Buena Fe versus the steam roller

buana fe

‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ – or so they say. Not so for the ultra-right in Miami which has contrived to ban concerts organised in Washington, New York, Texas and Tampa by Cuban duo Buena Fe. Their crime? Comments honouring Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Revolution, following his death on 25 November 2016. The tour was organised by Blue Night Entertainment who explained that they ‘decided to cancel the tour’ to avoid upsetting ‘the Cuban community in the United States.’ In reality, it is a small but vociferous minority within that community which imposes such censorship.

As the international media, politicians and other ‘experts’ used the opportunity of Fidel’s death to condemn the absence of freedom of expression and human rights in Cuba, this group of Cuban-exiles exposed their hypocrisy by violating the right of US citizens to listen to the music of their choice. Do those political dinosaurs Ileana Ross, Mario Díaz and their friends really have the right to determine who gets an audience and who does not in the ‘land of the free’?

Buena Fe have already suffered censorship imposed by the music industry for their commitment to the Revolution and the people of Cuba. At a concert in Venezuela in 2013, Israel Rojas of Buena Fe told an audience how difficult it was for Cuban artists to receive international recognition, including music awards and record deals, because of the cultural blockade imposed as part of the war against Cuba. At least, he added, this meant that were not subjugated to demands to conform by the music industry and its commercial imperatives. In this Bueno Fe enjoy real artist freedom – and they have proved to be one of the most creative and popular groups in Cuba today.

However, Buena Fe have performed previously in the United States. So what has changed? Could it be that the right wing exiles in Miami are exploiting the aggressive and offensive statements issued by President elect Donald Trump to relaunch their attack against the Revolution and paralyse the burgeoning cultural exchange between the US and Cuba? It is clear that the Miami right have been losing their political leverage over the last decade, and especially since rapprochement with the United States in 2014. Increasingly they represent a minority; most of the Cuban community in the US favour improved relations and the end of the US blockade. However, Trump has placed the most reactionary representatives of this rancorous minority in his transition team. Does the Trump presidency signal a return to the most retrograde attitudes of McCarthyism, where those who cannot or will not prove their anti-communist credentials face being ostracised, isolated or worse?

The reaction against Bueno Fe is not new and they are in good company. Several Cuban artists have been besieged for refusing to denounce the Revolution and its leaders. In Miami they have bought out steam rollers to crush the albums of Cuban musicians. Remember Pablo FE, who felt forced to walk out of a live televised interview because of the ‘cruel and unusual’ criticism he faced from the shows presenters? Other artists who have faced censor and censorship from these extremists include Juanes y Olga Tañon, who dared to perform a ‘concert for peace’ in Havana; Silvio Rodríguez, Tony Ávila... The list of includes US superstars, such as Beyonce and JayZ, who enjoyed a holiday in Cuba. The Industriales veteran basketball team, Eusebio Leal – historian of Havana – and even the Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega, are among the many others who have been subjected to vitriol for failing to take an aggressive stance against the Cuban Revolution.

One thing is clear: Cuba and the Cuban people, have got used to the sticks and stones wielded against them from the right wing exile community and 11 US administrations. All they have ever used in their defence are words and there is no sign that the words will stop flowing – not from Buena Fe and not from all the rest.

by Daniesky Acosta