Someday it might be worthwhile to analyze in great detail the enormous responsibility Pablo Milanés and Silvio Rodríguez had in the emotional sustenance of this historical phenomenon called “the Cuban Revolution,” particularly if we take into account the lack of theoretical fundamentals and the poverty of material results that would justify the affiliation based on conviction or convenience. The undeniable emotional connection, inside and outside Cuba, with the socialist utopia can only be justified through poetry. And that is what they provided.
How many people climbed onto a truck to perform volunteer work humming the song, Suppose? How many blasted away with their guns in Angola or Ethiopia recalling The Song of the Chosen One, who was killing the bastards with his canon of the future? How many others, trembling with nostalgia, decided not to desert while listening to Yolanda or The Brief Space Where You Are Not?
Not that Pablo and Silvia have announced they will found an opposition party. It’s not about that. A politician can even move to the opposite side; but a poet cannot change a comma to a metaphor. Neither a flight like that of General Rafael del Pino*, nor a desertion like that of Alcibíades Hidalgo*, former deputy foreign minister, can provoke, in the now shattered hearts of an entire generation, the devastating effects of even the slightest hint of passion in a poet’s voice.
Gone are the days of The New School*, a victim of our stubborn reality. Once the nation was left dependent on the dollars brought in by tourists, songs with complex lyrics were displaced by the fast-paced music that filled the discotheques where people paid in foreign currency. The syncopated pelvis of a hooker, crammed into florescent Lycra, rudely eclipsed the intelligent smile of that ballad-loving girl who went to bed for free.
At almost the same time that they stopped composing glorious songs, that theater-of-the-grotesque Roundtable* appeared, with Randy Alonso* filling the shoes of Silvio Rodríguez. On occasion they even have a certain physical resemblance. We must be patient. I am sure that in the Cuba of the future Silvio and Pablo could keep filling theaters and selling records. What my fantasy can’t quite visualize is what kind of circus Randy could work in even if, this very afternoon, he too began to change his stripes.
General Rafael del Pino: Joined Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement in 1955 and eventually became deputy chief of the Cuban Air Force. Flew a plane with his entire family to Florida in 1987 and became a prominent defector promoting democracy in Cuba. Source: Wikipedia
Alcibiades Hidalgo: Raúl Castro’s Chief of Staff for twelve years and also Cuba’s Deputy Foreign Minister. Defected to the United States in 2002. Claimed that, “Cuba is, pure and simple, a dictatorship each day more devoid of the attributes that once made it attractive.” Source: Wikipedia
The New School: Silvio Rodriguez wrote a song by this name, in honor of the revolution’s program to educate children in “New Schools” in the countryside, away from their parents.
Roundtable and Randy Alonso: A weekly talk show on Cuban television hosted by Randy Alonso. Fidel Castro used to appear regularly when his health still permitted him to do so.