The statements made by the famous troubadour Pablo Milanés in an interview on December 29, 2008, and published on the website Kaos en la Red [Chaos on the Web] (www.kaosenlared.net), have had a disproportionate impact on public opinion. The “opinionators” are divided into various camps: those who enthusiastically applaud what they consider the bravery of the famous icon of the already old, Nueva Trova*; the spiteful detractors who cannot forget his commitment to the Revolution and its leaders; and those, like myself, who welcome from a more moderate position the words of Pablo.
In any case, the importance of the expositions reflected in the interview rests on the standing—read popularity, celebrity or reputation—of the one interviewed, not in the content of what he declares. That the dinosaurs of the regime are obsolete, that that they don’t have the capacity to move the country forward, that “Cuban socialism has stagnated,” are obvious truths. Pablo not only affirms what we all know, what so many opponents such as dissidents and Cuban free thinkers from all sides have been saying for a long time, and for which some have been and are incarcerated in Cuban prisons; but, what’s more, he affirms it without abandoning the link between the Revolution and socialism. What’s new is that Pablo does not trust the leaders who are more than 75 years old. Perhaps I should point out here, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t trust anyone, even if they are under 30 and just a junior “up-and-coming functionary” in training.
But to discredit Pablo for his positions in favor of the revolutionary process would be to recognize the right of others to discredit those of us who are not in favor of that process: an endless story. In the same way, the attitude of those who have wanted to fabricate, as a result of these declarations, a Pablo Milanés who is an opponent is unrealistic; what naiveté!
I don’t question the right of Pablo (or anyone else) to choose and express his political sympathies. In fact I’m delighted that from within the ranks of the “revolutionaries” themselves there are some who clearly see the need to replace the archaic historical figures who have been clinging to power for a half century. To correct oneself is the sign of a wise person, though some are slower than others to recognize the obvious. The troubadour’s affair with the creators of the Cuban “miracle,” that is to say, if before he loved them, but now, does not, if what they did before was “good” and deserved the absolution of History and other affirmations of that type, these qualify more as trivialities than as political debate but, on the other hand, this isn’t what Pablo suggests either. In any event, let’s not judge him if at times he seemed to us too complacent with the excesses of the regime or if, on occasion (perhaps many occasions) he seemed to be looking elsewhere. We are lenient: remember, the higher the pedestal the harder the fall.
In the end, people are almost always, either very demanding or very naïve. Let’s look at the positive side: if the most conspicuously faithful blaspheme, it’s because the gods falter. Me, I confess, prefer to enjoy Pablo Milanés for what he is (at least for me): a great composer who has created truly memorable songs, such as Yolanda, El breve espacio en que no estás [The Brief Space in Which You are Not], and many others of an intimate and evocative tone. And so I reject his combative creations and pamphleteering, the hymns and the marches. I choose the Pablo of a voice sweet, warm and melodic. For me, Pablo will always be this and not a political figure; if, however, today he bets on the end of the Jurassic era for Cubans, we agree on that point, and I would welcome a group of those who struggle for changes, without necessarily having to be one of its founders.
Ilustration: Work from the Cuban painter C. Proenza. “Los dioses escuchan” [The Gods Listen]
Nueva Trova is a form of Cuban music that started in the late 1960s, combining traditional Cuban folk music with politically-themed lyrics. It is associated with Castroism and the Revolution.