A national network of artists and arts presenters is calling on the Obama Administration to renew cultural ties with Cuba. In a letter delivered to the White House on March 3, 2009, US-Cuba Cultural Exchange called for Cuban artists to be permitted entry into the United States and for the elimination of restrictions that prevent Americans from traveling to Cuba.
The letter – signed by over 1,100 Americans in the arts and culture, including Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Harry Belafonte, Bonnie Raitt, Danny Glover, Eddie Palmieri, producer Laura Bickford and representatives of dozens of major arts institutions – requests "A process that can result in the development of normal, respectful bilateral relations between our countries."
The call comes as the Administration reviews Cuba policy and Congress prepares to consider legislation that could eliminate restrictions on travel to Cuba. Organizers say that the campaign will remain in effect until changes are implemented to allow for the free flow of expression between the United States and Cuba.
The letter may be viewed online at www.cubaresearch.info/cubaletter2009.
Cuban-American pianist and 2009 Grammy Award winner Arturo O’Farrill said: "Cuban culture has long helped us define who we are. Having been cut from this source of cultural sustenance is immensely ridiculous and sentencing a people to senseless economic hardship is criminal. It’s imperative that we renew cultural ties with Cuba immediately!"
Isabel Soffer, Director of Programming at the World Music Institute, said: "It has been more than four years since a Cuban group has come to the United States to perform. Freedom of exchange of ideas and culture between the U.S. and Cuba has been virtually non-existent. The absence of live Cuban music, one of the most influential forms on American music, has created an unfortunate void in the performing arts world. The time is right for the arts community to work to remove the travel ban and allow free flow of information, arts and ideas between all nations."
Ned Sublette, author Cuba and its Music and The World That Made New Orleans, stated: "The embargo of Cuba is also an embargo of New Orleans. For 190 years New Orleans was Cuba’s most important and commercial partner. One way to rebuild the Gulf Coast is to allow musicians from New Orleans and Cuba to jam once again. Let’s tear down this wall!"
USCCE co-founders Louis Head and Bill Martinez said: "The response has been overwhelming and reaffirms the strong support to change such absurd and inhumane laws that prevent the flourishing of art and culture to flourish."
USCCE was formed in 2005 to encourage change in U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba and to allow for shared free expression through the arts and culture. For additional information visit USCCE at www.cubaresearch.info/uscubaculturalexchange.