The recently held Santa Maria Music Fest
By Francisco Acevedo
HAVANA TIMES – The Santa Maria Music Fest kicked off on Thursday August 17th, and despite the fact the artists taking part took it quite seriously and gave it their all, nothing else can be said except that it was a total failure because of the poor turnout and organizational chaos.
For starters, preparing the event – allegedly the most important in Cuban culture this year – in a remote cay to the east of the country, is nonsense.
With all of the problems the country is experiencing, including fuel shortages, wanting to move a significant number of people over a thousand kilometers away is a rash goal at the very least.
In Havana, for example, buses were scheduled to leave at 7 AM in the morning and at noon, the majority still hadn’t left the capital.
Ultimately, they are accomplices of the pro-government pantomime to keep the same leadership in power and to paint a picture that everything is normal while a thousand people are still being held prisoner because they asked for freedom in July 2021, – and hundreds of others were previously and later sent to prison. However, they have the right to do this because they paid for packages, which weren’t at all cheap in most cases.
In order to guarantee apathy, they launched offers for only 11,600 pesos (around 3 times an average salary) for a three-night stay, when this is the price of just one night normally. This meant that rooms were overbooked, and as a result, people ended up going to the exclusive cay for nothing, because they weren’t allowed to enter. People complained about the awful service, dozens of people waiting in lobbies multiplied.
If they can’t sell you your daily bread and provide drinking water, only the really naive would take part in this scam.
Without guaranteeing the basic logics, GAVIOTA company – the economic and tourism branch of Cuba’s largest holding company GAESA, which belongs to Cuba’s Ministry of Armed Forces (MINFAR) -, washed their hands of this confusion and nobody came forward to explain anything to the Cuban citizens.
At the Santa Maria Arena, the place where stages were set up, artists tried to please the select few privileged guests who managed to get in – which was a lot less than what the event organizers were hoping for -, because this is an exclusive event anyway, not because of the artists that were invited, but because prices were so prohibitive for ordinary Cubans.
Artists called to the event included Cubans Isaac Delgado, Divan, Alex Dubai, Charly & Johayron and Laritza Bacallao, Puerto Rican Carma Carmona, Dominican Yailín “La más viral” and the Mexican Tekashi 6ix9ine, to name a few.
Cuban singer Lenier Mesa’s presence was particularly controversial. He didn’t end up performing at the Festival, because he had sworn over and over again that he would never take part in anything linked to the dictatorship.
“I’m going to Cuba when the Cuban people come to see me at my concert, when they have a fridge full of food, their own car so they can come to my concert,” Mesa said in the past when asked in an interview if he was going to take part in the Cuban festival.
Talking about the controversy, Lenier 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.
Nevertheless, different sources pointed out that the artist (who co-wrote the song Que se vayan! (They should leave!), which was released shortly after the 11-J protests) wasn’t seen with family or close friends in Mayabaque, his home province; but was staying at the hotel on the cay instead.
One of Cuba’s most popular singers, his discourse is basic double standards, because he knew full well his image would be used to promote the failed event.
In a country where the Government owns everything but doesn’t want to accept any responsibility and solve problems, it’s interesting that he came, and that they let him in, when he called our president Miguel Diaz-Canel a “singao” (asshole).
This farse came a few days after “celebrating” Fidel Castro’s birthday and was promoted by none other than Diaz-Canel’s wife.
But what can we expect from an administration (to give it a decent name) that spent over 37,000 USD in June alone to buy products from the US, despite the blockade, including sugar and coffee, two goods we were once leading exporters of in the world.
Where is this Cuban sovereignty they boast about so much? The independence that Jose Marti dreamt of. This figure is only what the Government invested, without taking into account what micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) import of their own accord.
That doesn’t matter, a Festival with airs of grandeur can be organized even if there isn’t steady Internet or electricity services in Cuba, which is far from recovering after the COVID-19 pandemic and is even worse off with the Economic Reforms and hasty forced digitalization of money, without the minimum requirements needed to do this.
Of course, pro-government political forces or Vice-President Manuel Marrero, the former Tourism minister, can rail against the media campaign to pressure musicians not to travel to Cuba from other places in the world, as they normally would. However, as a Cuban, I feel like the people cleaning this regime’s image deserve international scorn. Let me repeat myself, as a Cuban, I prefer to have less entertainment and more food, more dignity and more freedom and rights.
I respect myself way too much to spend a single cent on these events when I have more pressing needs to attend to, but if you enjoy certain privileges or have a relative abroad paying for you then it makes sense you would go. Then, it’s just something between you and your conscience.
The Santa Maria Music Fest took place, it was a victory the regime’s parrots will say, who will fluff up their feathers once again without caring that (not me, who didn’t spent a single cent) hundreds of Cubans that did, were left waiting and treated like dirt. It was a resounding failure, nothing else can be said.