Plans for Colombian rocker Juanes' "Peace Without Borders" concert in Cuba Sept. 20 continue despite an unabated maelstrom of debate and opinion that the show that will be staged in Havana's Plaza de la Revolución.
Although details remain sketchy and the roster of performing acts is still to be confirmed, artists that have accepted the star's invitation to perform include Spaniard Miguel Bosé and Puerto Rican Olga Tañón, along with Silvio Rodríguez and Los Van Van from Cuba itself. News of the show itself, coupled with the inclusion of Cuban acts-many of them closely associated with the totalitarian regime of Fidel and Raul Castro-generated almost immediate reaction from many in the exile community and beyond who are upset over the political implications and what they perceive is tacit support for the Cuban regime associated with performing. Juanes has repeatedly denied this and has said that his concert has no political implications and that art and music supersede politics. In his Twitter account, Juanes wrote that "art is always above any difference or reality. A concert for peace from Havana carries many positive messages, messages of hope and better times to come."
A broad range of artists, several of them Cuban Americans, have spoken up supporting his performance, although some have also expressed concern about repression in Cuba.
Juanes first came up with the “Peace Without Borders” concept over two years ago when he played a free show at the Colombia/Venezuela border in March, 2008 to promote better relations between the two countries. The Cuba show, expected to be seen live by some 600,000 people, would be the second edition of the concept, and the artist is already speaking about a third edition to take place in 2010 in Mexico.
Although Juanes has given multiple interviews on the subject, he has also personally kept fans informed via a steady supply of information on Twitter. Yesterday, the Colombian singer/songwriter wrote that the cost of the concert would be paid by him directly with Bosé and Tañón. He also posted a home video of himself singing an acoustic song with his guitar whose refrain says "It's time to change hate for love." The line has often been repeated by Juanes in regards to this show.
On Aug. 26, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Cuba Study Group released the findings of a Bendixen & Associates opinion poll among 400 Cuban Americans which found that 47% of respondents did not agree with the concert, while 27% were in favor and 26% had no opinion. Not surprisingly, older respondents expressed less support, although the approval rate among respondents ages 18-34 was 35%, still not a majority. However, approval rate for the concert rose to 45% among respondents who had left Cuba after 2000. The majority of those who oppose the concert said they did so because it ignored the realities of Cuba, including human rights abuses and political prisoners. Most respondents, 50%, say they support cultural exchange between Cuban and the United States.
Juanes is not the first prominent act to perform in Cuba, although he is the first major Latin act to do so. Singer/songwriter Ricardo Arjona, who had been quietly planning a show of his own, said he was now canceling those plans to avoid a media frenzy.
In 1979, Stephen Stills, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge and Billy Joel headlined "Havana Jam" while in 1999 Mike Fleetwood, Bonnie Rait, Jimmy Buffett and members of The Police also played a concert.
Most recently, actor Benicio del Toro went to Cuba with Robert Duval, Bill Murray and James Caan to receive an award for his portrayal of Che Guevara.