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Miami commission makes 'moral statement' against Cuban artists

Mayito Rivera

Mayito Rivera

The crowd at the Studio 60 Nightclub in Miami-Dade County's Allapattah neighborhood loved Afro-Cuban singer Mario "Mayito" Rivera's performance so much they threw dollar bills at him.  

Rivera, 53, and the members of the Los Van Van danced on the cash. It was a full house on the evening of Thursday, May 30, at the Latin nightclub at Northwest 36th Street and Northwest 23rd Avenue.

Miami commissioners want it to be the last time Cuban artists who have the support of the Cuban government can profit from performances in South Florida. 

"It is a mockery what these Cuban artists are doing when they come here," said Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes, who was born in Cuba. 

Reyes and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez introduced a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to enact legislation to allow local governments to prohibit businesses from hiring Cuban artists who do business with the Cuban government. Commissioners voted to pass it on Thursday. 

The commission wants the proposed ban to stay in place "until freedom of expression is restored for all Cubans and not just a few favored artists" -- including Rivera. 

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In Havana, a Look at Race & Racism in Cuban Art

Juan Roberto Diago, “Día de Reyes,” 2019 Courtesy Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana

Juan Roberto Diago, “Día de Reyes,” 2019
Courtesy Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana

By Cuban Art News

Unlike most historical surveys, the exhibition Nada Personal (Nothing Personal), begins in the present moment.

“Contemporary art,” says curator Roberto Cobas Amate, “is where the frictions between the races, the theme of racism, is most evident.” And racism, he adds, continues to be an unresolved problem.

With the title Nada Personal, says Cobas Amate, the curators wanted to point out that racism is generally not about a specific person. “It’s against the race, against the color of the skin,” Cobas Amate says.

In the Edificio Cubano of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the exhibition begins just outside the gallery, with Día de Reyes (2019), a large-scale painting by Juan Roberto Diago. “A current work,” says Cobas Amate, “in which he expresses his militant opposition to racism.”

Cobas Amate points out a phrase at the center of the canvas: Tu odio no me mata (Your hate does not kill me). At the upper right is another: Soy humano igual que tu (I am human, the same as you).

Cuban Diva Omara Portuondo Feels As Strong As Ever On 'Last Kiss' World Tour

Credit: Johann Sauty

Credit: Johann Sauty

By: Mandalit Del Barco

In 1996, Omara Portuondo was working on an album at Havana's famous recording studio, Egrem. Upstairs, American musician Ry Cooder was laying down tracks for Buena Vista Social Club, a project with veteran Cuban musicians like Compay Segundo. Portuondo was invited to come up and sing a duet with him. They sang "Veinte Anos," a song Portuondo learned as a child. 

"Without rehearsal, this was a live recording. One take. It's unbelievable," says Cuban bandleader Juan de Marcos Gonzalez. He had scouted and rediscovered the older musicians for Buena Vista Social Club. But he says Portuondo was still a star on the island, and bringing her into the project was a dream.

"I remember that once, Mr. Ry Cooder told me, 'Omara is the Cuban Sarah Vaughan.' And I said to him, 'No, Sarah Vaughan was the American Omara Portuondo,'" Gonzalez says.

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