14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, 27 June 2018 — The markets closed ahead of time, in state offices employees managed to leave early, and Havana’s Sports City was filled for the concert of Cuba’s own Gente de Zona and Italy’s singer-songwriter Laura Pausini this Tuesday night. That was when the rains came and stole the show, a downpour like those that the Cubans call “a stick of water,” with lightning and thunder,.
Pausini’s first concert in Cuba, which required her to travel 25 hours, will be remembered by that thunderous downpour that hijacked the prominence of the concert, kept many from making it to the venue and left others soaked to the bone.
In spite of the flood, from the early hours of the afternoon thousands of people began to congregate in the wide esplanade of Sports City to claim the spots closest to the stage, an imposing structure surrounded by an impressive police operation.
The “Pausini-Gente de Zona” effect was felt from the moment the day began. The farm markets in the area, unsupplied due to the weather problems that have affected agriculture in recent weeks, meant a day of empty pallets because many vendors preferred not to open to go to the show instead.
The self-employed took advantage of the avalanche of people from all the municipalities of the capital to offer corn chips, sweets and also whistles or rattles to accompany the music during the night. Balloons, T-shirts with the face of Pausini and some flags, completed the trousseau of the followers of the Italian singer.
Among the audience, most of them very young, there were also groups of foreign tourists who waited until 10 o’clock at night, when the concert began an hour late. By that time, the broadcast of the World Cup was over, which avoided the conflict between staying in front of the screen or getting soaked in front of the stage.
Miguel Diaz-Canel also attended the concert with his wife, Lis Cuesta Peraza, an unusual appearance for a Cuban leader, whose ancestors were only seen in political acts and official or very specific cultural activities such as those put on by La Colmenita or the Ballet National.
The president’s presence led the singer of Gente de Zona, Alexander Delgado, to ask for “applause for our president Díaz-Canel.” A call that was the only political note in the show, and a call that was not complied with by all spectators.
With an audience under the cover of umbrellas and layers to protect themselves from the water, Alexander Delgado and Randy Malcom began the concert with the famous song Bailando, composed by the Cuban Descemer Bueno and to whose success Gente de Zona contributed, along with the Spaniard Enrique Iglesias. Other classics, such as La Gozadera and Traidora, recorded with Puerto Rican Marc Anthony, were not missing either.
Pausini interpreted several of her songs that caused a furor on the Island in the 90s, among them La soledad and Se fue. In addition, she sang along with the duo Nadie ha dicho and, for the farewell, close to one o’clock in the morning, she sang Amores extraños, with the audience singing along.
Those who could not get to the concert, because of the rain or because they live in other provinces, regretted that national television did not broadcast the show live, as it has done on other occasions with cultural events of such importance. “We were not assigned a budget to cover the activity,” a cameraman from the Cuban Radio and Television Institute (ICRT), who preferred anonymity, explained to 14ymedio.
For Jorge Martinez, a resident in the municipality of Cerro, the concert “was good, but Laura was very slow to appear and I had to go at almost eleven o’clock at night because I was with my daughters and they couldn’t keep their eyes open.”
Among the spectators, Heidi Llerena and her friends, a group of young high school students, withstood the rain for hours and stayed until the music ended. “We came from Matanzas for the occasion and even if a hurricane had arrived we were not going to leave,” the young woman told this newspaper after the last song.
Mixed rhythms, including reggaeton, enjoy a lot of popularity among young Cubans, more and more removed from the so-called protest songs of the 70s and 80s. Music to dance to, shake the hips and enjoy, reigned all night in Sports City, with here and there more romantic moments or the sounds of a ballad.
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