Prison Diary LXVII: Troubadors Committed to Freedom / Angel Santiesteban

Pedro Luis Ferrer and Frank Delgado: Eternal Exorcists of the Powers-that-be

Frank Delgado

Frank Delgado

There is no doubt that Cuban music is a letter of introduction to Cuban culture, and its scores have historically been the tapestry of tears of the composers have chiseled their deepest feelings, from love and heartbreak, to the social and historical problems of the nation.

With the coming to power of Fidel Castro, social criticism was suppressed, especially after his speech about “with the Revolution everything, against the Revolution nothing,” which made it very clear what the attitudes and topics of  artists would be, but most of all what they would have to communicate in their works.

From that point forward, slanting the culture was the priority of the political commissars who reached out from the military into the culture sector, five for every artist. They persecuted any attitude that did not clearly and openly support the imposed political process and exalt the image of the maximum leader, which signified the marginalization of the arts, and in addition, a wandering life without life projects of any kind.

Thanks to this, the opportunists appeared who imposed their “socialist realism” to satisfy the accepted aesthetic, the conflict-free narratives; they distorted art, confusing many, while others left or chose to go along so as not to suffer.

There were so many years of intense harassment, an iron grip spanning several generations, that still today there is fear, leading to self-censorship as a form of survival, and in this way being able to subsist and remain in the cultural environment and exercise their vocation and offer their art to the masses.

A half-century after the rise to power of the Castro brothers, opportunism and the rejection of criticism continue to be the only ways to earn the title of artist. To do the opposite just leads to ostracism, the lack of promotions, and in the worst cases, prison.

Pedro Luis Ferrer

Pedro Luis Ferrer

Two popular Cuban musicians, Pedro Luis Ferrer and Frank Delgado, have chosen to wear their honesty like a flag, and for their irreverent lyrics, only at the disposition of noble principles, in many cases criticizing the State and its functionaries, they have seen their songs banned on television and radio, nor are they invited to festivals nor to play alongside other troubadours, who would risk the same fate.

Carrying their guitars, these two excellent poets have followed their own path, renouncing the support of the government and its spaces, which we know are all the spaces; they receive slaps in the face, marginalization in the media, and on many occasions, persecution, citations to appear to clarify the points of view in their annoying lyrics, just to name a few of the many aggravations maintained against them for years.

These songwriters have withstood the mighty storms that restrict their lives, and sheltered themselves — as eternal exorcists of the powers-that-be — between the strings of their beloved instrument. They simply wait; at some point the storm will break, they say, and they continue to watch their environment, that will be reflected in their next songs, and that perhaps we will enjoy, thanks to the space El Sauce, which collects them thanks to the brave and honest work of its head of programming, the excellent actor and friend Luis Alberto García.

Pedro Luis Ferrer and Frank Delgado, please accept the silent honor of your people, and our appreciation for those who, like you, want to think of freedom.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement, November 2013

18 November 2013