Trump, Obama and the ashes of Chico O'Farrill
I could really care less whether Arturo O'Farrill wants to engage in all kids of anti-Trump activism. But him doing so at a concert here in Fayetteville, for which I had paid, did irk me. But I still enjoyed his music, knowing that some are prosaic like that. Just as I no longer go to church, I don't attend political events either. So, when I go to a concert, I find it odd, to say the least, for the artist to offer up a diatribe rather than a tune.
Now Arturo O'Farrill has taken his father's ashes to Havana to rest there. One does not need much of a memory to recall that his father, the great Chico O'Farrill (Havana, 1921-New York, 2001), formed part of an illustrious group of musicians that Fidel Castro's regime never tired of insulting and deriding as human scum. And, except for the fact that there is a gravestone in Santiago de Cuba containing some ashes, both the country and the rhetoric remain quite the same.
In an interview by Government journalist José Dos Santos entitled "A musician of the future" (I read it via email; I've googled it but I have no idea why, as it is not available on the Web) O'Farrill says that "the mission and vision" of his father was "musically progressive," as he was always talking about visiting Cuba and, with Trump," if my father had been alive the day of the election, he would have died" because "the US is now going through an ugly period. There is terror (...) Everything happens for a reason. My father returned to his country at just the right time."
There is great terror in the US, according to Arturo O'Farrill. That must be why nobody protested at the theater in Fayetteville when the musician said what he said. But not in Havana, which is a land of peace, harmony and tolerance. Nor do I know if I understand quite what to make of considering Chico's music "progressive" – a word that occasionally suffers an annus horribilis, like now. But what does seem clear is that Arturo O'Farrill wants to blame Donald Trump for, in addition to the prevailing terror, his having to rush off with the ashes of his father, from the disturbing and tumultuous New York, for ever-peaceful Havana.
Chico O'Farrill is a public figure who belongs not only to the pantheon of Cuban exiles, but also to the musical history of three nations: Cuba, Mexico and the US. However, one assumes that Arturo O'Farrill can do whatever he wants with his father's remains, except cheap political haymaking. Because he's already taken it quite a bit too far. O'Farrill took to heart not only his claim to his Caribbean origins, but, apparently, Obama's normalisation of Cuba-US relations, which may be on the verge of a very abrupt dissolution, and, (this time) not due to Trump, but rather his counterpart, who has always demonstrated scant signs of democratic commitment and respect for his citizens.
Arturo O'Farrill has made more than a few trips to Havana. That he works with musicians from the Island, and his Grammy-winning recordings, have received much well-deserved praise. I cannot help but wish him luck with that. He can take whatever path and express whatever loyalties he likes, but what I do not understand is why he wants to convince everyone that his ideas were Chico's too.
We know that a regime like Cuba's, whenever it wishes to take advantage of the legacy of some dead soul, whitewashes their biographies; it mutilates, liquidates, silences and covers up, and if that's not enough, dresses them up as a soldier, or a saint.
But when that whitewashing is also accepted by the victims' relatives, it is difficult to keep quiet. Now we are asked to believe that Chico O'Farrill settled in the US and never returned to Cuba for personal reasons – perhaps the same that led the Indian Hatuey to inhale secondhand smoke and suffocate.