Cuban music lovers had their spirits lifted recently as one of the country’s most popular festival was staged.
New Orleans and Cuban brass musicians paraded joyously through Havana two weeks ago as part of the city’s jazz festival and in defiance of the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken US-Cuba relations.
On a warm, sunny day, passers-by joined in the conga or danced on the balconies above as the trumpeters, trombone and saxophone players marched through Havana’s eclectic mix of colonial, art deco and art nouveau buildings.
“The world is so separated right now ... so moments like this are especially important,” said US citizen Nicola Fuqua who went to Havana for the festival. “New Orleans and Cuba are so similar.”
Music has long formed a cultural bridge between Cuba and the United States regardless of the state of political relations, with Afro-Cuban rhythms like the habanera feeding into Afro-American music as early as the 19th century.
“We are hoping that with us coming over, this can open up the door to more collaborations and things the U.S. and Cuba can come together on,” Marcus Hubbard, trumpet player for brass band The Soul Rebels said.
Cruises used to regularly connect New Orleans and Havana before Fidel Castro’s 1959 leftist revolution that prompted the United States to cut off diplomatic relations and impose a trade and travel embargo on Cuba that exists to this day.
The visiting New Orleans musicians said they were frustrated it was so hard to come to Communist-run Cuba due to President Donald Trump’s tightening of restrictions on US travel to the Caribbean’s largest island.