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Cuban cast is granted asylum

July 23, 2005|Lynne Heffley

The U.S. government has granted political asylum to 49 Cuban dancers, singers and musicians, the cast of the "Havana Night Club," who defected in November while performing at the Stardust Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, according to a representative for the company. The members of the Cuban musical revue had filed individual petitions for asylum in Las Vegas, where they have been performing since August. The defection of the artists was said by observers to be one of the largest of its kind, if not the largest, in U.S. history.

Nicole "ND" Durr, the company's founder, director and producer, said the performers felt they would have faced uncertain artistic careers had they returned home.

"When the Cuban government said there will be no more 'Havana Night Club,' " Durr said Friday, "that's equal to them saying, 'Give up everything you've worked for, everything you've fought for.' That's when we went for political asylum."

Durr spoke by phone from the Las Vegas Social Security office, where the performers were applying en masse for Social Security cards.

"I'm so happy right now," said cast member Jose David Alvarez del Valle, 25, as he left the office, new Social Security number in hand. "At last we feel like the American nation has embraced us totally as part of this free country, and we are thrilled to be able to perform here without any problem."

The company's elaborate musical revue, which has toured 18 countries, continues at the Stardust. It was created as an overview of the history of Cuban music, including the nightclub scene of the 1940s and '50s, and African, Spanish and contemporary influences.

Lynne Heffley

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