exile. I was imprisoned and stoned as a 7 year old child, along with my family, because my father ‘spoke’ about wanting to leave the country. When you say: “these (exiles) are not interested in the human rights and freedom of Cuban citizens in the island” ARE YOU CRAZY? Have you lived and been raised in Communist Cuba? Do you know why you CAN give an opinion of any sort, and why we can be on this forum dialoguing opposing ideas, because you have FREEDOM. You have NO IDEA what it is like to NOT have human rights or freedom. So don’t you DARE disrespect the Cuban Community, because living in an totalitarian regime, where you have a tape over your mouth, where you eat rationed scraps, wipe your ass with a newspaper leaf, while your family is being tortured for simply having a thought, is something you CLEARLY have never experienced yourself!

  • Are you a professional journalist? You write very well.

  • I don’t care Juanes cares about burned CDs, as long as they have been paid rather than stolen from a music store.

  • Great article. It is a shame that the political dinosaurs of the rightist Cuban exiles can’t seem to understand that the world has changed since they left the “beloved” Cuba. These people are not interested in the human rights and freedom of Cuban citizens in the island. All they care about is themselves. The are truly a sorry bunch, however powerful they are. Unfortunately, they have held American’s policies towards Cuba hostage for a long period and it’s time already that our government realizes that Cuba is not a menace to US security. No matter how many Juanes Cd’s these gusanos break, He will still be a very popular figure in the Spanish speaking community, here in the USA and abroad. I his concert is Cuba is a total a success.

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