Cuba lifts radio ban on Anti-Castro artists


Though the Communist authorities do not acknowledge it, for five decades state radio stations have blacklisted musicians who abandoned Fidel Castro’s 1959 Revolution and/or spoke out against it, the BBC reports. Now, that may be changing.

Artists included Celia Cruz,—perhaps Cuba’s most internationally famous artist—and Havana-born pop-singer Gloria Estefan. News of the change emerged last week but there has been no public announcement: that would mean admitting to censorship in the first place.

Known as the “Queen of Salsa,” Cruz got her first break in 1950, when she joined La Sonora Matancera, one of Cuba’s most popular orchestras and a regular at the famed Tropicana club in Havana. The band went on tour to Mexico a year after the Cuban rebels under Castro’s leadership toppled then-dictator Fulgencio Batista in January 1959. Cruz never returned, instead continuing her career in the US, reported Fox News Latino.

Several of Cuba’s biggest radio stations have confirmed to the BBC that the ban has been overturned. They say there were at least 50 artists on the list as recently as a few days ago but station directors can now decide for themselves what to broadcast.

Among those formerly-banned artists were Grammy-winning saxophonist Paquito d’Rivera, who defected from Cuba whilst on tour – leaving his family – and was openly critical of Fidel Castro; singer Willy Chirino, who launched his musical career in Miami after leaving Cuba as a child; and jazz pianist Bebo Valdes – father of the now-legendary Chucho Valdes, who remained on the island.

Julio Iglesias was blacklisted at one point, too, then excused.

The authorization was for the music to be aired “where appropriate” and some albums would have to be dug out of dusty archives, if they weren’t destroyed, reported the BBC.

Radio station staff in Havana told the BBC they were informed at meetings last week that the list “served its purpose,” but was out-dated, and that its removal was part of Cuba “opening up to the world.”

“The artists were banned because they were making statements against Cuba,” explains cultural journalist Reny Martinez. “Things have changed. Something has changed in the Party. I think there’s new flexibility with culture.”

Radio station staff said they would “wait and see” for now, before revising their playlists. But a decade after her death, a new generation of Cubans could eventually be introduced to Celia Cruz and her salsa.

See the BBC story here

RBR-TVBR observation: After recently returning from a Florida vacation, I can certainly say plenty of Cuban AM music stations cover the southern half of the state 24/7—if you can stand the lighting strike interference. Some of them (i.e. 530 AM) cover large swaths of the U.S. at night. Here’s a list of some, in case there’s interest:

530 Radio Enciclopedia

600 Radio Rebelde

620  Radio Rebelde

640 Radio Progreso

690 Radio Progreso

760 Radio Reloj

830 Radio Taino

840 La Reina Radial

910 Radio Metropolitana

920 Radio Reloj

930 Radio Reloj

940 Radio Reloj

1050 Radio Victoria

1060 Radio Baracoa

1080 Caden Habana

1110 Radio Angulo

1120 Caden Habana

1150 Radio Bayamo

1290 Radio Taino

1310 Radio Caribe

1330 Radio Artemisa

1340 Radio Ciudad

1390 – Radio Jaruco

1430 Radio Surco

1440 Radio Surco

1450 Radio Guines