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Cuban Singer Omara Portuondo Cancels Show; Old Exiles Rejoice

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Ever since the Los Van Van concert last month went by without a hitch, cantankerous anti-Castro activists here have been itching for some kind of PR victory.

They just got it today: bolero singer Omara Portuondo canceled her March 2 concert at The Fillmore in Miami Beach citing slow ticket sales.

The 80-year-old balladeer, the Cyndi Lauper to contemporary Celia Cruz's Madonna, is a legend in Cuba who was even featured in Buena Vista Social Club.

But exiled Cuban agitators see her differently. One blog calls her a "Castro-Chavez Diva," and Vigilia Mambisa told Riptide she was the "regime's stooge." Local curmudgeon Emilio Izquierdo Jr. gave us the strongest condemnation, though.

"To bring Omara Portuendo to Miami is like bringing the Ku Klux Klan to Liberty City," he said. Whoa. Keeping spoutin' crazy dude! On his blog, Izquierdo says it was pressure from Cuban exile groups that prompted the cancellation.

But Portuondo's promoter, Valiente Concerts, said the cancellation was financial. Tickets were going for $90-150 and only 200 were sold. The Fillmore has 2,600 seats.
Valiente says just 600 were needed to break even, and ticket sales were too slow. It took three weeks to sell just 30.

"If they're taking responsibility, they're wrong," said Malaica Valiente. "It's a whole bunch of things. The economy mainly. When there are no ticket sales, we make decisions."
Portuondo's shows in Washington D.C. and Glenside, PA, have also been nixed.

Exile groups have pushed local officials for months to cancel the Fillmore gig, as they tried to do with Los Van Van, but they found a quasi-ally in Miami Beach mayor Matti Herrera Bower the way they couldn't with Tomas Regalado.

Although the Cuban-American Bower doesn't have any authority to throw out shows, she did express her displeasure over the booking with the city's Cultural Art Council, an official at the mayor's office said. And, she was the first to notify exile groups of the show's cancellation when the theater informed her office.

Izquierdo feels vindicated by the turn of events anyway. "Our protests at Los Van Van worked. It was just good public relations." Meanwhile, the Fillmore says no one has been booked yet to take the stage March 2.

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