When early last summer singer songwriter Juan Esteban Aristizabal aka Juanes put forth his intentions to perform the third of his famous Peace Concerts in Havana, Cuba he was very clear and straightforward that the concert was only to happen if it served the same purpose as his previous endeavors: no politics, just peace, should be the message. In spite of temper tantrums in Miami, against this young multi-Grammy award winning Colombian and his cause, on September 20th of 2009, Peace Without Borders took place in Cuba.
With over 20 artists from Cuba and abroad the concert gathered the largest crowd ever to grace the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana; close to 1.2 million people, all dressed in white, gathered to dance and sing along with these artists, solely for the cause of standing side by side to support the message of peace.
A year has not gone by, and yet the event still resonates. Cuba had been put to the test and it passed with flying colors. None of the false accusations against the concert, or the promoters, or the venue, served any purpose, none of the preconceived notions that the Cuban government was going to turn the concert into a tool of propaganda held water.
Not a single Cuban artist spoke a word of politics, not a one. Just the way Juanes had intended. Just the way he had asked for.
Yet the artists, all of them, had more than enough reason to speak out. Cuba has been subject to an economic blockade for over fifty years. It is not allowed to establish normal commerce with any nation that has economic relations with the United States. Newspaper articles, editorials and television -- left and right -- in the mainstream media find fault in the lunacy that is the current and historic relationship between Cuba and the United States; the fact that a small island is considered a threat to US integrity so much that the Department of State puts it on its list of terrorist nations has even been considered tantamount to political dementia. And to boot, five Cuban men whose only crime was to combat terrorism within the US and against Cuba have been unjustly imprisoned in the United States for well over a decade while known and confessed terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch and Santiago Alvarez Magriñat are at large living freely in Miami.
The Cuban artists could have spoken out, they could have yelled "Free the Five", or "Extradite Posada Now!", or "End the Travel Ban, lift the Embargo", heck they could have just said "please, leave us alone." But they didn't., they respected Juanes wishes. I like to think they did this or at least some of them did this in spite of themselves.
Congressman William Delahunt, a senior member of the US House of Representatives, and a long time enemy of both the travel ban and the economic embargo against Cuba, recently stated that he was thinking of not running again for office. In an article in the Boston Globe he mentions one of his most recent days of glory, and possibly one of the reasons why he should never stop running for office. A few years ago he worked out a deal with President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela in order to buy cheap oil so as to heat low income housing in the Northeast of the United States during the winter months -- deed on both parts that could well be considered the equivalent of peace in a broad and more philosophical and practical sense of the word.
Yesterday, Juanes, the one who proclaimed peace as the only message towards a life worth living, insulted President Hugo Chavez on his twitter page. I've been given Chavez's PIN, does anybody want it to send him messages on his?" wrote the singer. His response to his own question was a game play of letters and numbers that clearly referred to the insult: son of a b.
Is this the message if peace and unity that we should expect from the same man that less than a year ago laid down the ground rules for a host nation in order to hold a concert? Is this the message of someone who calls himself an artist to the youth out there? Insult a president no matter what? President Hugo Chavez may not be a saint, he may not be in everyone's favor but he is a president, a duly and democratically elected president, and two wrongs don't make a right. If he, as president, has made mistakes in the past in the opinion of some, then insulting back isn't the way to make amends and is a far cry from what anyone in this hemisphere should consider peace.