A Catholic Artist's Portrait of Cuba

Interview with Uruguayan Songwriter Luis Alfredo Díaz

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BARCELONA, Spain, NOV. 27, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Uruguayan songwriter Luis Alfredo Díaz, one of the most renowned Catholic songwriters on the international scene, has just returned from Havana — with a reason for hope.

He spent an intense week in Cuba giving concerts and directing the first Seminar of Christian Artists there. Here, the founder of the Multifestival David, one of the most important religious music festivals in the world, talked about his impressions of the island nation.

ZENIT: Tell us what impressed you most about this experience.

Díaz: I remember the people running into Havana cathedral to get to the front benches when the doors were opened. We are not used to such euphoria in Europe. The concert lasted two hours, and no one moved at all. Moreover, to see a cathedral full of people is, in itself, a spectacle.

Q: What can you tell us about the seminar you gave? How many people attended? Who were they?

Díaz: There were about 30 artists. … We decided it was better to start at a high level. The majority of participants were professionals or educators, people from Havana’s theater schools, conservatories, from the St. Fernando School of Painting. They all had a very clear experience of God. There is no pretense there. It seems to me that whoever is Christian, really is so.

Q: So there were not just musicians attending the seminar?

Díaz: No, no. As at the Multifestival David, we always treat the other arts as having the same dignity as music. It is true that in popular terms, music is more developed in the Church around the world than, for example, dance.

Q: And were they Catholics?

Díaz: Yes, yes, I tell you. The greatest impression was to see these people’s degree of identification with God and the Church.

We are used to seeing a kind of dichotomy in Europe between professional life and the life of faith. I imagine that a professional is taking a big risk anywhere in the world when he calls himself a Catholic — and even more so in Cuba. However, I met many excellent professionals in many arts, who showed their Catholicism publicly and who love the Church profoundly.

Q: In this connection, the Pope’s visit must have helped artists and people in general a lot.

Díaz: Without a doubt. People became more confident. And it is very beneficial for Cuba that the presence of the Church in public life be normalized.

Q: In Europe, we have an image of Cuba which, I suppose, is very distorted: on the one hand a Cuba of tourism and the travelogue press, on the other a Cuba of poverty and repression. How did you find the island?

Díaz: As I mentioned, it was my first visit. So I had no other reference point than what I had heard or read.

Cubans say that one of their worst times came after the fall of the Communist regimes; life was very hard around 1991-92. People still seemed quite demoralized to me but then, I also see Argentines looking like this, and Colombians. Despair is entrenched in many places in Latin America.

Q: Do you want to add something more about Cuba and your recent activities there?

Díaz: The people are really lovely — “lindo,” as they say there. A people full of vitality and creativity, full of artists. They need to learn about what is happening in other countries, inspiration, incentives, support.

This is what I tried to give and, I hope, the repercussions of it all will sow a seed of hope. As the Pope said, “May Cuba open up to the world and the world to Cuba!”

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