Tuesday, May 5, 2009

punto de VISA

Bad news, it seems, re: Cuban artists seeking to travel to the U.S. to perform: folk singer/songwriter Silvio Rodriguez did not receive a U.S. visa in time to perform at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday celebration this past Sunday, May 3. State Department officials are quoted as saying his visa request is "in process." Visa delays have been tantamount to denials during the second Bush term.

This AP story in the Hartford Currant appeared yesterday.

deplored his own inability to attend the event in an open letter to Seeger published on a Cuban state-owned website:

"I tried to return to be with you today, but, as you well know, it was made impossible by those who do not want the United States and Cuba to come together, sing together, talk together, understand each other...Not only I, but all of Cuba, embargoed as we still are by the abusers, loves you, and we are at your side now singing your prophetic We Shall Overcome and our Martí's Guantanamera.

[Translation Ned Sublette. It was Seeger's inspiration, in the early '60s, to pair Martí's lyrics with a 1928 Joseito Fernandez tune, "Guantanamera."]

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, no one seemed to miss him at the party. Neither his absence nor the reason for it were announced from the stage, nor was it mentioned in press coverage of the event, according to Sublette.

So much for hoping that a new era of U.S.-Cuba diplomacy had already touched the State Department. Naturally, I'm concerned about what this bodes for the rumored Los Van Van tour, but it's best to always wait and see. Esperanza!

Update 5/14:

A couple of commentaries on the Silvio Rodriguez case...this TV journalist Alina Fernandez says, it's no wonder his visa was denied, as he's not just a singer, but a politician with an extensive resumé that makes him quote an "embassador of tyranny" (in Spanish):

And here's an interview Rodriguez did in Cuba, telling about the U.S. consulate interview in Paris. (I tuned out about half-way through where he started telling an anecdote about Poughkeepsie...) but anyway, the gist is, he was disappointed not to receive the visa, because he had thought conditions in the U.S. had changed enough, with Obama in the White House, talk of a new attitude towards Cuba, the momentousness of the occasion (Pete Seeger's 90th), that it was to benefit an environmental cause (cleaning up the Hudson) etc. Consulate officials reportedly did question him about his membership in the Cuban parliament (in Spanish):

He says he is glad he was at least invited, he wants to break the ice between our two peoples. He describes also what they had planned for the concert; he and Pete were going to sing "Guantanamera" (a song Seeger popularized here in the 60s) together, in the second half of the concert, to be joined on stage by Juanes.

Everything has to have a little Juanes nowadays...

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