How Pablo Milanes went from being the voice of Cuba’s revolution to openly criticizing the Castro regime – BBC News Mundo

  • Atahualpa Amerisse @atareports
  • bbc news world

image Source, revolution studies

Pablo Milanes, who died this Tuesday in Madrid at the age of 79, was a cultural reference point for the Cuban socialist system and the Latin American left.

Founder of Nueva Trova along with Silvio Rodríguez and Noel Nicola, he devoted part of his musical repertoire to the ideas raised by the revolution led by Fidel Castro in 1959.

But, although the Castro regime has survived to this day, the support of one of its reference artists gradually faded.

Over the years, Milanese described the island’s government as “oppressive”. claimed that socialism was a “failure” and called for a transition from the present one-party system to democracy.

image Source, Getty Images


Pablo Milanes last June, in his last recital in Havana.

very liberal a revolutionary

Milanes, who as a child already stood out in television programs and vocal groups, witnessed the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in his early teens.

The son of a soldier and tailor, like many young people of the time, he turned to the ideals of humanism and social justice proposed by the new regime after the overthrow of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista (1952–59).

“originally what did cuba mean in the year 59 for the world. I was 15 then, and when I delved into the social reality of Latin America, I became a revolutionary,” he explained in a 2015 interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

In the 1960s, marked by the intensification of the Cold War between the US and the USSR, Cuba adopted the Soviet model and, with it, its inflexible cultural policies.

“Pablito was among those who defended the originality of the Cuban Revolution; an originality that was called into question after the alliance with the Soviet Union, which marked the end of critical thinking“, tells BBC Mundo the Cuban political scientist Carlos Aljugare.

“Although they supported the revolution, these people saw things differently, they were more moderate, focused on the rights of individuals,” he explains.

locked in a labor camp

Thus, one day in 1966, agents of the Authority showed up at Pablo Milanes’ home.

“They trick me in a way where they tell me: ‘You were selected for military service.’ and i was chosen to send me to a concentration camp” remembered the singer in a 2020 documentary about her figure.

He was one of thousands of youths sent to Military Production Aid Units (UMPA), where homosexuals, the religious, artists and free-spirited intellectuals were imprisoned in forced labor camps; In short, those who were considered “disgusting” in the words of Milanese himself.

The singer recalled UMAP – from where he soon escaped to be arrested again – as a “brutal” phase in which he was ill-treated and forced to work tirelessly from morning till night.

Decades later, he repeatedly criticized the Cuban government Annsometimes askedforgive me For him.

his most revolutionary platform

In any case, after his release, Pablo Milanes established himself not only as a singer and founder of Nueva Trova, but also as a singer. One of the leading voices of the Latin American left movement that sponsored and championed the regime of Fidel Castro.

image Source, Gerardo Magellan

,Bolivar launches a bright star together with Marty / Fidel / It is coveted to walk through these lands“, he composed his famous “Song for Latin American Unity” in 1976, which toured the continent.

Right-wing military dictatorships in countries such as Chile, Argentina or Uruguay marked the 1970s in Latin America, which is why leftist ideas, with Cuba as a reference, captivated a large part of the region’s youth.

Many of them listened to Milanes, Silvio Rodríguez and other Nueva Trova singers. He dedicated part of his music and their efforts to promote socialismestablishing itself as a reference for so-called “protest songs”.

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Milanes (second from left) with Joan Manuel Serrat, Luis Eduardo Auteuil, Kiko Veneno and Silvio Rodríguez in Madrid in 1983.

Without forgetting that most of his songs talk about love and only a minority allude to his political commitment, the following decade of the 1980s was one of growth and consolidation for Pablo, not only as an artist. But also as an artist. cultural icon of the Cuban cause,

,It is better to drown in the sea than to betray the pride that has been lived“, he sang in “When I Found You” (1989), a cult song for the revolutionaries of the time on the island.


The 1990s were a turbulent period for Cuba, which after the collapse of the Soviet Union, its main patron, plunged into a deep economic—and, for many, existential—crisis known as the Special Period. Is.

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Milani in Cuba in 1998.

Although at the beginning of the decade it was Deputy of the National Assembly of People’s Power Cuba’s (parliament), the Milanese, soon began voicing their differences with the regime.

“I am a standard-bearer of the revolution, not of the government. If the revolution gets stuck, becomes conservative, reactionary, contrary to the ideas that generated it, one must fight,” the artist then said, referring to his First critical statement in one.

He later explained a change of position that surprised many: “IIn 1992, I was convinced that the Cuban system had definitely failed. And I reported it.”

“I was disappointed as a revolutionary because they insisted on continuing with an issue that did not work and which still does not work,” he alleged.

final turn

After the special period he continued to criticize the Cuban government, but he did not stop considering himself a leftist, and even in 2006 Sent a message of loyalty to the recuperated Fidel Castro (who eventually recovered and did not die for another ten years).

According to the official Granma newspaper, he wrote to the leader, “I promise to represent you and the Cuban people as this moment deserves: with unity and courage in the face of any threat or provocation. A hug, your Pablo Milanes.”

image Source, Getty Images


In the Plaza del Zocalo in Mexico City in the year 2000.

Over the next decade, the artist expressed his admiration for more moderate left-wing leaders in the region, such as José Mujica, the former president of Uruguay.

At the same time, the winner of two Latin Grammys for Best Singer-Songwriter Album (2006) and Musical Excellence (2015). the tone was getting tougher In his criticism of the Cuban authorities.

,Stalinism still applies, and suppresses street protests; A strike is impossible because there are no independent unions and the Cuban press is silent or complicit,” he said in a television interview in 2015.

The Cuban government did not retaliate against him – such as the restrictions on entry and exit that often apply to other important voices – and Milanes, who lived in Madrid in his final years, frequently visited Havana, where he died the previous June. In he offered his last concert. On the island

The President of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, also dedicated an emotional obituary to her.

For political scientist Carlos Aljugare, Pablo Milanes is “a very important figure to the Cuban people and the government has realized that, although some of the things he has said bother them, you have no choice but to hug her,

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