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Cuba to USA: Welcome Back! August 28, 2016

Posted by Tracy in : Adventure, Cuba, Latin America , add a comment

By Tracy L. Barnett
For Westways Magazine

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It was my first walk down the Malecón, the famous seawall that has protected Havana for a century along the Straits of Florida. I ended up at a seaside café, where I met a friendly man with a baseball cap. He called himself John and showed me his ID card, which identified him as Juan.

“My parents named me John, and I was John until the revolution,” he explained. “Then, with all the problems—you know, John Kennedy, the Bay of Pigs—it just wasn’t possible to have that name anymore, and the government changed it.”

He wanted to be sure that I knew, however, that he had no hard feelings about the difficult past between our countries.

“We Cubans have nothing against the American people,” he declared. (more…)

Havana to Tracy: Not so fast November 30, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Cuba , 4comments

Cuba, it seems, was not ready for me.

Definitely, I was not ready for Cuba.

It seems that getting a Cuban journalist’s visa is a great deal more complicated than I had been led to believe. My lack of attention to this particular detail led to a brusque reception by disbelieving bureaucrats, a long cold night in Jose Martí International Airport, and the first flight back to Cuba.

It was a costly, embarrassing and extremely painful lesson, but here’s what I learned. I’m sharing the story in the hopes that you will learn from my mistakes.

Countryside near Havana from the airplane window

Outskirts of Havana from the airplane window


Lighting out for the South November 24, 2009

Posted by Tracy in : Cuba, Esperanza Project, Latin America, Sustainability , add a comment

Today I will follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Che Guevara and Celia Cruz to the irrepressible rhythm of the Cuban son – emanating from Cuban human beings, not my CD collection or a cover band in downtown Houston. Far from the Bayou City, I’ll savor the sunset breezes on the Malecón, the famous boulevard that stretches the length of the city along the Bay of Havana. As many a tourist has done before me, I’ll sit at Hemingway’s favorite bar and have a mojito in his memory.

And while I will embrace the cultural magic of this legendary land, my journey goes beyond culture to something more essential, something universal and urgent.

Silvio Rodriguez for Michael Savage May 5, 2009

Posted by tracybarnett in : Latin America , 2comments


I awoke to the news this morning online canadian pharmacy that one of Latin America’s most beloved voices, Silvio Rodriguez, was denied a visa by the U.S. State Department as he prepared to attend a celebration of folk music legend Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday gala.

Just when I thought we were about to put the nonsense behind us and accept Cuba into the brotherhood of American nations, this comes as a bit of a slap in the face. Generations of Latin Americans from Argentina to Mexico have grown up with Silvio’s classics, gentle and exquisitely crafted melodies like “Unicornio” and “Ojala,” the mysterious “Quien Fuera,” and passionate calls for self-determination and justice like “Cancion Urgente Para Nicaragua.” Indeed, one of his concerts in Chile drew more than 90,000. Take that, Rolling Stones.

Some of my favorite memories of times spent with my Latin American friends in Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina and Chile were times spent sharing the songs of Silvio, songs that bonded us at the heart. Beautiful songs that gave birth to a new genre, la Nueva Trova. I took a few moments today to reminisce, calling up on YouTube classics like La Maza and Sueño con Serpientes and Cancion del Elegido. I also pulled his only US-produced CD off the shelf, a compilation of his most famous works called Canciones Urgentes, produced by David Byrne of the Talking Heads.

I’m reminded of President Obama’s response to the criticism leveled at him by Newt Gingrich for having the audacity to shake the hand of another critic of US foreign policy, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Obama’s response: “It’s unlikely that as a consequence of me shaking hands or having a polite conversation with Mr. Chavez that we are endangering the strategic interests of the United States.”

I think it goes without saying that Silvio’s presence at the 90th birthday of his US counterpart is unlikely to endanger the strategic interests of our country.

It’s ironic, too, that I awoke today to the news that Michael Savage, one of the great purveyors of hate in our times, was banned by Great Britain because of his propensity to incite violence and hatred against minorities and the poor.

Now, I’m not in favor of banning anyone because of their ideas. But if we’re going to do that, wouldn’t it make sense to choose people who present an actual danger to the peace and security of our country?

I’m dedicating this blog, and this day in my life, to the work of a musical master who has used his considerable talents to tirelessly promote social justice. I’ve created my own Silvio Rodriguez channel on Pandora and I invite you to do the same. You can also find dozens of his performances on YouTube. Meanwhile, here’s hoping we can one day see him face to face — on this side of the water.