Colombian musician Juanes has been under fire ever since he announced his second “Peace Without Borders” concert would be held in Havana’s Revolution Plaza on Sept. 20. According to the singer’s manager, Fernan Martinez, “the event will use music as a tool to transcend politics and demonstrate unity of peoples beyond borders.” But Miami’s anti-Castro population is not having it, claiming that the guitar-strumming artist is just another pawn in the “despotic regime.”
Cuban-American filmmaker Joe Cardona criticized Juanes in an opinion piece in the Miami Herald on Tuesday: “The concert promises to be nothing more than a shameless, thoughtless and heartless appearance by the 36-year-old singer and his fellow performers. It will be more tacit legitimization of the hemisphere’s most oppressive 50-year-old dictatorship.”
Actress Maria Conchita Alonso, who was born in Cuba and raised in Venezuela, issued an open letter yesterday also voicing her indignation: “A concert for peace? In Cuba? Please, that can only occur to someone who is naïve, ignorant or cynical. That concert will not nourish the Cuban people who are hungry; that concert will not liberate hundreds of political prisoners whose only crime has been to speak in favor of human rights…; it will actually “reward and delight” its henchmen who will be seated in the first row…enjoying their “night of peace, night of love.”
Juanes, who resides in Miami, has been busy defending his decision on his Twitter Page. “Singing to Cuba is not a crime, think about it…this can bring on positive changes,” he tweeted on Tuesday. He also went on the Univision show Aqui y Ahora to talk directly with his fans and critics: Going to Cuba is a symbol, a symbol that it’s possible to change minds…Cuba is not only its government, Cuba is 11 million people; I want to sing them.” And that’s just what the singer intends to do. He isn’t planning any political messages or pleas to the government. “My only message is my music.”
The noted activist also said that he approached the Cuban government about the concert—not the other way around. He has even met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the embargo in an effort to attract American musicians who would otherwise be prohibited from traveling to the island. So far, performers officially onboard include Spanish singer Miguel Bose and Puerto Rican merenguera Olga Tañon, who also issued a statement about the controversial concert, calling it a “gesture of love and compassion through what we know how to do from the heart, MUSIC.”
It’s a heated issue that will continue to rage on. I have a hard time condemning his good intentions, especially when I think of the joy it will bring to the Cubanos on the island. Watch the following two-part interview with Juanes and let me know what you think.