The Washington Ballet debuted a fantastic production of Don Quixote at
the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts this week. The highlight
was an awe inspiring performance by Viengsay Valdés, the Primera
Bailarina of the Ballet Nacionál de Cuba. Ms. Valdés, a product of
Cuba’s world renowned ballet schools, played the lead role of Kitri in
a spectacular rendition of Cervantes’ classic Spanish novel. Many in
the crowd didn’t even know about the special guest, who tip-toed into
DC almost unnoticed. But the audience adored the Cuban ballerina and
interrupted the show frequently with extended applause. And out came
Cuban flags with the endless standing ovation for such a rare and
It seems that a day cannot go by without an article in the MSM
declaring that “Cuba is opening up to the world.” There’s a lot of
tricky logic going in such statements, and this past Sunday’s Concert
for Peace without Borders organized by Colombian pop star Juanes can
help us to reflect on this a bit, and also to act to change United
States restrictions on travel by Americans to Cuba.
Being the music lover that I am, before anything else I have to
comment: What a spectacular display it was! Well over a million people
– half of Havana’s population according to Cuban press sources – filled
the Plaza of the Revolution to see performances by Cuban artists living
on the island and abroad whose work most epitomizes their homeland,
such as Los Van Van, Orishas, Silvio Rodríguez, Yerba Buena, Carlos
Varela and Amaury Pérez. Hats off to saxophonist and music director
extraordinaire Juan Manuel Ceruto and an amazing ensemble that
accompanied many of the Cubans, as well as their foreign guests such as
Luis Aute, Miguel Bosé, Olga Tañón and Danny Rivera, among others. It
was great to see Cuban musicianship on display again here in the United
States, if only via an online video stream provided by Univisión,
something unheard of not so long ago.
On September 3, 2009, President Obama made some of his campaignpromises official, related to the Cuban-American community; the Officeof Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the Department of the Treasuryreleased new Cuba regulations. This was a step forward for theCuban-American community, but what about the rest of U.S citizens - you and me? These changes in OFAC regulations are welcomed, but are long past due. They don’t mean that we can stop urging a change for a just policy for everyone.
Colombian pop star Juanes has planned his second “Peace without borders” concert for September 20th -- UN International Peace Day -- in Havana, Cuba. Cuban stars Silvio Rodriguez and salsa band, Los Van Van, along with Puerto Rican singer Olga Tañon have also committed and there is speculation that some U.S. artists have been invited too. Juanes has formally requested to sing in the Plaza of the Revolution between the statue to José Martí and the grand image of Che Guevara. The show will be free and open to a huge Cuban audience. Juanes’ intention is to "transcend politics,” so what’s the big deal?
On Saturday, Cuban President Raul Castro, while addressing the Cuban parliament, again announced that his government stood ready to discuss anything with the Obama Administration.
President Castro’s statement both reaffirms his government’s commitment to the principles of the 1959 revolution and his willingness to reestablish a cordial relationship with the United States. See coverage here.
Activist groups nation-wide continue to rally against the travel ban. The Inter-religious Foundation for Community Organization/ Pastors for Peace’s annual U.S.-Cuba Friendshipment Caravan (video) successfully crossed the U.S.-Mexico border with 100 tons of aid bound for Cuba. Click here to see the press release about the crossing.
Outside the Base at Guantanamo Bay last week, the US Military and Cuban Frontier Brigade worked together in basic preparation for major disasters. This is not a new collaboration, but the Obama Administration opted to make the exercise public, in contrast to the previous Bush policy of keeping it secret. According to US Marine Corps General Jack Sheehan, the preparations are yet another sign of an “Incremental process” towards more cooperation. ''We've never advertised [the exercise]… because it was very controversial,'' he said. The Administration seems to be sending yet another “trial balloon,” with this announcement, following the talks on migration last week in New York.