Sunday, September 20, 2009

Will Juanes concert inspire change in Cuba?

Juanes rehearsal at Revolution Square on Saturday. Photo credit: Calixto N. Llanes

Miguel Arguelles, a Miami resident who arrived from Cuba at age 10 in 1995, favors the Juanes concert. In a letter to the Miami Herald, he wrote:
Cultural and artistic events of this magnitude can be transformational, planting roots of hope and leading to the overall grassroots change many seek for Cuba. At the most basic level, spectators will be entertained and will get much needed relief from daily frustrations. But when they become inspired, hope will follow. They'll be thirsty for more. They'll be receptive to more. They will question more and demand more.
Yes, the concert will entertain. I think it may also trigger a few questions among Cubans, like, why don't more big-name acts perform in Cuba in the first place? And why did the concert create such a fuss?

Beyond that, I'm not so sure Juanes will inspire any grassroots change. Most dissidents find that trying to change Cuba from within is practically a full-time job. And most Cubans are too busy putting food on the table to take on that burden.

Here's another take on the concert. Writes Sarah Stephens, executive director of Center for Democracy in the Americas:
The sounds coming off the stage today in Havana are more than music, but the sound of what the future looks like when Cubans and Americans, artists and everyday people, have the right to sing and dance together, without having to ask their governments’ permission to do so. That is an extraordinarily powerful idea, and Juanes deserves enormous credit for bringing it to life.

This concert could not have happened without the quiet support of the Obama administration, which made it possible for the equipment, Juanes and others, to be in Cuba for this event. Beyond its support of this concert, I hope the administration also sees the larger point – all Americans, musicians and non-musicians alike, should have the right to travel to Cuba.
Excellent point. The Obama administration ought to do more to lift the travel ban and normalize relations with Cuba.

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