Cuba Removes Artists Such as Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan From the Blacklist / Yoani Sánchez

Video: “Our day is coming” performed by Willy Chirino live before a largely Cuban-American audience

From now on Celia Cruz, Bebo Valdes and Willy Chirino can be heard on the radio in Cuba. For decades more than fifty artists critical of the regime have been censored from television and radio programming. But this week several foreign media, such as the BBC, have leaked that the so-called “black list” has been set aside.

An inventory of prohibited names was never made public, nor has the list’s elimination been officially announced. The information has come to light through several workers in broadcasting, although no national listener has yet heard the cry of “Sugar!” — launched by the Queen of Son — emerge from their radio.

In addition to the already deceased Celia Cruz, many other artists have been banned for years and years. Among them are the bolero singer Olga Guillot, the saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, and pianist Bebo Valdes. Even the famous Spanish singer Julio Iglesias suffered this censorship as a result of his critical stance toward the government in Havana.

Now the music of all of them will once again be played on national media, after several generations of Cuban lost their art. However, the new measure still hasn’t been reflected in the music programming on the air. This writer telephoned several national and local stations; the employees consulted said they were surprised by the news and didn’t know anything about it.

The informal music market has offered the productions of these artists for years now. At private parties it has become common to hear Willy Chirino and Gloria Estafan. And their music has even snuck into some activities and events organized institutionally. New technologies have been making it possible for Cubans to acquire these prohibited voices on CDs, DVDs and flash drives. So this flexibility follows the same logic as other “Raul reforms”: that of accepting what they can’t prevent, authorizing what is already happening and is unstoppable. Radio censorship has tried to put corral us, and this new measure recognizes the impossibility of controlling musical tastes based on ideological considerations.

Nevertheless, the end of the veto doesn’t mean that these artists will start playing immediately. The broadcasters must acquire their discs, and many programming directors will wait cautiously to see if this is a decision that is not rescinded. They will also wait for a definition of which songs in the musical repertoire will continue to be banned. Among those we will surely find those that allude to the topic of freedom or of a possible political transition in Cuba. Such is the case with the popular song, “Our day is coming,” sung by Willy Chirino.

10 August 2012