By Francisco Acevedo
HAVANA TIMES – Cuban singer Lenier Mesa has been the biggest victim of the Santa Maria Music Fest, the Cuban Government’s latest cultural venture and failure.
Even though he didn’t perform, his mere presence at the hotel where the rest of the artists were staying sparked great controversy, because he himself had promised a long time ago that he would never take part in anything linked to the dictatorship.
However, when talking about the controversy, he assured influencer Alex Otaola that his trip to the island was to visit his grandfather who was sick and that he had only passed by the venue to say hello to his friend Tekashi 6ix9ine, one of the event’s organizers.
Different sources pointed out that the artist wasn’t seen in Mayabeque, his home province, with family and close friends; but he says that he did briefly visit home during his stay on the island, and that his mother later traveled to Güines to take care of the grandfather directly. All of this was debunked hours later when a video is posted in which his grandfather literally says: “Don’t worry about me, I’m OK. Very happy you’ve come, even though you couldn’t come here because of the problems you had, but I’m good.”
According to the singer (one of the most popular in Cuba) who spoke to influencer Eliecer Avila on his YouTube channel, he spoke to Tekashi and explained to him what performing in a show like this meant, in terms of support for Miguel Diaz-Canel, Manuel Marrero and all of the ruling clique, but the Mexican-US artist “has another mindset, he doesn’t understand.”
“This here (in Miami) is more Communist than in Cuba,” he said when talking about a concert that he recently performed there, when he was banned from saying “singao” (asshole) about the Cuban president, as he had wanted to apparently despite always insisting he isn’t political.
“If only they’d let me sing at that festival to sing Diaz-Canel singao,” he said in his conversation with Avila, who became famous during his time as a university student after a discussion with the late Ricardo Alarcon, a high-ranking Communist member at the time. Word has it Lenier was going to be paid 100,000 USD to perform, but this hasn’t been confirmed, and he hasn’t retracted his words after insulting the Cuban leader in the past.
The reality is that the artist wasn’t very self-critical and focused on defending his right to visit a family member, which I don’t think anyone has censored, instead of analyzing what he did for the rest of the four hours he spent on the island, even if you deduct the hours for the fictional trip to Güines (which takes four hours at full speed, or eight hours return).
Even though it’s true that he had nothing directly to do with the event and he only took advantage of the situation to give his grandfather a hug (which he didn’t do in the end), he should be a lot more careful with his image, which was used to promote the event indirectly.
Here, I’m going to stand up for Lenier, because he didn’t talk about what was going on at the Santa Maria Arena at any point, organized by GAVIOTA company – the economic and tourism branch of Cuba’s largest holding company GAESA, which belongs to Cuba’s Ministry of Armed Forces (MINFAR), but he did lie about his trip at the end of the day.
He said he continues to defend the Cuban people, but the reality is that he gave up a golden opportunity to prove this. I understand that by not doing so might have been the only way he’d be allowed back into his country, but he could have kept under the radar a lot more, and not have lied about the encounter with his grandfather, of course.
Nevertheless, I believe his subsequent attitude, as well as the lie and the lack of self-criticism, is a way for him to stick to his ideas and repeat that he stands by Patria y Vida! (Homeland and Life!), but he is guilty even if he is innocent, because he said at the beginning (the Sunday when he returned to the US) that he was working with Tekashi, and that he was headlining for his concerts, wherever they were.
It’s clear that he has no idea of the fuss he caused by being on the island, much less that everything was being studied from the political lens, like everything normally is that is linked to this country, nor that the luxury house he was staying in is used by Diaz-Canel himself whenever he’s staying in the area.
At the end of the day, it’s clear that the only thing he’s interested in is his music and fans, his business in a nutshell, and not getting into trouble with anyone. Ever since I saw him in a video on Otaola’s “Morning show” about three years ago, I thought he wanted to put his feet in two puddles, he was dipping his toes, but not getting completely wet.
However, after co-writing the song Que se vayan! (Go away) which was released shortly after the July 11, 2021 protests, I thought that he had become a bit more extreme to the point that he knew where to put his name.
This goes for him and every artist that took part at Santa Maria: Cubans Isaac Delgado, Divan, Alex Dubai, Charly & Johayron and Laritza Bacallao, Puerto Rican Carma Carmona, Dominican Yailín “La más viral”, to name a few.
The 100,000 pesos (400 USD) that some paid to be there won’t be used to buy ambulances or medicine, but to carry on stuffing the pockets of all of Fidel Castro’s circle of family and associates.
All of them legitimized the event by being there, including Lenier even though he never went up on stage, and it was worse in his case because the Government let him in, but not to sing, as if they made it perfectly clear that they didn’t want or need him, so he’s the one that came out worse.
In his case, the dictatorship can even say that they let anti-establishment artists in, manipulating the narrative even more (they defended him on the unmentionable government show Con Filo).
He has t the consequences now, especially the financial ones (with concerts cancelled in Miami) which is what really hurts, but he’ll never forget the Santa Maria disaster that’s for sure.