Pablo Milanés, Cuba’s Voice

Pablo Milanés Nuestro Stories

Image courtesy of Nuestro Stories.

Pablo Milanés was a great musician, poet, and musical ambassador (along with fellow musician Silvio Rodriguez) of the Cuban revolution. He did so until he could no longer represent a government that became a repressive simile of what it claimed to be.

Milanés was born in Bayamo, Cuba, in 1943 and died of cancer in a hospital in Madrid, where he resided in voluntary exile, on November 22nd, 2022, at 79. 

The world mourned his passing, and it’s fitting he died on International Musicians Day. 

He leaves behind five wives, seven children, and nine grandchildren, one of which he shares with the revolutionary icon Che Guevara. 

Milanés was known to fans worldwide as Pablito 

Pablo Milanés was one of the founding fathers of la Nueva Trova Cubana, a musical movement that emerged in the late 1960s. It married traditional Cuban son and guaracha with soul, jazz, and folk rock to give a platform to the dramatic social and political changes on the island after the 1959 Cuban revolution.

He and the two other founders, Rodríguez and Noel Nicola, became the revolution’s troubadours. “The success of Silvio and Pablo is the success of the revolution,” President Fidel Castro once said.

In the 1970s, right-wing authoritarian governments emerged in Latin America. As a result, Milanés’s songs like “Yo No Te Pido,” “Cuba Va,” and “Yo Pisare Las Calles Nuevamente” became anthems of the left. 

His voice was as smooth as Caribbean rum and instantly recognizable, and his songs were not only about social and political movements. They were also about love. (Think of “El Breve Espacio en Donde No Esta.”) 

One of Pablo Milanés’s most famous songs, “Yolanda,” was written in 1970 to his then-wife, Yolanda Benet, after their daughter Lynn was born. So no matter where you are, when “Yolanda” starts playing, the lyrics, embedded in memory, flow out, and you start singing.  

With the passing of time and the entrenchment of the Cuban regime, Milanés could no longer sing to the revolution and became one of its most famous critics. 

He confessed that in 1965 he had been sent to a forced labor camp to re-educate him and other artists the regime considered potentially subversive. 

Before getting very ill, Pablo Milanés gave his last concert in Havana in June 2022 and said farewell to the country where he was born and gave him so much.

“Para mi vivir en la isla es un encanto y un infierno porque me duele mucho ver todo lo que esta pasando,” Milanés said in an interview with Uruguayan television.  

He was critical of the Cuban regime and left Cuba of his own volition, but Milanés never stopped loving the Cuban people. Gracias por todo Pablito.

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