Huffpost WorldPost
Alec Baldwin Headshot

Let the Philharmonic Play in Cuba

Posted: Updated:

The New York Philharmonic will soon be departing for it's "Asian

Horizons" international tour, with stops in Seoul, Tokyo, Hanoi,

Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. However, one

destination that has, at least temporarily, been scratched from the

Philharmonic's foreign schedule is Havana.

The separate trip to Cuba, scheduled for the end of October, has

been postponed due to U.S. Treasury Department regulations.

Specifically, a contingent of Philharmonic benefactors, who were

underwriting a portion of the trip to Havana, would be spending

money in Cuba in violation of current U.S. law. The orchestra it self

was permitted to go, but not the convoy of their financial

benefactors.

So the Philharmonic is free to bring its singular program of

cultural exchange to the former North Vietnamese capital, a nation

with whom we were at war with as late as 1975, that war having cost

over 55,000 U.S. lives. But it is prohibited from doing so in Cuba

because.....? As recently as Monday, October 5th, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND)

spoke on the Senate floor to deride current regulations. "This is almost unbelievable what we

are still doing with respect to travel policy with Cuba," Dorgan said.

The political heritage of the Cuban American people

notwithstanding, it is time for the embargo on U.S. travel to end.

The people most responsible for the creation of this political

reality are dead. Some of them long dead. Castro is in the last

chords of his own life. Who, then, benefits from continuing this

policy?

The Cuban American community, who truly suffered the upheaval,

savagery and indignation of losing their homeland to the Communists

can never be compensated. One could never equate the current order

as being the result of merely a "grudge." Yet, nothing can bring

back their Cuba. It is gone. Even if Cuba had not been, as one

friend once described to me, "embedded in amber" these past several

decades, the rest of the world has moved on.

There is, however, a New Cuba that can be reclaimed. Investment

is paramount, no doubt. But a relationship with the rest of world

may be needed first. The New York Philharmonic, one of the

premiere classical music institutions in existence, cannot afford

to knock on Cuba's door without financial support from its generous

contributors, especially in these difficult economic times.

Performing arts institutions like the Philharmonic have long understood

the necessity for cultural projects like this. As much as our

allies and potential allies want aid, food, and America's brand of

political rhetoric in their ears, they also want something else.

Like Ravel and Stravinsky and Beethoven and de Falla.

The embargo on Cuban travel should be lifted, at the very least,

for cultural projects like the one by the Philharmonic that was

just delayed by the U.S. Treasury Department. If a hundred or so

patrons accompany them as a means of facilitating the trip, they

should be allowed to go, too.