Omara Portuondo: "What Hurts Us the Most is the Blockade"

Omara Portuondo: "What Hurts Us the Most is the Blockade"
Fecha de publicación: 
20 July 2022
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The diva of Buena Vista Social Club, Omara Portuondo, told Efe on Tuesday that everything that was done in Barack Obama's mandate for Cuba "has been taken away" and Joe Biden has done almost nothing for the island since he governs.

She, also known as "the girlfriend of feeling," is blunt when it comes to answering the question of how she perceives the relationship between the neighboring country and the island and if this has affected the daily life of her compatriots.

Portuondo (Havana, 1930) believes that "the United States doesn't care about Cuba at all, so nothing has changed and everything Obama did has been taken away. Biden has done almost nothing in Cuba."

The crisis is due "to the blockade that the United States continues to unfairly impose on us," although she acknowledges that "some of the ideas in Cuba that no longer work must change, but what harms us the most is the blockade."

Farewell in Europe

At 91 years old, she is still on tour, and tonight she begins a farewell throughout Europe at the La Mar de Músicas festival, in the Spanish city of Cartagena (east). As she has announced, when she finishes the European tour she will only perform in Cuba or in nearby countries.

She keeps many memories of her time at Buena Vista Social Club (BVSC), but undoubtedly having been able to be next to Francisco Repilado (Compay Segundo) is one of the things she likes the most, because "he was a nice and very normal person, as they say, he had a spark".

Coincidentally, Omara Portuondo and her band recorded in 1996, in one of the halls of the legendary EGREM in Havana, at the same time that BVSC was doing it, and while she was singing Veinte años, Ry Cooder decided to record the take that became part of the disk.

Omara often recalls in her interviews the hardships she suffered in her childhood, which she believes helped her to be who she is now, an admired singer: "Of course, there are many artists in the world who have experienced the same thing, so I think that it’s a test that life puts on you, that teaches you".

Her Memories

She had the chance to be in the mythical Tropicana club, about which she usually tells many anecdotes. Omara had seen her sister Haydée rehearse there so often that she knew all her steps, so in 1945 she was asked to cover the spot of a dancer that was vacant.

"There was an atmosphere of work and friendship. The most important artists in the world passed through there. We had the privilege of working with Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, and Benny Moré, and other Cuban artists such as Bola de Nieve or Rita Montaner", remember.

She says that the secret of her longevity, in addition to the cookies with water and brown sugar she ate in the 30s, has been the swimming that she practiced very often.

She made her solo debut with the album Magia negra, in 1959, in which she crosses Cuban music and jazz. In 2009 she won the Latin Grammy in the Best Contemporary Tropical Album category, and in the midst of the pandemic, her album Mariposas was released.

Among the recent collaborations in which she participated stand out, in 2017, Échame a mí la culpa, with Julio Iglesias; in 2020, Black Tears, with Raphael; in 2021, Horizontes de niebla, with Rozalén, and in 2022, Te venero, with C. Tangana on the album El madrileño.

Translated by Amilkal Labañino / CubaSí Translation Staff

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