Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Silvio Rodriguez was there in spirit

With all the fanfare and celebration of Pete Seeger's 90th birthday at Madison Square Garden, an interesting and sad side note is the fact that Cuban singer/songwriter Silvio Rodríguez was not allowed to enter the US to attend.

The news was first reported May 4 in Gramma Internacional


Havana. May 4, 2009

United States prevents Silvio from attending Pete Seeger's 90th birthday

THE U.S. State Department, currently under the leadership of Hilary Clinton, has prevented the famous Cuban singer/songwriter Silvio Rodríguez from attending celebrations in New York for the legendary American folk singer Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday.

The CubaDebate website yesterday published a message from Silvio, who was in Paris, saying that he had not received a visa on Friday, thus thwarting his plans to travel to the United States on an invitation from the event’s organizers.

"The blockade is still an active policy in the doings of the U.S. government," the website stated.

In a message to his sister and manager in Havana, Silvio stated: "It is 8:40 p.m. on Friday, May 1 in Paris and I have just connected to the website where the U.S. embassy in France publishes news on visa applications. Mine appears as still being processed, as it has been since I applied for it. Since today is the day that I was supposed to fly to New York and the visa hasn’t appeared, I leave for Havana tomorrow.

"I think that the State Department’s attitude is very much in contradiction with President Obama’s express desire for a rapprochement with Cuba. As a worker in, I still feel as blocked and discriminated against as by other governments. I hope that this will really change some day. Thanks for your help," the Cuban nueva trova artist wrote at the end of his note.

Peter Seeger, who gave global backing to the popularity of Guantanamera – by Joseíto Fernández, with verses from José Martí – has been a tireless critic of the U.S. blockade of Cuba, which he has visited five times.

Translated by Granma International

Today, AHORA prints a letter from Silvio Rodríguez

Letter written by Silvio Rodriguez to Pete Seeger PDF Print E-mail
By Redaction AHORA / Wednesday, 06 May 2009 /

Admired and beloved Maestro Pete Seeger:

In these moments the tribute concert that dozens of singers are justly offering you is being celebrated. Passing through my mind are some of the times that I have had the privilege of enjoying your talent, which has seduced multitudes.

I remember you in Havana, singing in solidarity along with the Sound Experimentation Group; I remember you in that tour that was dedicated to Victor Jara, through several cities in Italy; and I am also reliving that frosty night in February 1980 in which, responding to your call, we traveled from New York to Poughkeepsie and we listened to your "Snow, Snow," the masterwork of someone asking questions of a winter landscape.

I tried to come back to be with you today, but, as you well know, I was not allowed to get there by those who do not want the US and Cuba to get together, to sing to each other, to talk to each other, to understand each other. They are the ones who think that the world is divided into the powerful and the weak; the ones who only appreciate those who are rich and strong. They are the ones who do not forgive us for the fact that, even though we are small, we have decided to live standing up on our feet. Reality cries out that these brutes must be getting fewer and fewer in number, but somehow that minority still rules and gives the orders. Some of them saw danger in the idea that we would meet and that a simple act of brotherhood would symbolize two neighbor peoples who can agree in song and in affection.

But not just me, dear Pete: all my worthy and no doubt improvable people admire you, respect you, and celebrate your honorable nine decades defending social justice, peace, and culture. Here no one sees you as a danger, but as an extraordinary friend whom we are not allowed to embrace as freely as we would like. That is why not just I, but all of this Cuba that loves you, blockaded still by the abusers, is at your side now singing your prophetic ‘We Shall Overcome' and the ‘Guantanamera' of our Martí.

A kiss for Toshi and a big hug for you from

Silvio Rodriguez Dominguez

Added 5/13

La Raza Chronicles: May 5, 2009
Interview with attorney Bill Martinez on the State Department's blocking of Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez from performing with Pete Seeger in concert...

Mp3 / iTunes podcast:
La Raza Chronicles - Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Added 5/15


The Obama administration hasn't yet made drastic shifts in U.S. policy toward Cuba, lifting restrictions on the ability of Cuban-Americans to travel and send money to Cuba but keeping in place the decades-old U.S. trade embargo. Still, the conciliatory tone emanating from Washington has raised hopes of a further thaw.

"We hope that the 'new day' Obama talked about will be here soon," says San Francisco-based immigration attorney Bill Martinez, who is working to secure travel visas on behalf of iconic singer/songwriter Silvio Rodríguez and other Cuban artists.

Rodríguez had hoped to perform with Pete Seeger at his 90th-birthday celebration May 3 at New York's Madison Square Garden, but he didn't obtain a visa in time for the show. State Department spokesperson Heide Bronke Fulton said she couldn't comment on individual cases.

Tao Rodríguez-Seeger, Seeger's grandson (and no relation to Silvio Rodríguez), says he still hopes the Cuban singer will be able to perform at the Clearwater Festival June 20-21 in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., an annual event benefiting Seeger's nonprofit environmental organization Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. "It would be a shame to waste this opportunity," Rodríguez-Seeger says.

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