20 dic. 2014

Un mundo más grande les espera a los artistas cubanos, tras la restauración de lazos


Fuente: New York Times. Por: Michael Cooper

The restoration of diplomatic and commercial ties between the United States and Cuba should ease the path for much more cultural exchange between the distant neighbors, which have been separated artistically not so much by an Iron Curtain as by a semi-porous one.

Even before this week’s surprise breakthrough was announced, musicians from both nations were taking part in the cultural cross-pollination that has flowered in recent years despite bureaucratic hurdles: Orlando Valle, a Cuban flutist known as Maraca, was in New York preparing to play this weekend at Jazz at Lincoln Center, while Arturo O’Farrill, a New Yorker, was performing at the Havana International Jazz Festival with his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra.

But the thaw in the last front of the Cold War should make it easier to do many more such tours. The Obama administration’s decision to begin removing Cuba from the list of states that sponsor terrorism could end the need for time-consuming security checks that often leave Cubans who want to perform in the United States in limbo. Easing commercial restrictions could allow American presenters to begin paying fees to the Cuban artists they bring to the United States, who by law are now allowed only smaller per diem payments and travel reimbursements. And the removal of red tape should make it easier for American artists to perform in Cuba.

The changes promise to strengthen the artistic bonds that were forged between the two nations decades ago, especially when the American jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and the Cuban conga player Chano Pozo teamed up to help start the Afro-Cuban jazz revolution. Those ties have been preserved and nurtured over the years, often overcoming serious obstacles.

One of Cuba’s biggest dance bands, Los Van Van, which was founded in 1969, was not able to tour the United States until the 1990s — and even after that, it was forced to cancel several tours because of travel restrictions.

Cuban artists have shown their works in American galleries and museums but sometimes found themselves barred by the United States from attending their own openings — as happened in 1997 when Kcho, a major Cuban sculptor, was denied a visa to attend an exhibition of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

And in 2009, the New York Philharmonic canceled a trip to Cuba after American officials ruled that while the orchestra could go, it could not take along the patrons paying for the tour.

As recently as last week it was not clear that the paperwork of Mr. Valle would be finished in time for him to play in New York, said Jason Olaine, the director of programming and touring at Jazz at Lincoln Center. And Mr. O’Farrill, who first played in Cuba in 2002, said in an interview that there had been times when his band would get held up in Miami for days en route to Havana, and other times when they could not get to Cuba at all.

“Sometimes it’s been smooth, and the paperwork lines up and the governmental agencies are all helpful, and sometimes it’s impossible,” Mr. O’Farrill said in a telephone interview from Havana. “But it’s worth all of the logistical nightmares that we’ve jumped through for 12 years to get here, because it’s such an inspiration for me.”

In the new era, he said, he hoped things would become easier. Mr. O’Farrill — whose Havana-born father, the composer and arranger Chico O’Farrill, was one of the pioneers of Afro-Cuban jazz — took a break from rehearsal in Havana on Wednesday to watch the announcement on television with a group of older Cubans. “I was weeping,” he said. “It was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever witnessed.”

Bill Martinez, an immigration lawyer and producer in California who has helped many performers go back and forth between the two countries, said that unpredictability had often been an impediment in getting American promoters to book Cuban artists.

He described a Catch-22: “The promoters were saying, ‘I’m not signing the contracts until they get visas,’ and the artists were saying, ‘We can’t get the visas until we have contracts.’ ”

The change in the art world is likely to be more evolutionary than revolutionary. Prominent Cuban artists already exhibit their work extensively at galleries and museums around the world, though more in Europe than the United States. But Rachel Weiss, a professor of art administration and policy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago who has studied the Cuban art world for three decades, said that she expected to see more contact between Cuba and American museums.

“American arts institutions, in my view, have been very skittish with Cuban work, not really knowing what’s legal or not, or allowed or not,” she said. “There’s been a kind of chilling effect. So I think there’s going to be a huge change there.”

The dance world has seen a great deal of exchange in recent years, though it has not always been without turmoil. The National Ballet of Cuba, one of the country’s cultural treasures, has often toured in the United States, but its visits have been marked by dancers’ defections. And officials from the Joyce Theater, the New York dance theater, have made almost annual trips to Cuba in recent years, working on collaborations between American choreographers and Cuban dance companies, and bringing Cuban troupes, including MalPaso, to New York.

Linda Shelton, the executive director of the Joyce, said that the changes should make such work simpler.

“The Cubans are extremely passionate about dance, and well trained, and there are a lot of dance companies,” she said. “But right now, presenters are afraid to take the risk, they don’t understand how it works, how you get visas for the performers and how you pay them.”
Once the red tape is lifted, and more artists go back and forth, the question is what it will mean for their work.

Mr. O’Farrill, who was in Havana working on a project called “Cuba: The Conversation Continued,” predicted that the new era would offer new musical opportunities.

“We’re just going to begin in earnest,” he said, “the work that Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo began.”

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