Tending Bridges / Iván García

A contagious song by a Cuban salsero asks in its chorus for a long bridge to be built between La Havana and Miami. Perhaps in the not so distant future the engineers and architects will consider such a possibility.

The so-called City of the Sun appears to be an appendix of Latin America. In jest, it is said that the next Congress of the Communist Party, expected for April 2011, will designate Miami ‘a new Cuban province’.

In Florida live more than 800 thousand Cubans. That number of inhabitants is more than that of ten of the fourteen provinces on the island. While the politicians in Cuba and the United States carry on with their cold war language, the common people, musicians and intellectuals, have broken dikes that only a few decades ago were a minefield set by the Castro government.

In Havana it makes news each time important musicians appear in comedy programs or debates from Miami. Thanks to the illegal satellite antenna, for which families pay the equivalent of 12 dollars a month, it is known that orchestras like Adalberto y su Son, La Charanga Habanera, Bamboleo or the songwriters Silvio Rodriguez and Amaury Perez, among other musicians, have participated in television programs from the other side of the puddle.

Segments conducted or directed by distinguished humorists and presenters like Alexis Valdes or Carlos Otero, who decided to emigrate a while back. A few years back, if you spoke in public or private with Cuban ‘deserters’ they would label you as a ‘traitor to the homeland’.

The politics of tending bridges is not applauded by all Cubans on either shore. In Miami, compatriots that have suffered the typhoons of Fidel Castro’s radical politics, have burned or taken axes to the CDs of musicians from the island who have performed in Florida.

I can understand their pain. I know exile is hard. I have my family and friends far away. I know from firsthand accounts, of the rigors of the jails for those that have dissented publicly. I think of the hundreds who were shot by the regime during the first years of the Revolution.

All that happened and can not be thrown in the garbage. But there should be a before and an after. A turning point in the way we reason. Try dialogs, not monologues. Hate affects lucidity. Also in Cuba we have ideological Talibans. And there is good reason behind those who shout for the flow of a cultural interchange in both directions.

The Cuban government kicks and screams when an intellectual, academic or musician is denied their visa by the American authorities. Of course this is wrong. Just like I think it’s a cruel joke to list Cuba among the other countries that practice terrorism. But Castro is also intolerant.

I don’t see the hour when Willy Chirino or Gloria Estefan will be allowed to sing in Havana. The Cuban authorities should apologize with their heads lowered and build a mausoleum for that giant of the guaracha that was Celia Cruz, censored by the national media.

Before we speak of democracy and of what kind of society we Cubans want in the future, the Castro brothers should abolish the perverse permission required for people born in Cuba to enter and leave the country.

The politicians dictate laws and decrees that later burn their hands. They become a boomerang. You can’t divide what’s united. And all Cubans, regardless of where they live, were born of the same homeland. And the dinosaurs of the cold war can like it or not.

Photo: Cubans dance with Adalberto Alvarez y su Son at ‘La Casa de Tula’, in Miami.

Translated by: Yulys Rodriguez

December 11, 2010