Pablo Milanes and I share an unforgettable evening at the Tribuna Antiimperialista [Anti-Imperialist Grandstand]. He was on stage, singing his extensive repertoire, while I was hoisting a fabric sign with the name of Gorki. His concert lasted nearly three hours, but the fabric raised by some of us impertinents took only seconds to be destroyed. Despite being so close to the singer-songwriter of “Yolanda,” I thought, that August 28th, that thousands of kilometers separated my nonconformity from his apologetic leanings. I was wrong.
I’ve read the interview Pablo gave to the magazine El Público and any one of his answers would lead to a beating if he expressed it in a central square in Havana. His opinions seem to be those that led me to start this blog; some of his phrases I might well sign as my own. When he says, “We are paralyzed in every sense, we make plans for a future that never even comes nearer,” it touches me more than all of his songs put together. This future he speaks of was painted for us as an abundance of light with a musical score that included his voice crooning, “Cuba will.” For the sake of reaching such an enormous mirage every sacrifice seemed small, even shutting up about our differences, stifling every vestige of criticism.
The colors ran over the aging face of Utopia and the Victory symphony was rearranged into a reggaeton of survival. The songs of Pablo Milanés came to be like the hymns of old when we were more innocent and more gullible. “Many people are afraid to speak,” he tells us now and with trembling knees I confirm that yes, the cost of an opinion is still too high. Beyond the chords and taut strings of his guitar he modulated his best tune yesterday, the one that raises dissent and the finger of the citizen pointed at power. It’s the same tune hummed by thousands of Cubans, but one that he has the capacity to modulate with his warm voice that once made us believe the opposite.