Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"It's Time for Change"

After the Peace without Borders concert in Cuba, Olga Tañon was back in Miami the next day and made a television appearance on Maria Elvira Live!, MegaTVs popular Spanish-language political talk show program (Tañon also appeared on another MegaTV program).

The picture above shows an emotional Maria Elvira after handing Olga Tañon a bouquet of flowers and thanking her for Sunday's performance [video]. Maria Elvira is immediately overwhelmed by emotions, crying and thanking Tañon "because you mentioned Miami, because you mentioned el exilio." She also gave thanks on behalf of her mother, a Cuban exile.

For weeks Maria Elvira Live! has produced an endless amount of programming analyzing the Peace without Borders concert. It was typical to see on her show some of the most hard-line figures in Miami opposed to the concert, but at some point Maria Elvira herself began seeing beyond the rhetoric, and saw hope. Hope that Cubans (exiled or not) would enjoy a wonderful concert, and maybe decide that it was time for change.

Time will tell what change brings.

Another very interesting thing also happened last night. Maria Elvira again interviewed Miguel Saavedra, leader of Vigilia Mambisa who organized a protest in Miami on Sunday, where they destroyed music CDs by participants of the Peace without Borders concert.

Saavedra was on the defensive [video]. He mentioned that it was not time for Cuban exiles to change, that they need to stay militant, and it is the others ("the leftists") that need to change. Saavedra even believed that the Peace without Borders was nothing special because hundreds of thousands of Cubans would have gone to any other concert held in Cuba. According to Saavedra, Cubans have "nothing else to do" and would pack a concert festival because "its the new thing."

Saavedra is revealing his great ignorance here. There was another large music concert not long ago in Cuba in 2005 by the rock band Audioslave. That concert was described as "historic" gathering about 50-60 thousand young Cubans, but if we go by Saavedra's logic, then that concert should have gathered a similar number of concert-goers as Sunday's concert because Cubans have "nothing else to do" and "its the new thing." I personally believe Saavedra revealed his utter contempt for the people of Cuba.

Anway, despite Saavedra being constantly on the defensive (taking many opportunities to describe Maria Elvira as a communist, or a friend of communists), near the end of the interview Saavedra actually proposes the idea of changing the tactics of Vigilia Mambisa! He says that instead of smashing CDs, they should maybe consider aerial banners. Maria Elvira loved the idea. And, I give her a lot of credit for trying to explain to Saavedra how his protests continue to give the Cuban exile community a very bad image in the media.

But, I'm sure Saavedra knows that he needs to change his tactics, especially becuase of recent pressures, such as last month's Bendixen/Cuba Study Group poll [PDF] showing 74% of Cuban-Americans disapproving of Vigilia Mambisa smashing CDs, disapproval (but not condemnation) from leaders within the Cuban exile community, and Sunday's counter-protest from young Cubans at the Versailles Restaurant.

Also, Saavedra most likely knows how poorly Miami has viewed his recent protests. Here's a good video (in Spanish) showing random interviews with Cubans in Miami (two male adults, two female adults, one young woman) all showing their satisfaction with Sunday's Peace concert, one saying that it "shut up" those who opposed the concert, and two saying that those who smashed CD's (Vigilia Mambisa) might be (to put it nicely) a few card short of a full deck.

Now, the big question is: can Maria Elvira get Armando Perez Roura to change?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Meanwhile in Miami...

No, that's not Val Prieto from the Babalu blog in the photo. Instead, Prieto thanked Juanes [screenshot] for organizing the Peace without Borders concert and this morning wrote:

"Gracias Juanes! You fucking communist son of a bitch."

Oh, those boys at Babalu!

I mean Prieto got all excited this morning that he forgot to copy the last paragraph of Yoani Sanchez' latest blog post. In that last paragraph she writes:

"If we see the performance of this September 20th as the dress rehearsal for a concert we’ll have one day, then we must congratulate those who participated. Even if there isn’t another, and the Plaza again takes on its solemnity and grayness, at least this Sunday afternoon we live something different. In a place where the division between us has been systematically sown, Juanes—to the setting of the sun—has shouted, 'For one Cuban family!'"

I'm sure he'll correct the error.

Well, if you want to see what the Cuban people thought about the concert, here are two good videos [1 and 2] I found on YouTube. Or, you can go to Babalu blog and view Humberto Fontova's latest post comparing the concert audience to a herd of animals.

You might have also read some reports about a protest in Little Havana yesterday. Yup, Vigilia Mambisa was at it again. But, this time they might have met their match. Carlos Miller has the scoop.

