A grey place, of concrete and marble, that makes people feel tiny and insignificant. I pass near the Plaza of the Revolution every day on my way home and cannot stop feeling overwhelmed, seeing myself crushed before that architecture so reminiscent of fascist megalomania. I was there once with a white and yellow banner shouting “freedom,” in front of a dove-shaped altar designed for the Pope. I’m not Catholic, but I wouldn’t have missed the chance for anything in the world to say another kind of slogan in that Plaza.
It appears that on the September 20th, Juanes will try to put a human face on an architectural ensemble where no one is going to go and sit placidly. I have never seen a couple or a Cuban family there who—without being called—find a corner to talk or laugh. A space without trees, designed to gather, overcrowded, for the leader to shout at us from his height, some meters above the pavement, and wait for us to respond with some repetitive slogan of, “We shall conquer!” “To the wall!” or “Viva!”
I think that Juanes should come and sing. If his subject is peace, he will have to know that this Island is not immersed in bellicose conflict, but neither does it know concord. He will raise his voice before a people who have been divided, classified according to a political color and compelled to confront any who think differently. A population that for years has not heard talk of harmony and that knows the punishment given to those who dare to voice their criticisms. We need his voice, but only if he comes to sing without forgetting any Cuban, without rejecting any difference.
We would like him to accompany his song with the cadence of Willy Chirino, the trumpet of Arturo Sandoval, the rhythm of Albita Rodríguez or the sensual sax of Paquito D´ Rivera… but none of them will be allowed to be there. Juanes will enjoy the privilege of the foreigner, who on this Island is worth much more than the natives. Everything he says between songs—if he says anything—will be interpreted as his support for a system that ebbs away, as the accolade to a group in power.
It was not an innocent decision to choose the Plaza of the Revolution as a stage for his music and he will not be able to shake the political weight that it carries. But if it has to be so, if there is no space in the poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city, in my birthplace of Central Havana, on the brink of collapse, if he’s not allowed to immerse himself in San Miguel or Marianao, or even to use the Latin American Stadium, then let him sing under the statue of Martí, facing the image of Che Guevara, but at least let him sing for everyone.