Silvio Rodriguez. YouTube video.
Bruce Springsteen sang at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday party on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. Cuba's most famous folk singer, Silvio Rodriguez, was invited, but couldn't make it because the U.S. government didn't give him a visa.
One of my all-time favorites: Bruce Springsteen. Source of photo: Examiner.com
I think I understand the rules, the theory behind what U.S. officials are trying to accomplish. Our government doesn't want to admit any Cubans who might promote the politics of the socialist government. And there's little doubt that Silvio Rodriguez, once in America, would somehow push Cuba's political agenda.
Rodriguez is a musician, sure, but there are politics behind his music - and Seeger's, too.
But by refusing to let yet another Cuban artist into the United States, we're only giving Cuba more ammunition to hammer the U.S. as intolerant and belligerent.
We demand that Cuba allow freedom of expression on Cuban soil, then refuse to let Cuban artists express themselves in the U.S.
The visa denial supports my theory that despite the election of Barack Obama, America's policy toward Cuba hasn't changed all that much. Maybe it will change. Maybe something's going on behind the scenes. But I haven't seen any evidence of significant change.
I don't know the music of Silvio Rodriguez well. I met the singer once and took some pictures. I didn't interview him, but I hope to get the chance to talk to him one day.
After the visa denial, he wrote:
I believe that the attitude of the State Department is very contradictory, given the desire expressed by President Obama to bring the United States closer to Cuba. As a Cuban cultural worker, I continue to feel blockaded and discriminated against by other governments. Hopefully this will truly change someday.