But, if you want to see some video, click here and here. Basically, what happened yesterday was that Vigilia Mambisa and its supporters died out (not literally) once their demonstration permit expired into the evening. Many anti-Juanes protesters soon left, leaving many pro-Juanes demonstrators at the Versailles Restaurant (which grew after the end of the television broadcast of the Peace concert). The crowd numbers were quite large, according to Miller and this local reporter for CBS4 news.

[Photo by Reuters]

Sunday, September 20, 2009


To all the artists who performed at the Peace without Borders concert in Cuba. Thank you for showing us the power of music and peace.

[View the final emotional minutes of the concert here.]

[Photo by Reuters: Miguel Bosé, Olga Tañon, and Juanes (the three main sponsors of the event) embrace in the final minutes of the Peace without Borders concert in Cuba.]

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Where to Watch the Concert

If you have DirectTV or Dish Network then you are in luck. The Peace without Borders concert will be broadcast live on both services on the HITN channel [check here for the channel].

The HITN website also looks like it will be streaming the concert, so you can check there tomorrow. The Yahoo! Musica website will definitely be streaming the concert. And, according to Carlos Miller, the NBC Miami website will also be streaming the concert live.

Several, news networks will be covering the event, including CNN. Locally, Telemundo 51 and Univision 23 are both in Cuba already covering the events. Also, AmericaTeVe, the Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald will be collaborating to bring special coverage on the concert.

You can listen to that special coverage on local radio at Caracol 1260AM.

Concert begins at 2pm ET.

[Photo (sign says "Concert of the Century") by Reuters]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gorki has Arrived [Updated]

The controversial rocker from Cuba, Gorki Aguila, arrived last night in Miami. [Watch video here] And, today in the afternoon he presented himself to the public and local media; the first publicity stop in his two-week "Freedom Tour" promoting his latest CD. According to Telemundo 51 [video], he will be autographing CD's for fans tomorrow in the heart of Calle Ocho at the Cuba Ocho Art and Research Center.

The local Spanish media in Miami loves Gorki. Not necessarily because they like punk rock, but because they like his anti-Castro message. Gorki has recently appeared repeatedly on local Spanish news interviews (such as Telemundo 51), Spanish talk show interviews (like Maria Elvira Live), and (surprise, surprise) Radio Marti. In the case of the upcoming Peace without Borders concert in Cuba, Gorki has publicly stated that he supports the event, but believes that the artists, especially Juanes, should inform himself about the Cuban government (because Juanes is naive of course), and place blame on the Castro brothers for the lack of peace in Cuba.

This is music to the ears of the local Spanish media.

But, Gorki honestly despises the Castro brothers. And, its understandable because he's been incarcerated, I believe, three times in Cuba for his "deviant" behavior, and he attributes it all to the repressive machinery of the Cuban government.

Before his arrival to Miami, Gorki had been living and working in Mexico, since April or May, as a waiter in his sister's restaurant (he was shocked that the Cuban government gave him an exit visa). Both his older sister and mother live in Mexico now. He has a 13 year old daughter still in Cuba.

It is also being reported that Gorki's "Freedom Tour" is being sponsored by an organization called the "Global Cuba Solidarity Movement." Looking at their website, this organization seems to have been dormant for about a year since the last Cuba Solidarity Day (which got plenty of attention from the Bush Administration). Looking at the links they provide on their "library" page, you'll get an indication to whom this organization is mostly directed towards (yes, the Babalu blog is there).

Speaking of the Babalu blog, when "founding editor" Val Prieto found out that Gorki was coming to Miami, he got all excited and posted the press release with this title: "Hey Juanes, F*CK YOU!" [screenshot]

Oh, those boys!

Anyway, another excited fan of Gorki's was at today's press conference: Telemundo 51 reporter Fausto Malave. Malave loves to give leading questions, especially when he knows what the answer is gonna be. (Last year, Malave asked former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez in Miami what he thought should be done about Hugo Chavez. Perez replied exactly as he did four years before.) Today at the press conference, Malave (innocently, of course) asked Gorki [video]:

"What do you wish on the Castro brothers?"

Gorki immediately laughed at the question because he knew what Malave was doing. Gorki eventually responded saying: "It so awful to say, but if the freedom of a country depends on the death of a tyrant, then, of course, so be it welcomed." This reply by Gorki also made it on the airwaves of Radio Mambi.

Welcome to Miami Gorki. It's an entirely different propaganda game here.

--- [Update]---

Gorki made his local television debut last night on Mano Limpia with Oscar Haza [video]. The two other guests on with Gorki shared identical views with him concerning the Peace concert tomorrow in Cuba.

