Canceling Cuban band’s Miami concert a lousy idea in 1999. It still is in 2023 | Opinion

Los Van Van, the famous Havana orchestra formed after the Cuban Revolution, canceled their Miami Beach performance next Friday.

Was it logistics or politics that put an end to their appearance at the city’s historic bandshell?

The band blamed travel logistics, but a tweet from Cuban-American Miami Beach Commissioner Alex Fernandez reveals that he asked for the cancellation for political reasons.

Here’s how he explained it: “For decades, ‘Los Van Van’ have used their musical talent to promote Cuban tyranny and its violation of fundamental human rights,” he wrote. “The money raised in the concert will contribute to sustaining the violation of human rights and individual liberties within Cuba.”

Fernandez makes a solid point, but should we ban artists from performing their craft over politics?

Here’s a thought: Banning is what we see done now in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Florida: publicly flog. Ban. Remove. Cancel. Repeat.

We didn’t like it in 1999, and we don’t like it now.

Back in 1999, Los Van Van, whose members live on the island and tour the world, announced their first Miami concert. The outcry — from those wanting to cancel their their appearance and those who wanted them to play — was explosive.

Today, it’s different. We ban more than we tolerate.

Don’t like Disney’s corporate stand? Use the power of the state to make its life difficult. Arbitrarily disagree with approved content of school textbooks? Remove them from libraries and classrooms. Don’t approve of a teacher sharing their political views with students? Fire them.

Twenty-four years ago, it was a different story. Fidel Castro was alive and at war with Miami’s exile community, whom he called “the mafia.” Spanish-language radio stations were still powerful and rallied the audience troops.

The announcement of the band’s first Miami concert made international headlines. Cuban exiles in Miami were accused of being regressive.

After canceling and rescheduling, Los Van Van finally performed at the old Miami Arena under heavy security. Concertgoers had to pass through a security line and endure insults from exiles protesting the band’s performance.

For all the fear and loathing, no violence erupted, and the band has since quietly performed in South Florida through the years, usually in smaller venues. The Miami Beach Bandshell venue attracted too much attention.

But let’s see how big a deal the cancellation of Los Van Van concert is today.

Fidel Castro is dead, and many members of Miami’s exile community have passed away. We suspect it won’t make a significant splash.

Plus, we Floridians should not be getting used to silencing what elected officials don’t rubber stamp.