I greatly fear the response of “never”
The last time I went to a Pablo Milanés concert I couldn’t hum a single one of his songs. In the middle of the anti-imperialist bandstand* several friends and I unfurled a cloth with the name Gorki on it, to demand the release from jail — in August of 2008 — of that punk rock musician charged with “pre-criminal dangerousness.” The painted sheet survived a few brief seconds in the air before a well-trained mob fell all over us. The next day my whole body ached and I felt a particular annoyance toward the author of Yolanda, imagining him as a passive witness to what had happened. I was wrong, however. Afterward, I learned that thanks to his mediation we hadn’t slept that night in a dungeon, and that he had also interceded to get Gorki returned to the streets.
This coming August 27, Pablo Milanés is scheduled to give a concert in Miami. An event that has sparked the irritation of those who consider him a “minstrel of the Castro regime.” But not even the most passionate critics should forget that his own life has been — like that of so many Cubans — a sequence of blows dealt by intolerance: his imprisonment in a UMAP forced labor camp, the misunderstandings in the early days of Nueva Trova, and the closing of the foundation that bears his name. They should also recognize that Pablo Milanés had the courage to refuse to sign that letter where innumerable intellectuals and artists supported the repressive measures taken by the government of the Island in 2003, among which was the execution of three young men who had hijacked a boat to emigrate.
Pablo, the chubby Pablo, who in the eighties was heard at every point on the dial when we tuned our radio, evolved as many of us did. He has made his differences heard for several years and his face is no longer present in those profoundly politicized acts with which the authorities try to demonstrate that “the artists are on the side of the Revolution.” I sense, also, that he would like to share a stage in Havana with those exiled voices who are still not allowed to appear in their own country. The troubadour who proposes to sing in Florida in a few days is a man who has grown and matured artistically and civically, conscious, as well, of the need for both shores of our nation to be reunited. Thus, to receive Pablo Milanés with shouts and insults could delay the necessary embrace between Cubans from here and from there… but it will not prevent it.
The “anti-imperialist bandstand,” also called the “Protestodrome,” is a stage and concert area built in front of the United States Interest Section in Havana, along the waterfront boulevard and seawall known as the Malecon.