Anti-Castro Cubans Scare Silvio Rodriguez Away

In the last year, a gaggle of Cuban musicians have performed in Miami for the first time in decades. There was Los Van Van, Omara Portuondo, and goateed troubadour Carlos Varela. But when singer-songwriter Silvio Rodriguez announced two weeks ago he would tour the United States for the first since 1979, Miami was noticeably absent from the list of tour stops.

It turns out Rodriguez is afraid of Versailles Cubans, those anti-Castro viejitos who slumber in Calle Ocho just waiting to take out their pitchfork and torches to picket commie stooges. "Presenting Silvio in South Florida is quite controversial," says Ernesto Tamayo, who is producing the artist's show in Washington D.C. "The Cuban community in Miami still believe that Silvio promotes the Cuban regime."

In Cuba, Rodriguez is seen as a monumental figure, the father of "nueva trova" folk music. But in Miami he inspires as much invective as John Mayer.

Exiles revile him and others like Los Van Van and Portuondo for getting rich off a repressive government. When Los Van Van played at the performed James L. Knight Center in January, hundreds of grizzled exiles protested the performance, under the rain no less. Rodriguez wants to avoid that melee. "This tour is all about the music, not about politics," Tamayo says.

He's scheduled to open his tour in New York on June 4, then travel to San Francisco, Washington D.C., Oakland and Orlando. The tour is part of a thaw in Cuban-American diplomatic relations that has allowed several musicians to receive travel visas from the United States, and vice versa.

American bands funk shamans Kool & the Gang performed in Havana last year, and in March, Puerto Rico's Jonas Brothers, rappers Calle 13, and DJ Diplo played a scorching mini-festival in front of the US Interests Section.

As for Rodriguez, Tamayo says he'll play South Florida when crowds are more hospitable.

"There will be a time when Silvio can perform in Miami," he says, meanwhile, "Miami citizens are welcome to travel to Washington or Orlando to see him in concert. It's not a bad trip."

[erik.maza@miaminewtimes.com | on twitter]

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