Puerto Rico guesting at Cuban festival

Cubadisco music fair is set for Havana in May

MADRID -- Puerto Rico is to be the guest country at the 2009 Cubadisco music fair in Havana from May 16-24, even though the country is affected by the U.S. blockade.

Organizers of the Cuban music event, which is now in its 13th year, say they are not concerned that Puerto Rico is an associated state of the U.S. and therefore subject to laws regulating the U.S. blockade against Cuba.

"Our invitation is to the people and culture of Puerto Rico, and we are not troubled by the blockade," Cubadisco president Ciro Benemelis said. "The main themes will be 'the music of the South', and 'music and children', and we expect it to be a grandiose Cubadisco, as always."

Cubadisco is organized by the Institute of Cuban Music, which is part of the culture ministry. Previous guest countries have included Spain, Germany, the Spanish Caribbean, Japan, China and this year the continent of Africa, which was attended by 26 African countries, along with a Latin American presence such as musicians from Venezuela as well as Puerto Rican singer Andy Montanez.

The U.S. blockade now makes cultural exchanges between Cuba and the U.S.  -- on both a commercial and personal level -- extremely difficult. In recent years, Cuban artists such as Omara Portuondo and the late Ibrahim Ferrer were refused visas to collect Latin Grammy awards or perform.

Democratic party candidate Barack Obama has said he will speak to Cuban leaders without condition and lift restrictions on visits and remittances by Cuban-Americans to the Caribbean island, but Republican candidate John McCain has not indicated any major change from the current hard line.

Cubadisco 2009 will hold concerts dedicated to important Puerto Rican composers of the twentieth century such as Pedro Flores, a pioneer of the bolero on the island, as well as Rafael Hernandez, Tite Curet Alonso and Bobby Capo. There will also be concerts of traditional Puerto Rican music.