Sunday, September 20, 2009

Issues with Herald coverage of Juanes' concert and Raíces de Esperanza

The Miami Herald recently ran a story about Juanes' concert in Havana. In it, reporter Jordan Levin references Raíces de Esperanza and writes things about us that we feel are inaccurate and misleading about our organization's stance on the concert.

First, we'll give you a bit from the article, including the paragraph we took issue with. At the end of this post, we'll explain the issue and clear up confusion.

From the Miami Herald:

Juanes concert supporters show changing paradigm

Hugo Landa, director of, a website that publishes stories by independent journalists on the island (including articles both supporting and criticizing the concert), believes that while the discussion has been emotional and divided, it has been fair. "Everyone has had the opportunity to express what he or she feels,'' Landa says. "If you want to go with the flow and not be disagreeable, that's your personality. But the fact that a large amount of people disagree with you doesn't mean you are threatened.''
Yet there are signs that the Cuban paradigm has changed. Older exile leaders like Carlos Saladrigas, co-founder of the Cuba Study Group, and younger ones like Miguel Arguelles, who graduated from Harvard with the support of the Cuban-American community, have supported the concert -- as has the group Raices de Esperanza, an organization of young Cuban-Americans who favor dialogue. A small demonstration by the group Vigilia Mambisa, in which they destroyed Juanes cd's and T-shirts, broadcast on TV and widely cited in stories on exile reaction to the concert, was rejected three to one as an embarrassment in a poll of Cuban Americans.
Click here for the whole piece.

Throughout the long and heated debate, we've struggled to make sure that our stance is clear and not misinterpreted. Still, it seems difficult for people to keep themselves from placing us on one side or the other of a this-side-versus-that-side paradigm.

Issue 1: Support of the Peace Without Borders concert

The fact is that our network and management team are diverse , and as such people within our team felt and still feel lots of different ways about the concert. We don't have consensus on supporting or denouncing this concert.

What we do have consensus on is the notion that the concert has potential that will only be realized if it is executed in a responsible way. Since none of us can know all the details of Juanes' actions (Raíces doesn't quite have enough funding for a working crystal ball), we decided that the best thing we could do was attempt to affect the outcome and judge the event later.

We met with Juanes and thought his intentions were good. We believed that he was willing to listen, to learn, and to take our concerns and the concerns of the Cuban people — both in Cuba and elsewhere — into consideration in making decisions about his event.

SO... to be clear, our organization doesn't support or denounce Juanes' Havana concert. All we've said is that it could present a meaningful opportunity to the people of Cuba if it's one with them and the realities they live in mind.

Issue 2: "dialogue"

Raíces understands that "dialogue" has special connotations in the context of a discussion of Cuba — especially when it comes to media coverage.

We urged the Herald not to use this term because, traditionally, "dialogue" in the Cuban context means dialogue with the regime. We're not "in favor of" that, as the Herald article seems to suggest. We're certainly not an organization that intends to dialogue with that or any regime. As far as others dialoguing with the regime, we neither discourage nor advocate for that tactic (perhaps some people in our network think this is a good idea, but others do not, and our organization is built to reflect consensus points).

We hope that, in the future, press coverage of Raíces reflects the nuances of the issues we deal with and accurately reflects our statements, our positions, and our network — not just for accuracy's sake, but for Cuba's sake.


Patrick said...

I have enormous respect for what you all did to support the concert. Particularly some of your founders that I saw firsthand in Cuba. They rocked it. I would encourage you to re-consider embracing the term dialogue. Don't let the fear of the backlash from hard-liners change your language. Granted, let's focus on dialogue with the Cuban people and avoid it with the government. Let our government take that tricky question up.

But at some point, it would be extremely beneficial for Cuban-American youth to take a united stand that is clear and perhaps a little less nuanced. The problem with excessive nuance is that you lose people, or may only speak to a highly engage and intellectual crowd - but not move public opinion.

Lets re-claim the language of transition, the language of change, the language of hope. And within that is the language of dialogue and reconciliation. We should have the courage to define the terms we want to use, to create the media narrative we seek. Indeed, that's the most powerful force for change in the history of post-communist transitions.

Raíces Blog said...


We appreciate your input and feedback. Thanks for that.

While you raise lots of interesting points here, it is important to note that we were very clear in this post on the fact that Raíces de Esperanza, as an organization, does not support or denounce this concert. It didn't before, and to this date it has not released any such language after the fact.

There's lots of room for debate about all aspects of what has happened here, but let's try to be accurate in referring to Raíces stances, as we take a lot of time to craft them and take them for a reason.