Art is not a luxury, and not for profit
Amidst news of the life-threatening pandemic, we have seen countless expressions of generosity, dedication and solidarity
Author: Pedro de la Hoz | firstname.lastname@example.org
march 26, 2020 10:03:27
Photo: Maisel López Photo: Granma
These are times to uphold human values. Faced with a life-threatening pandemic that is disrupting the economy and altering the social fabric across the planet, we have seen countless expressions of generosity, dedication and solidarity.
No one asked singers, musicians and ordinary people in Italy to go out on their balconies to support their neighbors, to sing and applaud health workers assisting the sick.
In Buenos Aires, from Belgrano, Caballito and Recoleta to Núñez and Quilmes, last Saturday more than a hundred Argentines came together in song to raise awareness of the importance of practicing preventive social isolation, to contain the coronavirus.
I took a moment to listen to Barcelona, where Pau Donés, leader of the group Jarabe de Palo, resurrected his song Los ángeles visten de blanco, looking to visibilize on social media “altruistic attitudes toward others, not only in terms of health, but also people who sing an opera or play the guitar. That’s why I thought of redoing the song and performing it for my neighbors.”
Chucho Valdés offered a recital taped in his home and posted on social media, including an impressive version of the second movement of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez; and the classic Bésame mucho, by Consuelo Velásquez, as if to remind us that social distancing, more than necessary, is one thing and feelings another.
The great pianist is not the only Cuban artist to speak out these days. Others from all generations have done so, while sharing concerns and encouraging their compatriots to take care and act sensibly in these hard times. Initiatives taken by young artists like David Blanco and Rey Montalvo, and the online transmission of Omara Portuondo and the Orquesta Faílde’s collaboration, are truly exciting.
These responses contrast sharply with those of unscrupulous individuals who, in the name of art, attempt to gain a minute of fame in the pay of forces attempting to destroy our social order. Opportunistic provocations and double standards, especially if they spuriously combine the battle against Covid-19 with disrespect for our patriotic symbols, provoke indignation in a country committed to coexistence, respect and unity, to face hardship and overcome obstacles imposed on us by the same forces paying low-life mercenaries for 60 years,.
Referring to one of these cases, I posted the following message on my Facebook wall, “The flag is sacred. It is much more than a rectangle of cloth waving above. It embodies historical, symbolic, sentimental values. To debase the flag is a degenerate act. Auctioning it off, under the pretext of false altruism is a vile act. None of this has anything to do with art. To be an artist is to be ethically responsible. If someone doesn’t understand this concept, at least respect it. I speak for myself, but I am sure that the vast majority of Cuban writers and artists, members of the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists, subscribe to the verses of Bonifacio Byrne and assume them as giving meaning to their lives.”
A little earlier that day a young intellectual, Yasel Toledo, posted an interesting assessment of the problem on his blog: “In today’s symbolic war, not only masked bullets are being fired, with no noise or big explosions, with the intention of undermining our ideological foundations, penetrating sensibilities and circulating like poison in the veins of our people. Now they want scandal, fuss, victims. This explains the exagerated scale of provocations. Behind these actions are dollars, a media campaign and a lot of bad blood.”
When I went online again, the following day, I saw that in less than 12 hours I had received support from artists and others who are not, from writers and readers, from friends and people I have not had the pleasure of meeting, from Cubans and many around the world. Many who, beyond our differences, agree that art is not a luxury, not for profit, and not a platform to attack the homeland.