Benedict said the “ambition and selfishness of certain powers” took “little account of the true good of individuals and families,” and added that it was impossible to “continue in the same cultural and moral direction which has caused the painful situation that many suffer.” (Wall Street Journal, on the Pope arriving in Cuba)
As the director of They Will Be Heard, and the Executive Director of UnBlock the Rock, I read these words and felt compelled to share my thoughts regarding Cuban heavy metal band Escape and the Cuban heavy metal movement in general.
I don’t think it can be stated clearly enough that the US imposed blockade against Cuba and the internal Cuban blockade against anything “that smelled American” effectively segregated two nations of people for the last 62 years. When heavy metal arrived on the island, and was warmly received circa 1986, it signified a population of Cubans who were hearing and understanding and embracing the language of resistance and rebellion young Americans had the privilege of accessing at our local record store or recording on to cassettes from the radio, or purchasing from those record clubs where you got 10 albums for a penny, or MTV, or U68 so easily.
It signified a major breakthrough between two communities who were deliberately politically and culturally isolated from each other. Beyond enjoying heavy metal, young Cubans, continued against all odds, to emulate heavy metal, to create and develop heavy metal, putting themselves under great scrutiny of the Cuban government, with little or no interaction, much less support of the international metal community, with the exception of Sepultura and Audio Slave performing in Havana.“ They Will Be Heard” is testimony from those courageous Cubans who have been fighting for their dreams for the last 10 years, who have been fighting to be heard.
UnBlock the Rock is our movement to bring Cuban metal band Escape here to perform with their head banging neighbors in the United States. While I was filming in Cuba, I had the great honor to be there when Jennifer Hernandez’s father, El Negro Hernandez, came to perform at the Gran Teatro. When asked, “What do you think about this type of cultural exchange,” Negro, who defected from Cuba in 1989, replied, “The reason Cuban musicians and American musicians don’t perform together has nothing to do with musicians. We want to be together.” For all of us, music is the way we externalize how we feel. It is the loudness of our love, the silence of our sorrow. It’s time for Cuban musicians and American musicians to be together. It’s our time.
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