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The Rolling Stones make history in Cuba with free concert

For years, rock was banned in Cuba.
25 Mar 2016 – 11:25 PM EDT

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The Rolling Stones perform in Havana, Cuba, Friday, March 25, 2016. Crédito: (AP Photo/Enric Marti)

By David Adams in Havana @dadams7308

With the words "Hola Habana, buenas noches mi gente de Cuba," Mick Jagger greeted an estimated crowd of 500,000 people at the Ciudad Deportiva de La Habana on Friday night during the Rolling Stones' debut in Cuba. This, according to the Twitter feed of Cuban journalist Yoani Sanchez and before any other media reported it. Unlike most contemporary musical events, there are barely any live tweets, videos on Snapchat or photos on Facebook from this historic free concert in Havana.

Sanchez's medium, 14Ymedio, also reported the first song performed by the legendary British band in Cuban soil was "Jumping Jack Flash."

Some attendees were able to post videos on Instagram.

Cuban fans of the Rolling Stones and foreigners alike lined up outside the Havana sports complex hours before the gates opened on Friday afternoon.

The Stones are the first major international rock stars to play Cuba with a free show. For years, rock music was banned in Cuba though in recent years some groups have performed, including Colombian star Juanes, Manic Street Preachers and Audioslave.

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Low salaries in Cuba make it an unattractive market as citizens can't afford to buy tickets. But this free show garnered crowds of all generations.

"Everyone is going to the concert," said attendee Osmani Colasa, 23. "It's history and it's the only opportunity we'll ever get," he added, noting that Jagger, the British band's frontman, is 72.

Fans have also flown in from abroad, including a contingent from Argentina where the Stones just performed as part of their "Olé" Latin American tour.

Chef Hubert Delgado, 30, headed for the concert venue at midday on Friday wearing a t-shirt with a Stones' tongue and lips logo. "It's change, it's hope, it's a dream, it's the other Cuba we all the young people here want," he said.

"We are all going to the concert because the Rolling Stones are the insignia of the change we are living in Cuba," said Angel Diez, an 18-year-old student. "Good things are coming to Cuba, change has to come to Cuba because the people really it. We are not going to renounce our socialist ideology, but a little change isn't a bad thing."

Though it was never written in law, in the 1960s Fidel Castro's Communist government banned the Stones and other rock music, including the Beatles, because of "ideological deviation." It was only eased in the early 1980s.

"Time changes everything," Jagger told reporters upon his arrival at Havana airport on Thursday. That night, the band was greeted with a private reception at the British ambassador's residence in Havana. Cuban musicians such as Samuelito Formell, members of Buena Fe and Descemer Bueno were in attendance.

Outside the "guests and VIP" area before the concert started, British Ambassador Tim Cole said "I think this concert is part of the opening up of Cuba. They are less isolated, more a part of the rock and roll world, more a part of the world.

Artists such as Isaac Delgado, other celebrities and members of the press could be seen going into the concert through this special entrance. American singer Jimmy Buffett, who first came to Cuba in 1991 with family members of Ernest Hemingway, told Univision News that he's planning a concert of his own in Cuba later this year or next.

"Living in Key West, I’ve been so close for so long but it's been so far too," he said, adding that he was in Cuba this week for the Obama visit. On Friday, he did an impromptu performance with his guitar at the signature Malecon seaside drive. "I hope to be here onstage pronto," he said.

RELACIONADOS:MúsicaCubaThe Rolling Stones

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