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.)

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