Calle 13 Gets Political in Cuba, U.S.

A coalition of musical artists ranging in genre, age and nationality dubbed The Sound Strike is boycotting performances in Arizona to protest the state’s SB 1070 bill, the country’s strictest anti-immigration law. Under the bill, which governor Jan Brewer signed in late April, law officials can detain anyone they suspect is an illegal immigrant. The law has outraged many, including President Obama and the high-profile artists constituting The Sound Strike, such as Kanye West, Sonic Youth and Calle 13.

Puerto Rican reggaeton duo Calle 13 doesn’t shy from using their music and prominence to make political statements, whether stateside or internationally. While visiting Cuba this past March, my week-long trip fortuitously overlapped with a massive, free Calle 13 concert in the heart of Havana. The group performed on a stage with their backs to the U.S. Interest Section, which is the American embassy substitute in the country and rests on Swiss property. Shops closed and work days concluded early for the concert, and Calle 13 made a handful of remarks about U.S.-Cuban relations throughout their performance.

The U.S. Interest Section, and Cuban flag poles blocking it, by Karina for TKGO

Where Calle 13 performed, by Karina for TKGO

Despite policy differences and the politically-charged setting, all of us Americans in attendance found the Cubans we interacted with to be super friendly and welcoming. Music is a powerful tool, whether to cross boundaries or make statements. Check out some clips from the concert in the video below.

Karina for TKGO

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