Reports from Cuba: What Norah Jones should know before going to Cuba

Vicente Morin Aguado writes in Havana Times:

What Norah Jones Should Know Before Going to Cuba 

The famous singer, composer, instrumentalist, and actress Norah Jones, has launched a commercial operation to go on Tour in Cuba, under the category “cultural exchange”. Knowing that the Cuban State will take care to guide her every step in the country, and considering the proclaimed objective of her trip, I’d suggest that she take a look at a publication close to her professional environment, Rolling Stone magazine, before she catches her flight.

The January 2023 edition of the digital version of this magazine had the cover with this headline: “Two Years After “Patria Y Vida”, Cuban Rapper Maykel Osorbo Remains in Jail.” The eldest daughter of the masterful sitar player Ravi Shankar has won nine Grammys. It would be a good idea for her to interact with the two-time Grammy award winner, who is now serving a long sentence behind bars. 

Maikel is the Creole version of the English name Michael and Osorbo is a word from the Yoruba language which means bad luck, darkness, curse, negative environment, The Yoruba ethnic group was part of the hundreds of thousands of Africans who nurtured the slave plantations both in Cuba and the US, whose legacy is in the soul of the two cultures that will meet, according to the official plans for the project of this beautiful woman from New York with paternal Hindu ancestors.

I’m not going to tell Norah the story about Patria y Vida, which won “Song of the Year”, at the 2022 Latin Grammys. Just an observation: out of the six Cuban artists up for the award, only Maikel missed the ceremony.  He has been in prison since July 11, 2021, after taking part in peaceful protests alongside thousands of fellow Cubans that very same day, which resulted in 1,047 prisoners of conscience, well documented by international institutions.

The rapper, who also won “Best Urban Song” in 2022, was a symbol of rebellion against the longest-standing dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere long before he won those awards, when a picture of him went viral on social media, in which he’s breaking the handcuffs the police used to arrest him on multiple occasions for demanding his right to freedom of expression on Havana’s streets.

I know that these aren’t pleasantries, but I can’t not talk about it, because the “osorbo” (darkness) has been spreading across the entire island for over 60 years. It’s the hidden face that I’m sure they won’t show Norah Jones, who will stay in the luxurious Aston Hotel in Havana, with other US tourists. The holiday package costs between US $3500 and $8500.

Given the fact that the Tour has been dressed up as a cultural exchange, promoters have verified that everything will be under the Cuban State’s meticulous control, we need to tell Norah and her followers one thing that won’t be lacking in long conversations from government officials.

That’s the so-called US blockade of Cuba, because it will be very hard for those responsible for taking such distinguished tourists around to hide the darkness that has enshrouded most of Cuba. Darkness in the literal sense of the word, the consequence of permanent rolling blackouts in residential areas, contrasting with the lights in places that will welcome Norah and her friends, and darkness to see a city in ruins, where there are long lines of people desperate to buy rationed food.

Just like every public statement made by the Communist leaders, “the blockade” will be the reason for this situation.

Nothing could be less true and manipulative. Visitors can look at the US Department of the Treasury and US Department of Commerce’s own websites, which are free, not blocked, like Internet access normally is here in Cuba.

They’ll discover that Cuban companies, all of which are state-led because private importers isn’t allowed, buy millions of dollars worth of food every year from the US. If they want to learn more, media outside of the Government’s control based outside of the island, of course, will tell them that two million Cubans – the diaspora mainly based in the US – send remittances every day, instantly, worth billions of USD every year to their families, paying for direct services like food or Internet bills even.

Lastly, as the distinguished visitor is a famous New York resident, it wouldn’t be wrong for her to ask about the fugitives of US justice, who are being sought by the FBI, and are currently taking refuge in Cuba, some of whom have even passed away and been buried there.

Going back to Maikel and his African ancestors, Norah should know that osorbo isn’t an eternal and unchanging condition, it exists in its struggle with Ire, which means clarity, good luck, positivity.

Ire for you Norah Jones. From her Bengali father comes the evocation of his fellow countryman, the universal man and musician like you three – I’m not forgetting the virtuous Anoushka Shankar -, I’m talking about Rabindranath Tagore.

Let me quote the beautiful translation to Spanish by Zenobia Camprubi, Juan Ramon Jimenez’s wife, Ramon Jimenez and Tagore both being Nobel Prize in Literature winners. Just like the great Bengali wished for his people, which you enjoy because of your place of birth and residence, I wish the same for my fellow countrymen in the country you’re planning to visit:

“Dear God, let my homeland be where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; where knowledge is free; where the world has not been broken up into fragments; by narrow domestic walls; where words come out from the depth of truth; where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way; into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; where the mind is led forward by thee; into ever-widening thought and action; into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

1 thought on “Reports from Cuba: What Norah Jones should know before going to Cuba”

  1. This is all very well, but I doubt it will change much. The “revolution” typically gets at least the benefit of the doubt from most of the outside world (and I’m referring to the “good” world), even from “His Holiness.” Apart from that, Jones strikes me as being a little “funny” or “off” somehow, which wouldn’t help any.

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