Beyoncé and Jay-Z in Havana another calibrated Cuba plot
By Myriam Marquez
Beyoncé and Jay-Z trotted around their mothers in Havana for the
couple's fifth anniversary, posing with cute Cuban schoolchildren,
dining at a famous paladar — the royal couple of hip-hop-pop creating
the predictable paparazzi buzz and Cuban exile lament.
The calibrated juxtaposition of BeJay's arrival in La Habana late last
week with Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez's departure from Little Havana has
served the regime's propaganda purposes quite well: See, we let Yoani go
to you. If only the U.S. lifted that silly embargo, you americanos could
be here, too, spending time with BeJay and company in our island
paradise of quaint little poor people staring down from their crumbling
balconies. How Third World chic!
BeJay's tourist excursion in a forbidden land also picks at that always
oozing exile scab that Yoani's visit here had started to heal: the
passions surrounding 52-year U.S. trade embargo of Cuba and the travel ban.
Under current rules, Americans are banned from traveling to the island
unless they go as part of a cultural, educational, religious or other
civil-society-building excursion. The policy in effect has allowed the
Castro regime to control the itinerary for those groups, hide the
people's despair and slap an exotic veneer of harmlessness on a 54-year
Internationally renowned Yoani has argued for removing the regime's
excuse for all its failures on the embargo by lifting it — but also for
a responsible, "humanitarian" tourism, one that understands the
information "blockade" that Cubans face without a free press, one where
a conscientious visitor will drop off a memory stick, a cell phone, a
laptop before departing. That's what happened to her when she served as
a tour guide for Germans visiting Cuba.
The blogger's support for lifting the travel ban implies that there is
safety in numbers. If Cuba is flooded with clueless American tourists
the likes of BeJay, then the "humanitarian" tourist will have less
chance of getting caught and imprisoned (as USAID subcontractor Alan
Gross has been since 2009) for providing technology that the regime
deems to be spyware.
Nothing happens coincidentally when it comes to Cuba. The regime knows
when to turn over the tortilla, as they say in Spain, for its benefit.
So Yoani calls for Cubans on both shores to unite and tweets photos from
Miami with crooners Willy Chirino and Lissette Alvarez, with actor Andy
Garcia, and Emilio and Gloria Estefan, all those local Cuban kids done
good, gone international stars.
And — poof! — when photos of BeJay's Havana adventure hit the
twitterverse, the Cuban diplomat in Washington, Jose Cabanas, tsks-tsks
to a group of foreign and U.S. journalists: "Too much attention has been
devoted to this lady, taking a lot of attention from the most important
. . . news that has been happening these days in regards to Cuba.
Including the presence of Beyoncé, the singer, who is today in Havana,
enjoying a lot of attention from the public, but it's not covered by the
media — incredible."
Yes, well, let's ignore "this lady" Yoani, one of the world's most
talented award-winning writers who's breaking barriers with new
technology to bust open a totalitarian regime's abuses day after day.
Let's instead focus on two American celebrities whose knowledge of Cuba
amounts to mojitos and Cohibas.
At least Beyoncé and Jay-Z seem more like tontos utiles (useful idiots,
their star power used by the regime) than star apologists for a
murderous violator of human rights, a la Danny Glover or Sean Penn.
Soon to arrive in Miami will be Berta Soler, who now heads the Ladies in
White, a group of women who have peacefully marched in defense of Cuba's
political prisoners for a decade now. Perhaps Cuban American rapper
Pitbull could set Beyoncé and Jay-Z straight about how Cuba's regime
mistreats Afro Cubans, starting with Berta Soler and her family. Or how
it beats women who criticize the regime's treatment of blacks like Yris
Aguilera, who runs the Rosa Parks Movement in Cuba.
From Havana, the regime will try to incite exile boycotts and protests
against Beyoncé, who'll be singing in Miami soon — anything to make
Cuban Americans look as inflexible and dogmatic as the island's masters,
anything that makes us look like kooks.
Except the reactionary forces failed to stir exiles against Yoani. She
was embraced because her insights from Cuba are raw truth. Whatever
difference of opinion on the embargo or travel ban seems inconsequential
when weighed against her work (and that of other dissidents like Soler
and Rosa María Payá) to expose Cuba's reality to the world.
Still, expect the usual hypocritical skirmishes to continue about an
embargo so porous that the U.S. now serves as Cuba's biggest supplier of
food. The local Cuban-American pols will proclaim once again their
pro-embargo hardline against tyranny even as Cuban-American industry
barons quietly visit the country of their birth to explore the
possibilities of a fast-approaching future without the Castros.
Who's turning the tortilla now?
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