Here’s something to celebrate–the Cuban musicians who compromise the Buena Vista Social Club will be performing at the White House on October 15. They have been touring the United States for almost twenty years. They got their start in 1997 when Ry Cooder searched out a number of aging and forgotten singers and musicians from Cuba’s rich musical past, brought them together and cut the album Buena Vista Social Club. Wim Wenders documented the process and outcome in his popular film of the same name.
It’s worth remembering that while the group was well received here, there was bitter and loud push back from the most anti-Castro segments of the Cuban exile community in Miami. The music itself was nostalgic rather than contemporary but it became a political flashpoint–there was even a bomb threat in the hall where they were slated to perform. More embargo!
It can be argued that the music is indeed political, if not overtly so or in the way one would imagine. Younger generations of Cuban Americans in Miami and elsewhere enthusiastically embraced the music and were disinclined or perhaps simply incapable of feeling their elder’s animus toward Cuba.
We are now seeing the normalization of US-Cuban relations, although the embargo has not been fully eliminated. Those young people from the 1990’s are now adults and they have replaced the ever dwindling ranks of the exile community’s hardliners. Those of us outside that community are even less inclined to support the embargo.
Here’s hoping that the First Family and friends are not sitting in chairs, ignoring the insistent invitation of the music to get up and dance. El cuarto de Tula in the White House is a delicious thought.