Musician Silvio Rodríguez speaks out about Cuban system

One of
Cuba’s most famous and important musicians, Silvio Rodríguez, 63, composes
poetic lyrics and tender love songs that have endeared him to millions, even as
his revolutionary politics have made him a polarizing figure for many exiles.
On his latest album, 2009’s Segunda Cita (Return Engagement), and in recent
statements, Rodríguez seems to question the system he has long championed. The
singer’s first U.S. tour in 30 years kicked off June 4 with a sold out concert
at New York’s Carnegie Hall, but ticket sales have been slow for his final show
Wednesday in Orlando. He responded by e-mail to questions.

Q: In Sea
Señora, you sing “To disenchantment, oppose desire. Surpass the ‘r’ in “revolution.’’
What do you mean by this?

A: This
disenchantment comes, above all, from the economic reality of Cuba. In my
judgment, Cuba should evolve economically and politically.

Q: For
millions of music fans you are first a fantastic musician. But for many Cuban
exiles, your importance as an artist is inseparable from your political
position. What do you say about this?

A: I
know I’ve juggled more demands than others because of the level of commitment
I’ve had. Perhaps I could have gone further without this impediment, but at
this point it is part of my baggage. In a situation as polarized as the Cuban
one, the absence of shading is lamentable. I think the extremists impede our understanding.

Q: How is
it to sing in the United States after 30 years?

A: In
the US I have to do exactly the same as I do in any part of the world: rehearse,
soundcheck, see that the machinery of the concert functions correctly. . . .
[But] the tremendous human warmth that we’ve received in all the concerts in
the United States has been very stimulating.

Q: In what
aspects of the Revolution do you still believe, and which do you think should

Everything that has been beneficial for the majority should continue and even
expand. Everything that hasn’t worked should improve, even if you have to start
from zero. There have been concepts that have been wrong for many years, such
as calling any private initiative diabolical. I think you have to limit exploitation
of your fellow man and the ambition to monopolize. Our sovereignty has to be
considered sacred, and anything that makes an attempt at this I reject completely.

Q: What do
you think of the determination of hunger-striking political prisoners and of
the Damas de Blanco to protest despite the threat of violence and even death?

A: I
respect anyone who decides to immolate himself for what he believes in, although
I would prefer not to have sacrificed a fellow human being. If my mother or
wife fought for my freedom, I would regard that with gratitude. I don’t approve
of any act of violence against those who don’t use violence. Understand that politically
I don’t put myself with the opposition, but I recognize their right to have a
different opinion and to act upon their beliefs.

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