In an apparent attempt to generate positive PR and attract foreigners and their money to the island (as with the Rolling Stones 2016 Havana concert), the Cuban regime cooked up a Festival San Remo Music Awards for this April. It was purported to be a “free franchise” of the famous Festival di Sanremo in Italy (pictured above), which has been held since 1951 and launched the careers of Italian pop stars like Laura Pausini and Eros Ramazzotti. Culinary, business and fashion fairs were planned as satellite events in Havana, and special tourist packages were duly offered.
A rather questionable Italian “impresario” (one Nicola Convertino) reportedly pitched the project to Cuba after failed attempts elsewhere in Latin America. At one point, one of the organizers was Lis Cuesta, Cuba’s First Lady, who described the event as “very good for tourism, friends, solidarity, and anyone disposed to look towards the island.” However, in the wake of the 11J demonstrations and their oppressive aftermath (including jailing minors), several scheduled foreign guest artists pulled out of the event in protest, and Cuesta apparently distanced herself from the affair. The official regime newspaper, Granma, predictably blamed “cultural terrorism” for the embarrassing boycott.
Then, pro-democracy Cuban activists based in Spain formally requested clarification from the Italian promoters of the original San Remo as to what connection, if any, existed between the real San Remo festival and the Cuban version, since the matter was at best ambiguous going by Cuban sources. The official reply confirmed what had been suspected all along, that there was no connection whatsoever with the Cuban event or with Convertino.
The Cuban knock-off, sponsored and presumably financed by Cuban government entities, is still scheduled for early April, but no specific programming details have been made public. It is now tainted goods and could turn out to be a “patriotic” propaganda fest, like the atrociously cringeworthy video made by pro-regime music figures in response to the runaway success of the video for the protest song “Patria y Vida.”
So, another day, another (attempted) fraud by Castro, Inc. It’s nothing new or surprising, but the crassness of it amounts to stupidity, as the matter was too public to escape notice and eventual exposure. It may be theoretically conceivable that the regime was conned by an Italian operator, but if so, I expect it wanted to be conned. Still, Italian diplomats based in Cuba would seem to have looked the other way or played dumb, and it took in-depth coverage by online venues like Diario de Cuba (the main source for this post) and some of “those people” to get at the truth.
One hesitates to be optimistic, but perhaps the Cuban “revolution” is finally losing its longstanding “coolness” in cultural circles. It will continue to have willfully blind foreign collaborators, but its image has been significantly tarnished since 11J, and I’m not sure Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again.