Cuban-American Businessman Organizes Controversial Santa Maria Music Fest to Showcase Economic Potential of Cuban Emigrants

Cuban-American businessman Boris Arencibia, organizer of the controversial Santa Maria Music Fest, explained this Sunday that he had promoted the event to show that emigrants in the US can contribute more to the economic well-being of the Island “than an Italian, a French or a Spaniard, who have been leading tourism in Cuba for more than 60 years”.

During the festival, which was attended by several international artists, the Cuban reggaeton singer Lenier Mesa could not sing, despite the fact that he was present in Cayo Santa María, an absence from the stage that rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine attributed to “reasons” that he did not want to clarify.

During a direct broadcast, Arencibia –former judo champion of the island and “escaped” during a competition in Puerto Rico in 1993– offered details about the organization of the festival that, according to what he said, was initially intended to be held in Havana, but for reasons that did not specify moved to the North Keys of Villa Clara.

The development of the event, despite the fact that it had the objective of “uniting more” Cubans living on and off the island, was not free of obstacles, he lamented. The businessman denounced that he has received “criticism and offenses” for carrying out the project with the help of artists like Tito el Bambino – “who despite all the pressure collaborated with the event” – and Tekashi, who, he said, offered his collaboration free.

The businessman affirmed that he respected all Cubans, wherever they reside, including women, children and “those who are in prison.”

“My personal message, which I want everyone to know, is to show all Cubans (…) that we can find the possibility of doing what we know in our own country,” said Arencibia, who called on other emigrants to “contribute their grain of sand.” “It’s not a political message, it’s a union message,” he summed up.

The businessman affirmed that he respected all Cubans, wherever they reside, including women, children and “those who are in prison”, a possible allusion to those imprisoned after the protests of July 11, 2021 (11J). He added that the intention of the festival was to benefit the town with “great things”, although he did not refer to the high prices to access the event or the multiple difficulties that the residents of the Island went through due to the poor organization of the event.

Arencibia, a native of Pinar del Río, was a seven-time judo champion on the island. After escaping during an event in San Juan, he managed to resume his career as an athlete in the United States. Years later, he opened the Liquid nightclub in Puerto Rico –in which artists such as Calle 13, Wisin y Yandel and Daddy Yankee came to perform– and founded Caribbean Promotions, an agency representing exiled boxers such as Cubans Guillermo Rigondeaux, Yudel Johnson, Yordanis Despaigne and Yuniel Dorticós, several of them Olympic medalists.

The absence of Lenier Mesa on stage was another reason for complaints. After learning of her arrival, several independent media speculated about the possibility that the artist would appear on stage with Tekashi, with whom she recorded a video last March.

In a WhatsApp conversation with the Cuban-American presenter Alex Otaola, Mesa confirmed his stay on the island for one day.

The public, who interpreted Mesa’s non-participation in the concert as a government measure due to the singer’s critical stance, booed Tekashi’s announcement about the Cuban’s absence as a sign of disgust. Tito el Bambino also mentioned the Cuban and asked for a round of applause for him.

After 9/11, Mesa recorded SOS Cubaa music video in which he showed images of the government’s repression against the protesters, and declared that he would not return to Cuba until his audience on the island did not have “food in the refrigerator.”

In a WhatsApp conversation with the Cuban-American presenter Alex Otaola, Mesa confirmed his stay on the island for one day. However, he denied any connection to the festival. “I came for one day, I took advantage and I came with 6ix9ine to see my grandfather, who gave him ‘something on his face’, but I’m leaving tomorrow. I don’t go to any festival at all, nor did I ask anyone’s permission, I came and now and they let me in,” wrote the artist.

Despite these clarifications from Mesa, the commissioner of Miami District 3, Joe Carrollo, informed Otaola on Monday that the singer would be excluded from several presentations that will take place in Little Havana this September, in response to his attendance at the festival. .

Since the publication of the first promotional posters, the Santa Maria Music Fest has been surrounded by controversy because it is a desperate attempt by the Government to attract tourism to the Island. However, a large number of Cubans donated large sums of money to attend the event. event that ended up overbooking the rooms and leaving dozens of people unable to enter the concerts. Those affected did not take long to make direct transmissions on social networks denouncing the situation.

For its part, the official website of the festival did not take notice of these criticisms and celebrated one “success” after another, such as the invitation –with all expenses paid–, by Tekashi 6ix9ine, of some 200 students from the School National Art, Havana. The event was even broadcast on the Naicom television platform so that residents of the United States could see it.


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2023-08-21 18:38:46
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