Also, this afternoon Gorki appeared before a large crowd of his fans in Little Havana. The Free Cuba Foundation has some video of the event on their YouTube channel.

Gorki was surprised by the large turnout, and looks like he signed and sold plenty of CDs [video]. There's even video of Gorki playing one of his songs dedicated to Raul Castro [video]. One line in the songs goes: "Raul you are a phony, there's no one that can tolerate you."

You can view lots of music videos of Gorki Aguila and his band, Porno for Ricardo, here.

Here's an excellent video by Generacion Asere:

[Photo by PedroPortal/El Nuevo Herald]

Monday, September 14, 2009

Listening to Juanes

The video above [link here] is a song by Columbian artist Juanes called "(It's Time to Change) the Hatred through Love." The video, which includes English subtitles, clearly expresses a message of unity through personal reflection and transformation, and the possibilites of world peace if everyone "changes" their mind.

Since the release of his 2007 album "Life... Is a Moment," Juanes has begun to write more songs about universal love and how these bonds can bring about world peace. It's a significant change from his earlier more popular messages of finding love, and losing love, which are a staple in the mainstream music industry.

There are also songs about raising our voices, and lifting ourselves up to improve our lives (like in the songs "I Don't Believe in Never" or "Life is a Moment"). There's a song called "A Flag of Hands" that calls for liberty, dignity, justice, and bringing peace by raising our voices through manifestations.

These are wonderful messages.

Then, why did Juanes get so many people in Miami upset over his concert in Cuba? The answer, to me, is simply because he would not be transmiting the message that has propagated in Miami for decades: the Cuban government is a source of evil, and the cause of great pain and suffering throughout the region.

Be it true or not, Juanes will have a different message to spread. And it definitely upset many Cuban exiles in Miami, not just because Juanes lives right here in South Florida, close to the exile experience, but because Cuban exiles would be losing a great propaganda opportunity.

Juanes is a huge, multi-Grammy award-winning artist, famous throughout Latin America and, therefore, an ideal source of political propaganda for those who would want to exploit it, such as Miami's Spanish-language media.

Those who live inside South Florida will notice that local Spanish-language stations like Univision 23, Telemundo 51, MegaTV, AmericaTeVe, and GenTV admire and rely greatly on Cuban artists who repeat the message condemning the Cuban government for so many ills, such as Willy Chirino, Gloria Estefan, Andy Garcia, or even lesser known artists like the members of Porno for Ricardo, or Los Aldeanos.

These stations, when it comes to Cuba, function very similar to a propaganda network, mainly propagating a single, non-pluralist, and close-minded message of the "evil" Cuban government. And, when a media celebrity deviates from the propaganda message, he or she becomes a target by the local media. Notice how the Spanish local media responded to the artist Paulito FG when he publicly stated his positive views of Fidel Castro earlier this year. He was basically pressured to change his opinion.

The same was attempted on Juanes when the local media found out his "peace" message for Cuba. In his first interview with Univision, Teresa Rodriguez (who has worked for Univision in South Florida since 1982!) made several attempts to get Juanes to show some regret over his decision to go to Cuba, and at one point started to lecture Juanes saying: "You recognize that Cuba is a country that is a great violator of human rights? You recognize that?"

The same kind of lecturing came from several other interviewers, always asking (as if telling) whether Juanes was informed about Cuba's countless human rights violations or its political prisoners or its support of the FARC rebels in Colombia. In that one interview with Teresa Rodriguez, Juanes responded perfectly: "Everyday its reported in the news." It's the main message that is reported in the local news.

So, it seems that some people don't want to listen to Juanes when he speaks about "peace" in Cuba. Which is certainly strange given the fact that his message is no different than a pure human rights message: that we are all "members of the human family" who share "inherent dignity." Those are the same concepts found in the Preamble from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Then, one should be left wondering if some Cuban exiles, who also are defenders of human rights, are aware of this fundamental concept that happens to be an important message in the music of Juanes.

Unfortunately, politics in Miami is dominated by political identites when it comes to Cuba (you are easily categorized as anti-communist or apologist/communist/socialist), and therefore it is difficult to view an event beyond this frame. Juanes wants to go beyond that narrow frame. He wants us first to see ourselves as part of the same undivided family. Like he told the crowd last year in his first "Peace without Borders" concert [video]:

"Here there are no political differences, no [political] parties, no racial differences, no [social] classes, no religions. Here we are only one."

Yes, it's a human rights message.


Next Sunday, Juanes, including several other artists, will be performing inside Cuba for his grand concert titled "Peace without Borders." (The Hispanic Information and Telecommunication Network [HITN] will broadcast the concert live, available across the nation on satellite through DirectTV and Dish Network.)