How Re-Establishing Diplomatic Ties with Cuba Will Change the Arts

By Jaime Prisco on Dec 23, 2014 12:31 PM EST

The restoration of diplomatic and commercial ties between the United States and Cuba will not only hit us politically but will also have a profound effect on music and the arts.

Though battling bureaucratic laws, the cultural exchange between the U.S. and Cuba has not been lost in recent years. Even before this week’s announcement, musicians have been traveling to perform in the previous out-of-bounds nation. Arturo O’Farrill, a New Yorker, was performing at the Havana International Jazz Festival with his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, while Cuban flutist Maraca was in New York preparing to play this weekend at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

President Barack Obama’s “new approach” to Cuban policy will make it easier for American artists to travel to Cuba to perform and vice versa. Cuba could even plausibly become a profitable tourist destination for the first time in five decades. The new policy can end need for time-consuming security checks that often leave Cubans who want to perform in the United States in limbo. Easing commercial restrictions could allow American presenters to begin paying fees to the Cuban artists they bring to the United States, who by law are now allowed only smaller per diem payments and travel reimbursements.

Cuban artists have shown their works in American galleries and museums, but sometimes found themselves barred by the United States from attending their own openings, as happened in 1997 when Kcho, a major Cuban sculptor, was denied a visa to attend an exhibition of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

And in 2009, the New York Philharmonic canceled a trip to Cuba after American officials ruled that while the orchestra could go, it could not take along the patrons paying for the tour.

Decades ago, an artistic bond was forged between Cuba and the U.S., especially when the American jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and the Cuban conga player Chano Pozo teamed up to help start the Afro-Cuban jazz revolution.

Hopefully, these changes will continue to strengthen the ties that have been preserved over these years.

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TagsCuba, Arts, Maraca, Arturo O' Farrill, New York Philharmonic, Kcho, President Obama

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