Sunday, March 13, 2016

Rolling Stones in Cuba: Sympathy for the Devil

On March 3, 2016 also known as Music Freedom Day I posted a blog entry on the upcoming Rolling Stones concert in Cuba on March 25th and the continued censorship in Cuba of iconic music artists such as Celia Cruz and Olga Guillot.What the Castro regime did to rock n rollers in Cuba in the 1960s who listened to the Rolling Stones is reflected in the art work below by Sergio Lastres. Today I read, in Spanish, the following essay by rock fan, former Cuban prisoner of conscience and Christian Liberation Movement spokesman Regis Iglesias. Below is a translation of the essay. 

Artwork by Sergio Lastres

Sympathy for the Devil

by Regis Iglesias

I remember how difficult it was to have one of the latest albums of the Rolling Stones in the Cuba of the 80s.It always had been, even now that maybe in stores run by military and Interior Ministry officials their CDs maybe on sale, when usually any musical production of their satanic majesties costs around 15 euros and the average monthly salary of Cubans on the island.

We listened to their songs using a thousand homemade contraptions to have the signal from the rock stations in South Florida that eventually came to Cuba in a semi-clandestine manner. Neither on TV stations or local stations, all-government, broadcast their videos or their successes, except perhaps once their old hymn "(I Can not Get No) Satisfaction". Of course not.


The Stones were, or that is the image they sold, a rebel band, a cry against the established and totally irreverent with power. In a communist system they were definitely not welcome. But still they were in Tito's Yugoslavia in the late 60s, where they were defrauded by their presentations, which ended in youth riots. Incidentally, most Yugoslav spectators were youth linked to the Communist Party and the official nomenklatura who detested the music of the Stones. 

Not chastened, a few years ago they returned to play in a square behind the Bamboo Curtain. The Chinese could see the Rolling and almost without any prior announcement, as the opening act, a dissident artist, Cui Jian, the father of rock in the empire of paper, youth idol during the Tiananmen demonstrations in 1989. Nevertheless, communist leaders succeeded in vetoing two songs of the rebels Mick and Keith, as sexist "Lets Spend the Night Together" and "Honky Tonk Woman", of course! 

I never spent more than one day without hearing the music of the Stones, as it touches every good follower of the oldest and best distillation of rock and roll in the universe. Still, rock lovers we made do with a thousand difficulties to delight us with our musical idols. Never, until I spent seven and a half years in Cuban prisons cells.
Then I could not listen to the Rolling Stones, but asked friends to send me the lyrics of their songs, and could in the solitude of my cell set up an imaginary scenario and tried to follow the riffs of Richards, the shrieks of Jagger in my mind. I had a black shirt with the famous logo designed by John Pasche, that raunchy red tongue that seems to mock everything. Two posters with the five Stones adorned my cell. It was a matter of rock honor to keep as a symbol of my inner freedom in the middle of those walls, in front of some jailers who were trying to stop me and also prevent me keeping my hair  with the Jagger cut. 

All these whims I was able to keep them with determination. I was in that place for demanding that Cubans could decide, for being a manager of a demand for a referendum for laws that guarantee the right to popular sovereignty. I would not let them also continue to prevented listening to the music of the Rolling Stones in my mind and being free, as much as I could, to do what I please with respect to my musical and spiritual preferences. 

Exiled in Madrid, I was able to see them at the Bernabéu a couple of years ago, all my life and that of my friends passed before my eyes.

The Rolling Stones are an industry that poses as rebels, but they are an industry. Also rock and roll, does not lack jockeys (jineteras) - the regime's euphemism for prostitutes and thus deny their existence, official rockers or regaton fans who at the last minute are willing to memorize "Gimme Shelter" for a kiss by the
old snouts of Mick and have something to take home to eat. 

It is not the '80s when everyone was embarrassed to be invited to give concerts in countries where citizens were segregated by their skin color, their ideas or beliefs, where citizens had no right to prosper economically, and less a choice to elect and be elected to be part of a fair and democratic government. Now it does not matter because, no matter in China or Cuba people are segregated and oppressed, imprisoned, exiled and murdered. We are in the world of posers, in the world of interests, and the Rolling Stones are no exception on this point.

I will rejoice that some of my friends on the island will enjoy, if they can, the concert of the Rolling Stones. I say "if they can" because surely the grounds of the Sports City will be filled by the regime with young communists, students of military academies, informers, rapid response brigades (the paramilitaries) and "reliable" people for the security of the system. 

It would not be the first time, and to the baseball game between the Major League team of the United States, Tampa Devil Rays (I think, after all, there is something, a mocking allusion to the devil behind all this) and a selection of the regime -part of all this show designed from Washington by the Obama Administration - already announced that the tickets would be "by invitation". A hidden swallow does not make spring, but if it at least to be in the place, no matter if it is 200 or 300 meters from the stage, I will rejoice, but it would not leave me satisfied with the Rolling Stones.