Rolling Stones in Cuba

2016 has been for Cuba a year of great events and monumental arrivals: a wider spread of Wifi, Airbnb, the first international fashion show since the 1959 revolution, the filming of the eighth movie of the Hollywood productions “Fast and Furious” and the first visit in almost 90 years of a sitting U.S. President. All these are clear signs that something is changing on the Revolutionary Island.  That change includes President Raul Castro allowing The Rolling Stones to perform in Cuba for the first time in the rock band’s 54-year career. For years, following the Cuban revolution, rock music was banned on Cuban state TV and radio deemed as an “ideological deviation”. This concert, which marks a milestone in the history of Cuba and rock music, was the result of months of rock ‘n’ roll diplomacy conducted after the United States and Cuba announced in 2014 that they would repair decades of broken relations.
Friday 25 March 2016 The Rolling Stones played an open-air historic free show, Cuba’s largest concert ever, at Ciudad Deportiva de la Habana, a massive sports complex. Attendance numbers reached 700,000 people in the stadium, with another 500,000 listening outside, according to a rep for the band. For the event The Stones mounted a massive stage with towering video screens and a blasting sound system, not common in Cuba. This was no ordinary concert. It was held in a joyous atmosphere: fans didn’t run, jostle or get in fisticuffs over spots. There were dozens of Cuban police and Interior Ministry officers, but none were aggressive. There were also no food concession stands and no merchandise was for sale at the venue, since the price would exceed what most Cubans make in a month (shirts are usually sold for $40-45). For this reason many fans made their own Stones merchandise, drawing the tongue and lips logo on their bodies, creating their own shirts, and designing posters.
If this concert might have marked another success for the legendary group, It has for sure marked a new chapter for music in Cuba.