I’m used to going to packed concerts and not being able to see anything that happens on the stage because I’m short and the screens they put up, for some strange reason, look really bad. But the sad reality Tuesday at the “Protestódromo” stage in front of the American Interests Section, with the Mexican band Cafe Tacuba, was not that I couldn’t see them but that from my perspective the only thing I could read was: All for the Revolution. As I arrived a little late, a friend sarcastically said that Raúl Castro had opened the concert with a Friky speech.
Behind the poster were the black flags and behind the black flags were the red letters scrolling across the front of the American Interests Section… how disgusting! All that and I’m less than 5’5” tall; the only thing we’ll remember from this concert in Havana is this image, the only thing we can see. I’m not criticizing anyone but if I were an overseas musician and I was coming to play in Cuba, it wouldn’t kill me to play the “Protestódromo”, better that than playing at the Central Committee and celebrating with those involved in the “50th Anniversary of the Existence of the State Security Organs.”
But the worst was at the end, a mob of police with whistles started whistling behind us to get us to “clear ourselves out” of the place. I was left standing alone on the platform until there were 10 whistles screeching at my back. I turned, then, and told them:
- I’m not going to ask the reasons why I have to leave here, but since you are going to remove me you could at least have the decency not to treat me like a cow.
A girl and two boy cops asked me to do them the favor, but the one who seemed to be the boss said it took them a long time to get people to leave and I had to go, it didn’t matter how, whether with whistles or shoves, but go.
- Are they paying you to get me out? No? Then this time you spend here is included in your salary, it’s not my fault it’s slow work, you asked me the favor of leaving and I’m going, but whistle at me again and I’ll stay.
He didn’t whistle any more but he mumbled some curses, I suppose directed at me and at youth in general… the bitterness of the repressive ones.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.