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Every time all of us who went to the same high school get together, the question rears its ugly head. Nobody needs to say any more because it’s clear that we are all referring to the announced but as yet unconfirmed visit of the Rolling Stones to Havana during this month of March, 2016. The rumor spread like wildfire during Mick Jagger’s stay in the capital last October.
The confirmed pessimists remind us of the naysayers: “I read in the Granma newspaper that discussions were ongoing but nothing is yet definitive” and they even quote authorities on the subject: “Mayito Masvidal said they weren’t coming.” The optimists are steadfastly basing their opinions on trustworthy sources: “The Herald has already confirmed that they’ll be here at the same time as Obama” and they have even become analysts of information that has filtered down to them from God-knows-what source: “Haven’t you seen how quickly they’re sprucing up the Latin American Stadium?” The women go straight to more practical matters: “Do you think I can still wear that blouse?” “Would you lend me your flowered vest?” “What do you think if we paint the peace symbol on our faces?”
This anticipation has lifted years and pains from our bodies and minds and we’ve even started practicing some dance steps so as not to look too ridiculous to our kids and grandchildren who aresurely going to go with us, not so much because they love the Stones but to have a fleeting glimpse of what their parents and grandparents were like at their age.
We used to take pictures of our kids sitting beside John Lennon in the Vedado park and thank goodness they don’t understand the deep, hidden meaning involved in all that enthusiasm. They missed the whole Beatles-Rolling Stones-Creedence-Led Zepplin-Eagles-Chicago Era. Those bands and many others like them were seen as the height of “enemy ideological penetration” and we were only able to listen to them in versions recorded by mediocre Spanish groups or in the version of some Mexican singer whose name I’d rather not remember.
In those days, long hair and necklaces made of seeds made fashionable by Fidel Castro’s “barbudos” (bearded rebels) were frowned upon and on some occasions repressed with, shall we say, not a whole lot of courtesy. English was fine if you learned it at school, but you couldn’t sing it; “Make love and not war” was a “counterrevolutionary motto” because it went contrary to the guerrillas; drawing the peace symbol in a school notebook was worse than drawing the swastika; free love was synonymous to licentiousness and we were constantly being admonished about how most of our Rock idols were drug addicts. Ironically, some of our Cuban musicians who were being promoted to provide a replacement for the British and American singers were suspected of smoking a marijuana cigarette from time to time (hush-hush of course) but then they were perhaps being backed by the popular slogan that said: “Consuming our country’s products is patriotic.”
Luckily, there was always someone who was able to circulate some record or we were able to get WQAM on the radio relatively easily, at least in Havana, and we had some local bands that would reproduce the Anglo-Saxon hits with greater or lesser accuracy. This kept us company during our teen years, and we didn’t become ideologically perverted, nor did we prostitute ourselves or sink into the murky depths of drug addiction.
But we were left with the frustration of never having seen our favorite bands on TV, much less at a live concert. Funny thing: for a long time I was convinced Creedence was made up of black singers! And so when all that anti-Rock paranoia fell apart, we celebrated the arrival of Air Supply in Havana as a triumph, we sat down beside Lennon in his park to chat and we are convinced that yes, Sir Michael Philip “Mick” Jagger is going to bring us the Stones and we are going to sing along with him to the explosive “Satisfaction” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and we are going to exhibit that symbol which represents the cry of so many hurting human beings in the world today: Peace and Love.