By Paquito D’Rivera
Everyone knows that in a totalitarian regime like the Cuban is, absolutely everything is organized, coordinated and controlled by the state, including, and very mainly the arts. So a few days ago when my colleagues at Jazz at Lincoln Center naively told me that “Good thing we’re going to Cuba for musical, not political, reasons”, I immediately, kindly but firmly replyed: There is not such a thing as a non-political event in Cuba; and unfortunately, great artists like my dear friend Chucho Valdés are nothing else but tools of that lamentable regime. You should ask Chucho why his own father’s many achievements as well as Cachao, Julio Gutierrez, Celia Cruz and so many of us Cuban exile artists has been silenced and banned from the official history books in our own land. And please take the opportunity to ask also about the Ladies in White, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet–a follower of Dr. Martin Luther King–, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Dr. Darsy Ferrer, Guillermo Fariñas, Yoani Sanchez, and so many other Cubans (most of them blacks), discriminated against, harassed or even left to die or serving up to 30 years in prison just for speaking their minds. And believe me that this is just the very tip of the iceberg about the horrors hidden behind those so publicized Castro’s free schools and health (or rather HELL) systems. Everybody should know by now that every single activity there, is related and connected to a political goal, and relevant names–like Wynton Marsalis or Tania Leon, for example– will be used, no doubts about it, for propaganda matters, help legitimizing the 50 year plus old dictatorship, and against those of us, fighting for a better future for our people. On the other hand, three times already this year I turned down pretty juicy propositions to go to Communist China. I simply refuse to visit cages to play for prisoners with no crimes committed. How would it feel to criticize Cuban tourism while sending post-cards from Tiananmen Square?!
So quoting Cuban exiled journalist Miguel Pérez:
I tell my non-Cuban friends that I probably have much better reasons for wanting to go to the Island. But sarcastically, I also explain that I’ve managed to resist the temptation because I suffer from an illness called “principles” and that traveling to my country under the hideous regime from which I fled is bad for my health. Until Cuba is truly free, I’m not going to be traveling with them.
So, bon voyage!