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MH/ Viega + Levin: More fans than foes come for Van Van

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  • Ned Sublette
    http://www.miamiherald.com/news/miami-dade/v-print/story/1456425.html Posted on Sun, Jan. 31, 2010 More fans than foes come for Van Van BY CHRISTINA VEIGA AND
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      Posted on Sun, Jan. 31, 2010
      More fans than foes come for Van Van

      Popular Cuban dance band Los Van Van returned to Miami on Sunday,
      greeted by enthusiastic fans and angry protesters.

      The last time Los Van Van performed in Miami in 1999, protesters
      outnumbered concertgoers, and rocks and bottles flew.

      This time, 350 to 400 showed up to demonstrate, and almost 4,000
      showed up for the show at the James L. Knight Center in downtown
      Miami. The only things hurled were a few insults. There were no
      arrests, Miami police said.

      Protesters, who associate the band with the Castro regime, crammed
      together on the sidewalks, waving flags, holding signs and screaming
      into megaphones as cars full of concertgoers streamed past.

      ``We're hurt, so we cry out,'' said Juan Antunez, 66, of Kendall, who
      said he came to Florida in 1961 and served in the U.S. Army during
      the Cuban Missile Crisis the next year.

      ``If these were Jewish people, they would be outraged if someone from
      the Nazi regime came here to do art,'' he said. ``There is no art in
      a communist regime.''

      Concertgoers opened their car windows, smiling mockingly and shouting
      at the demonstrators. Some blasted Los Van Van music from their car

      Outside, Ivan Sanchez, 68, held up a white poster board with a
      message condemning local officials for allowing Los Van Van to
      perform at the Knight Center, which is a public venue. He made a case
      against the argument that the performance would facilitate cultural

      ``They say it's a cultural exchange, but who's going to Cuba?'' asked
      Sanchez, who lives in Miami. ``It's a one-sided exchange.''

      Magda Miranda, who came to Miami from Cuba five years ago, strode
      past the signs declaring her a ``traitor'' and ``communist.'' As she
      headed toward the concert hall, she pumped her fists in the air.

      ``I'm for Van Van,'' she said. ``I don't care about Fidel. I don't
      care about anyone. ``Viva Van Van.''

      Inside the Knight Center, the close to 4,000 concertgoers were as
      excited as music-lovers at any other show.

      Mike Barry, 33, a Cuban ?migr? who also attended the 1999 show,
      shrugged at the difference between then and now. ``It's not like last
      time.'' he said. ``I think the community has changed a lot.''

      His friend Joe Rose, 44, a U.S.-born Cuban American, said he was
      purely a fan of Van Van's music.

      ``It's great music,'' he said. ``I respect the way [the protesters]
      think, but they've got to respect the way I think, too. I bet the
      people out there have Van Van CDs, too. Their music is that good.''

      Debbie Ohanian, who produced the 1999 Van Van concert, said she was
      not disturbed by the sight of the 350 to 400 protesters this time, as
      opposed to 3,000 at the first show. ``In 10 years there'll be 30
      protesters,'' she said.

      Just the same, police maintained a vigilant presence outside the
      Knight Center. It took concertgoers about 15 minutes to make their
      way through security.

      The band took the stage at 7:30 p.m. They made no speeches, and
      launched directly into their first song, their latest hit, Arrazando.

      Los Van Van was to return to Cuba from Miami after its two-show
      Florida tour; they played in Key West on Thursday. A more-extensive
      U.S. tour is planned for this spring.

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