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  • 'Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World' celebrates Cuba's influence on music around the globe. | Photo: Kennedy Center

Published 11 May 2018

"It's unprecedented for this many Cuban artists to be gathered for a two-week festival in this country," said festival curator Alicia Adams.

More than 400 Cuban and Cuban-American artists are making history at 'Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World', a two-week music extravaganza in Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center.

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"It's unprecedented for this many Cuban artists to be gathered for a two-week festival in this country and – I understand from the Cubans –anywhere else in world," said Alicia Adams, vice-president of international programming and the festival's curator.

After three years of planning; a change in administration both on the Caribbean island and in the United States, and travel policy changes, the Artes de Cuba: From the Island to the World celebrates Cuba's influence on the music world.

Some 200 visas for the festival were being processed when U.S. President Donald Trump took office. A few months later, the barriers removed by his predecessor Barack Obama on trade, travel and immigration were reinstated.

However, Adams said it was extremely important for the event to happen within the United States: "The American people don't necessarily get to see these artists in this way.

"My goal was to do this festival and to bring these artists here. It was on the books three years ago and we were very far along, so we had to arrange for the artists to go through the embassy in Mexico City to get their visas."

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First generation Cuban-American artist Jose Parla said creatives form a "bridge" between the two nations: "It's taken a long time for this to happen – it's a shame – but we're here. Art can be a very powerful tool."

Speaking on the opening night on Tuesday, members of the Yosvany Terry Quintet said: "We are participating in something historical. For the first time both countries that are neighbors... come together finally as a family."

Films and documentaries, dance demonstrations and lessons, as well as jazz, latin and funk jam sessions will fill the two-week festival, which comes to a close on May 20.

Percussionist Yissy Garcia, from the band Bandacha, said: "Cuba and the United States have powerful musical potential, and the more we come together, the more we can continue to grow and enrich our cultures. There's a beautiful energy here and we want to leave it in Washington."

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