The Castro brothers don’t let Cubans vote, but the Rolling Stones did. Before the Fridaynight concert, ballots were circulating and Cubans were asked to choose what songs they wanted the Rolling Stones to play.

At the Center for a Free Cuba the “top picks” were: “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” (with the ration card); (No) “Sympathy for the Devil,” a special dedication to Fidel Castro; and “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (unless your name is Mariela Castro, daughter of Raul Castro.)

The Rolling Stones are older than 70, but Cuba’s new generations turned out and so did the seniors, who in their youth had long hair, wore tight pants and hung out at La Rampa, closing the door and listening to rock music.

El Comandante Fidel Castro denounced them as “depraved” and “scum” and declared he had “a cure” for it. He dispatched Cuban Army trucks to places where young people congregated and hauled them and Jehovas Witnesses, dissident intellectuals, gays and other undesirables many miles away to Camagüey province where the UMAP (Military Units of Production Assistance) put them to work cutting sugar cane from dawn to dusk.

As a result, several well-known western intellectuals, including Jean Paul Sartre and Susan Sontag urged Fidel Castro to stop the roundups — which were carried out without any judicial trappings — and to close the work camps. A number of those sent to the camps committed suicide.
Today, while listening to the Rolling Stones is no longer a reason for punishment, listening to Gorki Aguila, a well-known Cuban provocative punk rocker, is prohibited.

Gorki has been in police custody several times. In one of his songs, he says “Raul, Raul, you’re only a ruler because your brother is one of the coolest.” Cubans remember the UMAP days, but our spirits are still indomitable. When the Stones’ votes were tallied in Havana, the No. 1 pick was: “You Got Me Rocking” and No. 2 was “Get Off My Cloud…”

Frank Calzon is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba in Washington, D.C