Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, who was expected to perform in an all-star tribute to legendary musician Pete Seeger in New York yesterday, was not authorized by the State Department to enter the United States for the event. The concert at Madison Square Garden marked Mr. Seeger’s 90th birthday and gathered more than 40 performers, which included Joan Baez, Tao Rodríguez (Mr. Seeger’s grandson), Bruce Springsteen, Arlo Guthrie, Emmylou Harris, John Mellencamp, and Oscar the Grouch of Sesame Street fame, among others.
Silvio Rodríguez expressed his disappointment in a message to his sister and manager from Paris, where he was awaiting the decision on his request for a visa:
“It is 8:40 p.m. on Friday, May 1 in Paris and I have just connected to the website where the U.S. embassy in France publishes news on visa applications. Mine appears as still being processed, as it has been since I applied for it. Since today is the day that I was supposed to fly to New York and the visa hasn’t appeared, I leave for Havana tomorrow.
“I think that the State Department’s attitude is very much in contradiction with President Obama’s express desire for a rapprochement with Cuba. As a worker in, I still feel as blocked and discriminated against as by other governments. I hope that this will really change some day.”
Pete Seeger, who was responsible for the worldwide popularity of “Guantanamera,” the song by Joseíto Fernández, with verses from José Martí, has been a tireless critic of the U.S. blockade of Cuba, which he has visited five times. Besides prohibiting US citizens from visiting Cuba without a special hard-to-get permit, the nearly 50-year blockade on the island also works to stifle cultural and academic exchange as well as trade between the two neighboring countries.
For more on the Pete Seeger concert go to http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/05/arts/music/05seeg.html?em