Havana in Miami: A Sign of Changing Times

Talk on “the new Cuba” has dominated coverage of the island in the past few years – with a diplomatic opening, a burgeoning private sector, and increased connectivity to the internet and to the world. Overshadowed is the new Miami – equally important in US-Cuba relations and the future of Cuba policy. Miami has historically been ruled by Cuban-Americans against engagement with Cuba – where venues which hosted Cuban musicians were boycotted and even bombed. It’s changing. And young people are leading the charge.

This Wednesday, hundreds of young Cubans, Americans, and Cuban-Americans partied in Miami’s Wynwood district to the sounds of Cuban rappers El Individuo, DJ Lapiz and JD Asere, performing in the US for the first time ever. Grammy winner Danay Suarez, born in Cuba and living in Miami, electrified the stage with an unforgettable performance which included her most popular song “Yo Aprendi”. “I learned,” she sang, “that most of the time, things aren’t as they seem…”

 Danay Suarez performing at Miami 1306

Danay Suarez performing at Miami 1306

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The event came just days after a violent rally of Cuban-American ideologues attacked a democratic campaign rally in Miami because it was reported that Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who has said positive things about Cuba and Fidel Castro, would be in attendance. Not long ago, artists from Cuba were met at Miami airport by hate mobs, bombs were placed outside concert halls and endless events were cancelled due to threats of violence. Now, many Cuban artists perform in Havana on Friday and Miami on Saturday. The same music that fills the air in the streets of Cuba also beams through Hialeah, little Havana and the clubs of Brickell, Doral and South Beach.

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Last week’s rally represented the old Miami, a dying generation of angry politicians and their followers that try to silence those they disagree with. Wednesday’s party showed the majority, which supports sharing culture, doing business and reconnecting families, are winning the battle. 

 Cuban DJ Jigüe plays at Miami 1306

Cuban DJ Jigüe plays at Miami 1306

We, as two peoples on either side of the Florida Straits, are more the same than we are different. The overwhelming majority want to be able to travel back and forth, share culture from one place with the other and maintain strong family ties – all things that hardliners in Miami tried to prevent for so long. They’ll continue to use hatred, violence and threats to intimidate, but music, art, dance, a shared identity, and, of course, family, will overcome. 

Gratitude and big ups to Rebtel, Hape Collective & Vedado Social Club for, as Carlos Varela says, building doors instead of walls. 

Photo credits: Rebtel