International News

Cuban Rock Band Hipnosis Seeks Asylum in Miami, Marvels at Our Giant Bananas

On Monday, the Cuban hard rock band Hipnosis arrived in Miami on the way to a Castro-approved gig in Oakland, California. But as the band members were waiting in line, they decided to ditch their government minder and declare political asylum.

The decision has upended the Cuban music scene. It's also upended the lives of the band members.

"Right now I'm in a Walgreens market and I don't know what I'm going to do," lead singer Giovany Milhet tells Riptide. "I'm standing in front of all these types of batteries. I've never seen anything like it.

See also: Cuban punk rockers Gorki and Gil used music to take on Castro

Milhet says the bandmates are staying with family for the time being. But they've all also left relatives behind on the island.

"It was a very difficult thing [requesting asylum]," Milhet says. "We didn't expect things to happen the way they did. We made the decision because the girl [from the Cuban government] who came with us was very uncomfortable. When we arrived at the airport in Miami, she told us: 'You can't go out of the airport, or the police will arrest you.'

"What the fuck, man? She tried to put all of us in fear," Milhet says. "You'd have to be stupid to believe that."

Milhet says their Cuban minder was the last person in the line for immigration. When singer Ramiro Pupo, who has a daughter in Miami, suddenly asked for asylum, the rest of the band followed his lead.

"One by one, we were leaving the line in the airport," Milhet says, laughing. "[The government woman] was the last one. She never knew what was happening!"

Contrary to reports, the entire band did not make the break for the U.S. all at once. Singer Maylin Ruiz is currently in Spain, and keyboardist Glencys Toro is already in Oklahoma visiting family. She will meet up with the asylum-seekers Monday.

Milhet says the Hipnosis members are still waiting on paperwork before rescheduling their California tour. But the band is stoked to be in the States.

"So here we are, man, in the house of our families, trying to make the dream come true," Milhet says. "We are here to play.

"Obviously it's a big change," he says. "When I arrived at my aunt's house, I saw a big banana in the center of the table. It was so big and so yellow that I thought it was plastic. So I touched it a few times -- tok tok tok.

"That's when I realized, no, this is real."

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.