Los artistas cubanos que arrasaron en Premios Juventud 2018
Hialeah was planning to celebrate Independence day on July 4 with a concert featuring Cuban musicians from the island, including some who obtained U.S. visas under the “cultural exchange” category. But after receiving complaints from people, politicians and exile groups, the city has announced that it has canceled several artists.
The city did not identify the musicians, but all signs point to performances by Señorita Dayana, El Micha and Jacob Forever being canceled. They are the only artists announced in promotional materials who live in Cuba.
Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez announced in a news release on Monday that he had consulted people “with an unmatched political standing” such as Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, president of the Democratic Directorate, and former political prisoner Nelys Rojas.
“I have always said that my real heroes are those political prisoners who suffered and sacrificed all for the cause. The smallest suggestion from them is enough to bring about any kind of change,” the release said.
He also urged recent Cuban immigrants to feel “love” and “respect” for the Democratic Directorate, a Miami-based umbrella organization of several anti-Castro groups. The mayor did not respond to several calls from el Nuevo Herald seeking further comment for this story.
Jacob Forever, whose real name is Yosdani Jacob Carmenates, sparked a controversy in Miami in 2017 when a photograph on a social network showed him wearing a black T-shirt with the image of Cuban communist icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Forever was invited to Hialeah’s Independence Day celebrations last year, and this year the City Commission had approved a budget of $30,000 for his performance, according to a document obtained exclusively by Univision23.
The city has not said how much it was planning to pay Dayana Chávez Victoria, known as Señorita Dayana, and Michael Sierra Miranda, known as El Micha, to perform in the July 4 concert. Several attempts by el Nuevo Herald to contact Jacob Forever’s production team were unsuccessful.
Miami Republican Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart told Univision that he was surprised by the hiring of Forever, saying that it was “inconceivable” that people who are “spokesmen for the regime” could come to Miami to “earn dollars” and then hand over part of the money to the Cuban government.
Gutierrez confirmed he was consulted on the Cuban performers.
“They asked for our opinion and we gave it. We believe it’s a false cultural exchange because the performers who disagree with the Cuban government cannot enter the island to sing,” he told el Nuevo Herald. “The regime uses and pressures the artists it allows to leave the island to act as political instruments and maintain control over recent Cuban arrivals. This is an issue of controlling the Cubans who are leaving the country by using culture,” he added.
Gutiérrez also noted that some of the performers who came to Miami as part of the cultural exchanges stayed long enough to obtain permanent residence, known as green cards. He urged U.S. officials to check on how much time they spend in Cuba and the United States, and “where they pay taxes and how ideological is their message.”
“You see Genta de Zona, which claims to have nothing to do with politics, praising Miguel Díaz-Canel on stage and pulling up the nephew of Raúl Castro to dance with them. That is totally ideological. We cannot accept it,” he said.
The city of Miami last week declared war on cultural exchanges with island performers and urged the U.S. government to cancel the program. Mayor Francis Suárez said he would do everything possible to make sure that Cuban musicians cannot use government facilities for their performances.
The Cuba cultural exchange program was expanded by President Barack Obama after years of paralysis under Republican President George W. Bush. Obama also restored diplomatic relations with Havana in 2014 and expanded the possibilities for U.S. residents to travel to Cuba.
“City of Miami facilities should not be used so that these artists come here to mock us, to earn money and return to Cuba to use those funds against their own people and badmouth the freedoms that allow them to be here,” Suárez said.