WASHINGTON — Renewed tensions between the U.S. and Cuba aren’t stopping the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts from shining a spotlight on the island’s rich cultural heritage during what’s being billed as the largest Cuban arts festival ever held in the United States.
Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World, which began last week and runs through May 20, showcases the work of more than 400 Cuban and Cuban-American artists across more than 50 events.
The program includes the salsa band Los Van Van and other musicians, visual artists, movies, theater companies and ballerina Alicia Alonso and the Ballet Nacional de Cuba.
“Cuba is a cultural powerhouse, and to present such a diverse slate of Cuban and Cuban-American artists all in a two-week span is unprecedented,” said Deborah F. Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center.
The festival is not without controversy.
It has come under fire from Cuban-American lawmakers, including GOP Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, as well as Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J. They wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in April urging him to consider the advisability of allowing “so many pro-Castro regime Cuban nationals” to enter the United States.
Curator Alicia Adams, vice president of International Programming and Dance at the Kennedy Center, pushed back at the notion that the festival has ideological overtones.
Cuban fashion designer Celia Ledon, 32, who is showing 10 pieces in the festival, said the festival is not political, but rather “an eclectic representation of what the Cuban culture is about.”