MH/Levin: Cuban artists are granted visas to the U.S., ; permits issued for the first time since 2003
- MIAMI HERALD
September 30, 2009
Cuban artists are granted visas to the U.S.; permits issued for the first time since 2003
The flow of artists and musicians between Cuba and the U.S., choked off since 2003, has begun to trickle again.
The most famous voice to hit stateside from the island is Omara Portuondo, the lone female artist from the Buena Vista Social Club, who has received a visa to perform in the U.S. in October. Omara, who just got a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Tropical Album for her album Gracias, will perform during the San Francisco Jazz Festival on Oct. 20 and at UCLA on Oct. 23. The Latin Grammys will be held on Nov. 5 in Las Vegas; no word yet on whether Omara will attend.
Also coming to the U.S.will be composer and conductor Zenaida Romeu who was granted a visa in early September to travel to Fargo, N.D., (of all places!) in mid-November to guest-conduct the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra. Back in the '90s, a number of Cuban groups made the rounds of college and community performance series across the U.S., garnering an audience in the heartland. Romeu is director of the all-female Camerata Romeu, a chamber music group I was lucky enough to hear on my first visit to Cuba in 1997.
The last name in this group is trovador Pablo Milanés, who'll go not quite to the U.S. but to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico in October.
All this comes on the heels of Juanes' historic Havana concert on Sept. 20, but these visas have been in the works for months.
Another mostly off-the-radar event, which saw a Cuban theater group collaborate with the University of Alabama on performances of Shakespeare, took place this summer. And the New York Philharmonic is planning performances on the island, though dates haven't been set yet.
Meanwhile, the king of Latin crooners, Julio Iglesias, recently said that he would play Cuba if asked. And René 'Residente' Pérez, outspoken frontman for alt-reggaeton act and multi-Latin Grammy nominee Calle 13, has said he'd like to do a concert in Havana. This summer, Ricardo Arjona complained that he had been planning a Cuba concert, but would pass on the idea since Juanes had announced his big event.
It remains to be seen whether the Obama administration will throw its full support behind such cultural and people-to-people exchanges the way Clinton did, or whether the softening affect of the Juanes concert will move that process along. Juanes recently played the Clinton Global Initiative Gala in New York City, where the former president congratulated him backstage. I don't know, however, if Hillary was in the audience.
And a new poll by Bendixen and Associates, which shows an about-face in Cuban-American opinion on the Juanes concert, was released at the Americas Conference in Miami Wednesday – which seems a clear attempt to show policy-makers' that exile opinions have changed enough to make those cultural exchanges politically palatable stateside.
Posted by Renato Perez on September 30, 2009 | Permalink
Los Angeles, California
"Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"