jump to navigation

Silvio Rodriguez for Michael Savage May 5, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in Latin America.
Tags: , , , ,

I awoke to the news this morning that one of Latin America’s most beloved voices, Silvio Rodriguez, was denied a visa by the U.S. State Department as he prepared to attend a celebration of folk music legend Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday gala.

Just when I thought we were about to put the nonsense behind us and accept Cuba into the brotherhood of American nations, this comes as a bit of a slap in the face. Generations of Latin Americans from Argentina to Mexico have grown up with Silvio’s classics, gentle and exquisitely crafted melodies like “Unicornio” and “Ojala,” the mysterious “Quien Fuera,” and passionate calls for self-determination and justice like “Cancion Urgente Para Nicaragua.” Indeed, one of his concerts in Chile drew more than 90,000. Take that, Rolling Stones.

Some of my favorite memories of times spent with my Latin American friends in Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina and Chile were times spent sharing the songs of Silvio, songs that bonded us at the heart. Beautiful songs that gave birth to a new genre, la Nueva Trova. I took a few moments today to reminisce, calling up on YouTube classics like La Maza and Sueño con Serpientes and Cancion del Elegido. I also pulled his only US-produced CD off the shelf, a compilation of his most famous works called Canciones Urgentes, produced by David Byrne of the Talking Heads.

I’m reminded of President Obama’s response to the criticism leveled at him by Newt Gingrich for having the audacity to shake the hand of another critic of US foreign policy, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Obama’s response: “It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States.”

I think it goes without saying that Silvio’s presence at the 90th birthday of his US counterpart is unlikely to endanger the strategic interests of our country.

It’s ironic, too, that I awoke today to the news that Michael Savage, one of the great purveyors of hate in our times, was banned by Great Britain because of his propensity to incite violence and hatred against minorities and the poor.

Now, I’m not in favor of banning anyone because of their ideas. But if we’re going to do that, wouldn’t it make sense to choose people who present an actual danger to the peace and security of our country?

I’m dedicating this blog, and this day in my life, to the work of a musical master who has used his considerable talents to tirelessly promote social justice. I’ve created my own Silvio Rodriguez channel on Pandora and I invite you to do the same. You can also find dozens of his performances on YouTube. Meanwhile, here’s hoping we can one day see him face to face — on this side of the water.