Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Not ashamed to respectfully disagree

When it came to my attention that Gloria Estefan's new album 90 Millas was going to feature a collaboration with Carlos Santana I immediately posted about my disbelief and sorrow at that turn of events. That was more than 10 days ago. My email to the Estefan public relations team was responded to in a perfunctory manner.

Now, in full crisis management mode, Emilio Estefan has called Val Prieto, the editor of Babalublog.com (where I made my first post), to explain the circumstances about Santana's appearance. He explained to Val that he was upset that the community would react so quickly without knowing the full story about the album and the materials that will accompany it. Apparently there is some content that will explain this seemingly unthinkable collaboration with a Che admirer.

Val says he's ashamed for thinking badly of the Estefans. I don't think Val has anything to be ashamed of. I think if anyone should be sorry for this predicament it's the Estefans themselves. Here's why:

  • Santana has, to date, never publicly apologized for wearing the Che shirt and his favorable comments about Che.
  • Beyond wearing a t-shirt one time, Santana is an admirer of Che Guevara as expressed to me in a personal encounter on February 11, 2006.
  • The album is dedicated to Cuba, yet the collaboration with Santana would appear to be an insult to freedom loving Cubans that know the truth about Che Guevara.
  • Of all of the people they could have chosen why Santana with his Che-admiring attitude?
  • Santana is part of the problem of Cuba not part of the solution. He perpetuates myths about the Castro-communist Cuban Revolution that enable the regime to maintain prestige and legitimacy in the world.
  • For this reason, we have always fought to remove the image of the murderous Che (Burlington Coat Factory, Target, etc.) and to not publicly denounce this collaboration with a Che admirer would be hypocritical on our part.
  • It was the Estefan's own poor judgement that put us in this situation. Nobody is going to look good now because we had to react and mobilize. We will be branded intransigent and closed minded by the exile bashers. The Estefans will lose prestige with the exile community.
  • How could they NOT expect a backlash?
If there is some redeeming quality to the nature of Santana's appearance on the album (such as a public renunciation of previous actions and statements pertaining to Guevara by Santana himself) then why was this not communicated 10 days ago when the questions first began to arise? Why wasn't this fact published on Gloria's web site when they proudly published the blurb from USA Today that mentioned the Santana appearance on the album? Also disturbing is the collaboration with the Puerto Rican artist Willie Colón who in 2000 publicly declared that Gloria and Emilio Estefan had become the spearhead of the Cuban Mafia.

I may be wrong. There may be some logical explanation to this. Gloria and Emilio Estefan may have convinced Willie Colón and Carlos Santana of the error in their ways. This may just be a PR blunder that resulted from a lack of foresight on their part but I strongly doubt it. Superstars like Gloria Estefan are much more media savvy than that.

I fear that perhaps instead they have lost touch with the community that came from. That they put "art" and possibly business ahead of principles and that now they realize the bedrock of their support, the Cuban-American community in Miami, doesn't necessarily agree with that.

I shall keep an open mind as we learn more about this issue but I won't be ashamed of raising the questions that I raised. I won't be ashamed of having the visceral reaction that I had when I learned that heroes of mine were collaborating with a man that idolizes a man who I have made it my mission to denounce. Val can be ashamed if he want to be, though I don't think he should, but I won't be.


La Ventanita said...

I think the willie colon comment came from the cuban mafia within music industry, not what we know as the cuban mafia.

Many times in Miami I heard people of all nationalities, Cuban included, refer to Estefan as a mafioso due to his control of the music industry, and heard some rumors about his business practices.

As to why particularly select critics to be on their album, perhaps to shed that "mafia" image they've "earned" (whether merecido or not) within the music industry.

Maybe that is the PR move, to show the world they can separate music and politics.

In any case I love willie colon. And it should come to no surprise to you that many Puerto Ricans feel the same way willie does about Cubans; they feel Cubans apropriated the Salsa - they don't understand the distinction between Son and Salsa, and the fact that Salsa is a hodge podge of son.

Agustin Farinas said...

La ventanita,
One of the biggest Puerto Rican stars of the music world said it better than anyone else: "Salsa is what you put on the spaghettis, there is no such thing as salsa". Tito Puente.
This "salsa" is a term coined by New York latin music producers in the 1960's to sell to the latin audiences and made by NY musicians. Cubans did not appropiate the music for themselves, cause it was being played many years ago in Cuba under different names, such as guaracha,son etc. The fact that you add electrical instruments to it does not make it new or make it a new invention. It is a misnomer to call it salsa.