Colombian pop star Juanes has planned his second “Peace without borders” concert for September 20th — UN International Peace Day — in Havana, Cuba. Cuban stars Silvio Rodriguez and salsa band, Los Van Van, along with Puerto Rican singer Olga Tañon have also committed and there is speculation that some U.S. artists have been invited too. Juanes has formally requested to sing in the Plaza of the Revolution between the statue to José Martí and the grand image of Che Guevara. The show will be free and open to a huge Cuban audience. Juanes’ intention is to "transcend politics,” so what’s the big deal?
Some Cuban groups in Miami have called the whole production a “legitimization of the hemisphere's most oppressive 50-year-old dictatorship.” Juanes, a Colombian citizen, lives in the United States, so he is bound by the travel ban like the rest of us. He has met with Secretary Clinton, who cautiously supports the endeavor, and has requested State Department help in securing visas for U.S. performers. A number of groups from all sides have weighed in on the concert. Cuban Blogger Yoani Sanchez’s says, “I think that Juanes should come and sing,” but finds issues in his choice of venue. Here’s a video interview (in Spanish) that Juanes did in response to the controversy.
Why should the United States be interfering with a Colombian national singing in Cuba at all? This is re-opening the debate about cultural exchange and shining a light on the travel ban. In Juanes’ own words, “Going to Cuba is a symbol that it’s time to change (people’s) minds… people have to change.”
Support cultural exchange with Cuba! Sign a petition here to support Juanes singing in Havana.