The Colombian singer Juanes is moving ahead with his plans for a September 20 concert where he and other international artists will perform in
In the process, he is making the rounds in
I hope Juanes’ headache wears off by September 19.
His concert won’t change the world, much less
It’s a concert for peace, pure and simple, he says – a repeat of a “Peace Without Borders” concert he held on the Venezuela-Colombian border last year. His representative, Fernan Martinez, has said that the concert will be “completely apolitical, there will not be mentions of politics in favor of or against any government.”
Interviewed on Univision last night (story and video excerpt here), he spoke very much as an artist, not a politician. But he also expressed a faith that his idea of a concert in Havana is not only deeply right, but meaningful in a way that approaches the boundary of politics: “To go play in Cuba is sort of impossible…to go to Cuba is a symbol that it is time to change minds…I want to go to Cuba with my friends to tell the world from Cuba that people need to change.” As for the concert location, he sees it as neutral and open – when his interviewer noted that there’s an image of Che Guevara there, he countered that Pope John Paul II celebrated an important mass in that plaza, and that there’s also a monument to Jose Marti.
Juanes’ initiative is drawing a reaction in
Critics are right to point out that in
Some say Juanes shouldn’t go at all, and his concert will be immoral if he doesn’t bring Cuban American artists and use his platform to criticize the Cuban government’s human rights record. The event will be “shameless, thoughtless and heartless,” one Joe Cardona wrote in the Miami Herald, “one more tacit legitimization of the hemisphere’s most oppressive 50-year-old dictatorship.” Agence France-Presse interviewed two activists and proclaimed that
The Obama Administration seems to be supporting the concert. A State Department spokesman told El Nuevo Herald last week, “We are not officially supporting the concert, but the State Department is in favor of these kinds of cultural exchanges to the extent that they increase understanding between peoples…We fully respect Juanes and we wish him much good luck in his project.”
I cast my vote with Juanes.
My guess is that blogger Yoani Sanchez’ opinion – that the concert conditions may not be ideal but “Juanes should come and sing” nonetheless – will be that of the vast majority of Cubans. Her comments are here in English and in Spanish.
The worst-case scenario, I suppose, is that a Cuban official would make a speech, or an announcer would deliver a political message from the stage. If that happens, the thousands of Cuban kids of all ages in the plaza will either listen, or they will do what they often do, which is to zone out while they wait for the music to begin.
Surely, they will be there for the music. And if they find out that some opposed the concert because it didn’t include the right political message, then they will get the idea that the ideological rigidity that smothers all kinds of beneficial creativity, expression, and enterprise – not to mention just plain fun – is alive and well, not only in the buildings surrounding the Plaza de la Revolucion.