The Controversy Surrounding Danay Suarez at the 2017 Vina del Mar Festival

What do we win and what do we lose

By Yadiel Cepero Madruga

Danay Suarez at Viña del Mar.

HAVANA TIMES — The controversy surrounding Danay Suarez’s participation in the 2017 Vina del Mar International Song Festival, doesn’t stop. On the one hand, there are people who recognize the singer’s daring for performing a different song than theone she had entered the festival with, breaking the competition’s rules, while on the other hand (myself included), women, social activists, defenders of human rights and feminist groups who analyzed in depth the song she performed, have reacted negatively because of the anti-abortion message that can be found in her song “Dejando el mundo” (Leaving the world).

My comments on social media about the subject and my concern for the way that it was dealt with in Cuban media, especially in the digital version of Granma newspaper and the Cubadebate website, were summarized by Victor Hugo Robles, known as “El Che de los Gays”, a Chilean journalist and writer, a committed activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersexual rights, who in an interview he gave for the Blog Paquito el de Cuba stated the following:

“The Cuban LGBTI activist Yadiel Cepero put it aptly: The news should be dealt with from every angle, on the one hand recognizing that Danay Suarez was awarded a Gaviota de Plata prize (exceptional) and at the same time, analyzing the content of the song and its implications for Chilean society and women’s rights in general. We aren’t facing an issue of freedom of speech. Granma is the official organ of the Communist Party which oversees the Marxist, Leninist and Marti based Revolution, in a secular state, where abortion is recognized as a woman’s right since before 1959. Therefore when an article appears in the newspaper praising a singer who has won a competition not for changing the song and breaking the rules of the competition, but for projecting an anti-abortion discourse, there is incoherence to say the least.”

Danay Suarez

Drawing up a general balance of the positive and negative aspects that stemmed from the controversy which took storm on social media and the media about Danay Suarez’ performance at the 2017 edition of Vina del Mar and the Cuban and Chilean press coverage of the event, here are six things that deserve to be recognized in a positive light:

1.- Putting the debate about abortion being a woman’s right onto several media platforms (Paquito el de Cuba, El Ciudadano, The Clinic, El Desconcierto, Diario de Cuba, CiberCuba, Revista El Estornudo, etc.), with for and against arguments. I don’t include media outlets such as Cubadebate, Granma or Oncuba in the above list because they published articles about the award Danay Suarez received without debating the anti-abortion discourse and religious message that is apparent in “Dejando el mundo”.

2.- Free publicity for Danay Suarez (positive and negative) which is positive because the artist is presenting a new album in Miami.

3.- Statements from social activists, defenders of sexual diversity human rights and feminist groups about the subject.  Highlighting a few: Víctor Hugo Robles (El Che de los Gays), Francisco Rodríguez (LGBTI activist, blogger and journalist of the Cuban weekly paper Trabajadores), Gabriel Coderch (Director at the Oscar Arnulfo Romero Center), Mariela Castro Espín (Director of the National Sex Education Center in Cuba CENESEX), among others.

4.- Statements from Danay Suarez in her interview published in El Estornudo magazine where she confirms her position against abortion, giving the controversy which broke out sense. “I have suffered because I have aborted twice in my life. I have suffered the consequences of this firsthand. If it was up to me, we as people would protect ourselves, we would make a plan and we wouldn’t live in promiscuity, we would lead an orderly life in peace. I don’t defend abortion, but I don’t want to impose my personal opinions on others,” she pointed out.

5.- Statements from Danay Suarez about the reasons why she sang “Dejando el mundo”  instead of “Yo aprendí”, shed light on her critique of the 2017 Vina del Mar Festival. “There was a really trivial message on the part of all the artists who performed at the concert, and I was moved to see children and teenagers in the audience humming along with total idolism and excess songs which had very sexual content as well as other immoral acts, as well as showing some videos before the competition, behind the cameras, where they showed us really worried and anxious before the competition which put the contestants into a competitive context which didn’t really exist, at least in the beginning,” she said.

6.- Public questioning about Granma newspaper and other Cuban media outlets’ uncritical journalism, which didn’t publish any more articles about the subject without analyzing the content of “Dejando el mundo”.

Who doesn’t win anything in this story? Official Cuban media who, wanting to avoid controversy, decided not to publish anything else about the subject.

The following is my list of negative aspects:

  1. Granma, Cubadebate and other Cuban media’s inability to take on and cover the controversy which broke out when Danay Suarez performed at the 2017 Vina del Mar festival, by taking a critical stand on the subject.
  2. The zero or little interest that Cuban media showed to give Danay Suarez the chance to clear up what had exactly happened. The singer still hasn’t been given the chance to give her point of view in the official Cuban media.” The interview she gave to journalist Michel Hernandez was published in the alternative El Estornudo Magazine.
  3. The delay in Danay Suarez clearing up her position with regard to abortion and her recognition, or lack of, women’s right to having control of their bodies, also making clear the reasons why she decided to sing “Dejando el mundo” instead of “Yo aprendi”.
  4. The absence of statements about the subject by the Cuban Federation of Women, given the fact that abortion is legal, free and safe, the fact that this is a great conquest for women on the island and that a Cuban woman is at the center of controversy and is internationally spreading an anti-abortion message, that attacks the right women have to have autonomy of their bodies.

I’m not a journalist and I respect those who practice this profession. Nevertheless, I asked Danay Suarez some questions by sending a message to her Facebook page, which if she responds, I promise to share with Havana Times readers in a subsequent article.

2 thoughts on “The Controversy Surrounding Danay Suarez at the 2017 Vina del Mar Festival

  • Yes ,exactly

  • oh please. leave this woman alone with her views. This is feminism – the ability to give women a choice. She chose her views. Let her be. Not every feminist believes abortion is the right thing to do, but, as you pointed out in your article, Danay stated she respected other people’s views. Stop demonizing her for not thinking like you.

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