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
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
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.