Cuban band Los Van Van’s concert in downtown Pembroke Pines is prompting cancellation requests. The city says the show will go on. – Sentinel of the Sun

Cuban-American activists have called for the cancellation of a Friday night concert by the famous salsa group Los Van Van, founded in Cuba in 1969.

Pembroke Pines, owner of the venue where the orchestra will perform, said the show will continue. The city has also approved a protest permit for those who oppose the downtown concert.

Luis Leon, co-founder of Actions 4 Freedom, told the city in an email that they should cancel the concert.

Leon’s email claimed that Los Van Van “has historically supported and collaborated with the Cuban dictatorship; their unconditional support for the Communist Party of Cuba has made their presence in South Florida undesirable, as the vast majority of the Cuban-American community residing here have fallen victim to Havana’s totalitarian and terrorist regime.

Pembroke Pines City Commissioner Angelo Castillo said concert organizers “have the legal right to rent the hall and they have rented the hall. Breaking this contract now would expose the city to liability, grave liability.

Castillo, who is Cuban-American, said he “understands[s] people are unhappy with it. And I support their right to protest peacefully against this, and I also know that a lot of people are buying tickets for the concert, and it’s going to go ahead.

Castillo said there was another important reason why the concert should take place: “There is also the issue of the First Amendment. In Cuba, they don’t have a first amendment. They decide which concerts people can see and which events they can attend. Here in the United States, we don’t do that. We allow people to express themselves culturally, and those who want to participate can participate, and those who want to stay away can, and those who want to protest can do so peacefully.

Nevertheless, a Change.org Petition asking the city to rescind had 1,023 signatures by mid-afternoon Thursday. He asked the city “to defend freedom and its community”.

A caller this month to Mayor Frank Ortis’ office claimed the band members “support the Cuban regime” and asked Ortis to “STOP this gig.” Another said “they are communists”. And one of them said that “the Cuban community is against them playing here in our city”.

On May 9, Ortis’ aide told the mayor via email that he had received more than 550 messages “from Cuban Americans who are against the concert and want it to stop.” Two days later, City Manager Charles Dodge told city commissioners that his office and the mayor’s office had received more than 800 complaint calls.

The city provided the emails and voicemail summaries in response to a public records request from the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The venue, the Charles F. Dodge City Center, named after the longtime city manager, includes a concert hall, meeting rooms, city commission rooms, and city hall offices. It opened in 2017.

Downtown events are run by a contractor, Ortis said. Dodge’s email indicates that the concert promoter has a rental agreement to use the venue for Los Van Van.

“We had nothing, absolutely nothing to do with it,” Ortis said Thursday. “And, by our lawyers, there is nothing we can do about it.”

A city legal notice, issued in response to a public records request, states that “there is no mechanism in the reservations policy to deny an event based on the political discourse (or position) of the ‘artist. For reference, any future policy revisions to restrict free speech would be subject to scrutiny and must be the least restrictive and narrowly tailored regulation to satisfy a compelling government interest.

Ortis said those who oppose Los Van Van’s appearance have the right to picket. Dodge’s email to the commissioners said the city had issued a protest permit for City Center Plaza for those who object to the band’s performance. He said the Pembroke Pines Police Department was “aware” of the situation.

Opposition to performances by Grammy-winning salsa band Los Van Van is not new to South Florida, home to people who have fled Cuba since late dictator Fidel came to power. Castro in 1959, as well as children and grandchildren of exiles.

In 1999, a concert at the now-demolished Miami Arena sparked a torrent of opposition, including from city commissioners who vowed to prevent Los Van Van from ever appearing in the city again. Thousands of protesters gathered outside to oppose the apparition; some threw eggs, rocks, batteries and soda cans.

Then-mayor Joe Carollo called the group “the official communist group of Fidel Castro”.

Los Van Van’s concerts in Miami in 2010 and 2019 were more peaceful.

In a 2019 interview with the Associated Press coinciding with the band’s 50th anniversary tour, bandleader Samuel Formell said all Los Van Van wants is to entertain.

“Because we’re not politicians, we try to be as far away from that as possible, trying to make our music,” Formell said. “At the end of the day, there’s no doubt that when you see a Los Van Van concert, you don’t talk about politics, you don’t talk about anything, what you do is go dancing and enjoy and forget a few the problems that every human being can have day to day.

Formell’s father, Juan, who founded the group, was reviled by Cuban exiles who saw him as close to the communist government. Critics of the group circulated videos showing him shouting “Viva Fidel!” Both Fidel and Raul Castro sent floral offerings to his funeral upon his death in 2014.

In 2015, Samuel Formell said his father “worked to make music. He never did politics. »

The name Los Van Van means “the go go”.

Musically, the band pioneered the “songo” style, Public broadcaster WLRN reported, “drawing on Afro-Cuban music and incorporating rhythms and harmonies from rock and roll and jazz” and experimented with hip hop and disco. It would have been the first Cuban band to use synthesizers and drum machines.

This report includes information from The Associated Press.

Anthony Man can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @brocade politics

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