May 11, 2009
Silvio Rodriguez calls for the right of all Cubans
to be allowed to enter and leave their country at will
A CubaNews translation by Mercedes Rosa Diaz.
Edited by Walter Lippmann
The news that Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez was denied a visa to enter the United States to attend a tribute to U.S. musician Pete Seeger prompted a letter that was published in the Dominican press. The letter, which was addressed to Rodriguez, was written by a Cuban residing in the Dominican Republic. Rodriguez quickly responded to the letter; the content of both letters is published below.
An open letter to singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez
Published in the newspaper El Nuevo Diario,
Dominican Republic, on Sunday, May 10, 2009
The person writing this is Cuban just like you. First, I support you in your complaint against the U.S. officials who denied your request to legally enter the U.S. to attend the tribute for Pete Seeger. It's a loss to all that you were unable to play your music during the celebration that took place in New York city. Like most Cubans, I too, resent those foreign laws created to threaten the sovereignty of the Cuban people.
Now that we have established that, I want to share with you a another reality that is even sadder than the fact that a country's officials refused a foreigner's request to visit their country.
Over the past 50 years, thousands of Cubans have been unable to enter Cuba, not even to attend the funeral of loved ones as close as a mother or a son. Among these are musicians, artists who have settled abroad for the sake of their careers, and who are prevented from reentering their own country despite the fact that they have praised Cuba at every turn. Celia Cruz is a classic example.
My mother is 80 years old. I'm prevented from entering Cuba to see her, which means that my human rights have been trampled as badly and as unfairly as yours. You are no threat to the United States or its society. Likewise, I'm no threat to Cuban society. Neither of us is a terrorist or a murderer.
You can't cloak justice in political ideology. There is only justice. The first and most important belief is that all human beings are entitled to their respect and their dignity.
Unfortunately, our native land practices a policy called a "permanent exit," and it's an inhuman abomination. It is anti-Cuban and a threat to the legacy of our Mambi ancestors, who fought for Cuba's freedom so that all Cubans could enjoy the fruits of a free society. They were guided by Marti's dream of a country "for all, and for the good of all."
Silvio, my countryman: my freedom ends where yours begins. One must give respect to earn respect; rest assured that I write these words while holding you in the highest respect as a human being and a fellow Cuban. By the same token, I would expect you to do the same for me. It is with this in mind that I now approach you as an artist who is known for having dedicated his life to promoting social justice and progressive ideals during these turbulent historical times in which we live.
I ask that you use your voice and your guitar to intone a song promoting harmony and a respect for diversity between all Cubans. Sing for the unification of divided Cuban families and for the repeal of this harmful "permanent exit" policy that is a shame to the sacrifices made and the blood spilled by our ancestors. I am not asking you to sing a song of protest. I would rather that you make it a love song that should touch the hearts of all Cubans, especially those which most need to hear it.
If you want, invite other artists to sing along with you, anyone who might be sympathetic to the cause of those who cannot be there. Sing for those of us who are absent by necessity, but who hope to one day return to sing at your sides. Invite Fito Páez, Ana Belén, Serrat, Pablo, Chico, Mercedes Sosa, and anyone else who wants to open their hearts to this endeavor. Sing for the freedom and the right for all Cubans to be able to spend time in our native land.
Written by: Adrián Leiva
An open response to Cuban citizen Adrián Leiva.
Havana, May 10, 2009, 5:00 p.m.
Mr. Adrián Leiva:
To begin with, I've made no complaint about being denied entrance to the United States. I just sent an email to my sister in which I told her that since I had not yet received a visa to travel to the United States to attend the tribute to Pete Seeger to which I had been invited, I would simply return to Cuba to continue work. The organizers of the Seeger tribute asked her permission to publish the email, so we gave it to them. That's why this came out. About two days later, during the tribute, I wrote to the Maestro Seeger directly and asked him to forgive my absence even though I had originally pledged that I would be there. I explained to him—as well as I could and to my understanding—why I could not keep my word to him. Somehow the press somewhere got hold of the letter, resulting in all this controversy.
However, I understand; I've spoken out about what I consider to be an error in our migration policies, like the so-called "white letter" and the fact that permission is needed to enter and leave our own country. It's an archaic policy that is obsolete and should be repealed. I am convinced that when that absurd obstacle is removed, our country will be a better place and we will all feel better about it and one another.
I can't promise I'll write a song about it, because, quite frankly, I'm not alone when I do that—I do rely on the Muses as well. But I will promise you this: no matter where I am, I will continue to promote the belief that Cubans should have the right to enter and leave their country at will, providing, of course, that they do it legally.
Silvio Rodríguez Domínguez.