With Meme Solis in the Distance / Reinaldo Escobar #Cuba

The “Another Dawn” concert held at the America Theater on January 5 and 6 as a tribute to the maestro Meme Solís, provoked in me nostalgia, shame and awe.

Nostalgia, because the program “Alone with you,” broadcast by Radio Progresso after 10:00 at night, was one of my preferred transgressions in the years of my military service, when we violated the silent hours and the prohibition against having portable radios. Gathering around the cot of the recruit Andrés Villorín, owner of the receiver, we listened to those songs that were a balm of modernity in the closed environment of Cuban music of those times.

Shame, because in that era it seemed perfectly normal to me that Meme Solís was stripped of his right to appear in public for having committed the “unspeakable fault” of having asked to leave the country. Although unfortunate, it also seemed normal and even acceptable that his songs were banned from radio programs. When almost the entire world had forgotten him I saw him in person, for the first and last time, at the Hotel Jagua in Cienfuegos, where he played the piano some nights in the cabaret. I thought then that they were being generous to give him that opportunity.

Astonishment bit me because at the concert, where almost everyone was visibly moved, the singer’s face could be seen on the screen accompanied by figures such as Maggie Carlés, Mirta Medina, Annia Linares, Xiomara Laugart, Albita Rodríguez and other glories of Cuban music who today live outside the Island. Is a cultural thaw underway to recover from the damage caused by so many years of political intolerance? Are we on the eve of producing a tribute to Celia Cruz?

The nostalgia was shared, especially by the audience members of my generation. The shame was not made manifest, because nobody there asked Meme Solís for forgiveness for the pain he was caused. The astonishment was shown in the approving applause every time one of those banned divas appeared.

I would like Meme Solís to know that we have not forgotten him and that no one now has the arrogant intention of forgiving him for having left Cuba, rather in every case the desire to ask his forgiveness for having abandoned him to his fate.

Reinaldo Escobar

7 January 2013