The Rolling Stones debuted a free concert Friday in Cuba, according to the BBC. Thousands showed up, finally able to openly admit their love for this band and others. Barack Obama visited Cuba last week as well, but the timing of both made me wonder which one has had more of an impact on the Cuban community.
If you are a political aficionado or generally well informed, you would argue that Obama visiting Cuba is more significant. As this topic of conversation was so prevalent in the dining hall last week, I completely agree. Globally, Obama visiting Cuba will also be significant in the outlook of foreign relations and policy, so his visit does have an enormous impact. However, what about the impact in the Cuban community?
Popular impact relies on popular culture, and for many in Cuba, The Rolling Stones symbolized a change. Joaquin Ortiz, 62, told the Associated Press, “After today I can die.”
In fact, almost everyone is invested in some way or the other with the lives of and events regarding singers, actors or any popular figure. Hence, what is the socio-political impact of The Rolling Stones’ visit?
It is huge because it is simple. Popular culture has always been linked to politics, consciously or not. Music, movies and books are always representative of the events occurring in the world and country at the time. Yet, popular culture has the benefit of not being laced as a taboo conversation. Having an opinion on the presence of Obama in Cuba might cause political divide and might cause people to have to choose a political side, which can become an uncomfortable topic fast. But talking about Mick Jagger’s presence in Cuba allows for an opinion to be shared with a lot less pressure.
My mother says that politics and religion are two topics of conversation that should never be discussed. I think I break that rule almost every time I am eating fries at the dining hall, and I am sure that several others do too. Going off that assumption, I have made a political statement with a group of people and gotten awkward silences as a response. Some people, even those on college campuses, follow my mother’s rule. Even if they both represent the same thing, would those people prefer talking about Mick Jagger or Barack Obama?
On another day and maybe in another blog post, I might argue that social media allows politics to be popular culture as well. When I say that, I am not contradicting the importance of traditional popular culture, especially in the case of Cuba. Why? Because even though the United States’ relationship with Cuba is a modern issue, it is rooted in the past. And even though ours is a millennial generation, the world is not made up of only us.
When asked about this concert in Cuba, Jagger said, “Time changes everything.” He’s so right. Time is changing Cuba, and time is changing our definition of popular culture. Nonetheless, change is gradual. For now, I accept popular culture as a safety net, as I continue to not use it.