We never got to hear Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston on our national stages. Freddie Mercury died without touching down in Havana, and when The Beatles broke up, we were a country where English music was considered ideological diversionism. We followed the career of Elvis Presley from a distance and the charismatic Amy Winehouse slammed the door on life without stepping foot on this island. However, now we are about to regain part of what was lost: Mick Jagger’s emblematic mouth is here, the eternal youth of The Rolling Stones has arrived.
While the analysts debate, looking for signs of change in the Cuban political or diplomatic scene, transformations are capricious and take another direction. This country is not going to change itself into a new nation because John Kerry visited, nor because of the third visit by a pope in less than two decades. But Cuba is changing when people like this British rocker, icon of good music and of the greatest possible irreverence, touch down in Havana.
The vocalist, 72, has made his way through the streets of Havana leaving a trail of incredulity and beating hearts. It is not, admittedly, the excitement provoked by Beyoncé or Rihanna with their escapades in this theme park of the past, but Jagger’s visit has more profound connotations. For several generations of Cubans he represents the forbidden, an attitude toward life that was denied us by an obsessive police control.
For a political system that tried to form the “New Man,” with a Spartan spirit, “correct” and obedient, this skinny guy with his turbulent life signified the anti-model, what we must not imitate. However, the laboratory man hawked by the pedagogical manuals didn’t work out… and Mick Jagger won the battle against the prototype of the militant boy, hair cut short and willing to denounce his own family.
A friend, close to seventy years of age, came out into the streets this Sunday with the energy of girl celebrating her fifteenth birthday. “Where is he?” she asked the guard at Hotel Santa Isabel, where the official news reported the idol of her youth to be staying, but the man gave her no details. Like an obsessed schoolgirl, she walked all the streets around the hotel looking in the windows, to try to see the lean figure of the leader of the Rolling Stones.
Mick Jagger won the battle against the prototype of the militant boy, hair cut short and willing to denounce his own family
The lady displayed none of these reactions toward the American secretary of state or the Bishop of Rome. For her, all these exalted visitors were in the range of the possible, no longer surprising nor moving. But Jagger… Jagger is something else. “I don’t want to die without seeing him,” she told me on the phone, with the conviction of one who will not tolerate leaving this world without “closing an era,” putting the capstone on her “best years,” she told me.
My friend infected me a little with her enthusiasm, I must confess. No sermon in the Plaza of the Revolution, no speech to open an embassy, caused my stomach to jump this way, a sudden feeling of living in historic times. A nervousness that will last until we see the legendary British band play next March at the Latin American stadium, in front of a crowd that will try to recover its lost years.
Jagger is much more than the living legend of rock and roll presented by the media. This beanpole, all mouth, all energy, all life, embodies a time that they snatched from us, an existence that we could have had and that they took from us.
It seems a shame to me that the political analysts don’t realize it: the future Cuba could start with the Rolling Stones in Havana.