The most important piece of Cuba news this week happened because of the bravery of a singer named Juanes.
His “Peace without Borders Concert,” attended by more than a million Cubans in Havana, was the largest mobilization in Cuba since the visit of Pope John Paul II.
He overcame threats of violence in his own community. He surmounted bureaucratic and legal hurdles here in the U.S. And, for more than seven hours, the event that he created captured the hearts of millions of people across the world and rightly so.
His opponents wanted to stop the concert for one simple reason. They can’t hold back the changes that will come in U.S.-Cuba relations unless they can permanently brand Cuba and the Cuban people as alien, as “the other.”
The images brought into our homes, onto our computers and television sets, were anything but alien – it was the inspiring yet familiar sight of people singing and dancing together – a scene that made virtually anyone watching long to be there with them.
If only U.S. law would allow that to happen without requiring our government’s permission.
Hearts were melted in Miami. Carlos Saladrigas, chairman of the Cuba Study Group, wrote this morning in the Miami Herald, “I was left with a feeling that something transcendental had taken place.” And about those in the community who tried to stop the concert he spoke of “the growing disconnect between the exiled hardliners and the Cuban people….It is not reasonable to expect to partake in a new Cuba if we don’t partake in the process that creates it.”
To his great credit, President Obama allowed the necessary licenses to be approved so that people and equipment could make it to Cuba for the concert.
For that, he deserves a little slack for a somewhat grumpy sounding reaction to what had taken place. In an interview he said:
“I certainly don’t think it hurts US-Cuban relations, these kinds of cultural exchanges,” said Obama. But he concluded that he, “wouldn’t overstate the degree that it helps.”
Of course. But, we have to agree with our friend James Early who called the concert “an act of courage” and “an act of peaceful purpose by artists from many countries who are reflecting the readiness of fellow citizens and government representatives throughout the Caribbean and Latin America, and across the U.S., to be witnesses to what can be done when there is mutual respect and will to do so despite differences.”
That is the message we heard and that inspired us in the moving imagery from the Juanes concert last Sunday. To him, we say, ¡Gracias por ser un símbolo de paz!
After Juanes, we report on Congressman Sam Farr’s trip to NY to talk about freedom to travel and the beneficial impact that changing the law would have on Cubans and Americans. We report on some visas – approved and denied – for Cubans coming to the U.S. (why not allow President Al.arcon to come here?). Finally, there is interesting reporting coming out of Cuba about a government debate on the future of socialism and how Cubans are participating.
Read all about it! This week in Cuba news…