By Anett Rios
HAVANA – Cubans left the Plaza de la Revolucion in Havana enchanted by the declaration of love that Colombian superstar Juanes made them in the form of a concert featuring more than a dozen artists.
A crowd estimated by organizers at 1.15 million appeared in the square with parasols, flags, wearing T-shirts and carrying bottles of water to bear up stoically under the hot afternoon sun, which, however, seemed unimportant at an event of such magnitude.
“Juanes has given us back our dignity. He gave us an international concert; at least it made me happy,” Rosario, a 43-year-old teacher who went to the plaza Sunday with her three teenaged kids, told Efe.
For Damian Estevez, 51, there has never been another show in Cuba to compare with the Peace Without Borders concert.
“The plaza today seemed like a beautiful live animal,” Estevez, who had not seen the place this crowded for many years, told Efe.
People climbed lamp posts, broke some of the security barriers, shook the TV reporters’ platforms and occupied part of the lawn of the Jose Marti Memorial.
What looked like a lack of discipline, desperation and too much pushing and shoving dissipated as soon as the music began to play.
Joining Juanes on the stage were Spain’s Miguel Bose, Luis Eduardo Aute and Victor Manuel; Puerto Ricans Olga Tañon and Danny Rivera; Ecuador’s Juan Fernando Velasco and Italy’s Jovanotti, while the large Cuban contingent included Silvio Rodriguez, Los Van Van, Amaury Perez, the Orishas, Carlos Varela, X Alfonso, and Cucu Diamantes & Yerbabuena.
At the beginning of the concert the public was hidden under a sea of umbrellas, but little by little faces began to emerge along with posters exclaiming “I admire you, Juanes,” “Let Bose sing,” “We love you, Olga,” “Love, yes.”
Affection for Juanes and the Puerto Rican Olga Tañon were what most of the signs were about, and the two sparked the loudest applause.
“Olga seems Cuban,” 17-year-old Yusmani told Efe teary-eyed with emotion when the singer onstage recalled the lines of a poem that says “Cuba and Puerto Rico are two wings of a bird.”
The singers made profuse declarations of their emotion and their affection for Cubans, so that each time the artists mentioned the island and its people, the audience responded with cheers, applause and jumping for joy.
“I’m Cuban and I’m proud of this day. It was too hot here, but this is historic, something I’ll tell my kids about,” Joel, a 23-year-old mechanic, told Efe.
Here and there in the vast sea of concert-goers waved the flags of Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Chile, as well as canvases with the portrait of the Cuban-Argentine guerrilla, Che Guevara.
Some of the youngest, who were the absolute majority at the concert, also carried flags with rainbows, representing gay liberation, while others bore the peace symbol.
Though teens and young people dominated the square, several families appeared with the grandparents and even carrying babies.
Some left the square before the show was over, overcome by the heat, but that allowed those remaining to finish up with a real party of hugs and dancing.
Miami-based Cuban exiles denounced the concert, accusing Juanes of tacitly endorsing the island’s communist regime by performing in Havana.
But some of Cuba’s estimated 210 political prisoners signed an open letter endorsing Juanes’ initiative. EFE