The United States and Cuba have certainly had their fair share of differences over the years, but in at least 1 area both sides agree: John Lennon and his music are great.
Just check out the statue pictured at left. You’ll find it in Parque Lennon (Lennon Park) located smack dab in the middle of Havana.
Not Little Havana in Miami, mind you; we’re talking the real Havana down in Cuba.
Why would such a staunch opponent of all things Western culture like Fidel Castro allow a shrine to be built in Cuba’s capital to one of the greatest pop culture icons of our time? Surprisingly, Fidel not only approves of Lennon Park and the statue, the whole thing was actually his idea!
Back in the 1960’s and 70’s when Lennon was one of the most recognizable figures on the planet, the Cuban Government banned his music, referring to it rather disdainfully as “ideological diversionism.” To listen to the Beatles or John Lennon music, Cubans held secret parties where smuggled tapes would be played with the lights off.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Castro changed his mind, lifting the ban and decreeing that Lennon was to be celebrated as a hero worthy of a park and a fancy statue. Official Cuban Government statements at the time cast Lennon as a man who was a born rebel and a constant victim of U.S. harassment, much as Fidel likes to portray himself.
Castro was even quoted as saying “I share his (Lennon’s) dreams completely. I too am a dreamer who has seen his dreams turn into reality.”
The statue, sculpted by Cuban artist José Villa Soberón, was unveiled on the 20th anniversary of Lennon’s death – December 8, 2000. According to a Reuters report filed at the time, the elaborate festivities also included the debut of a documentary produced by Castro’s personal cameraman and an open-air concert.
The bench upon which the statue sits is a popular spot for Lennon devotees to pose for pictures like this one, though apparently people keep stealing his glasses.
Strange days, indeed!