HAVANA (Reuters) - The Cuban artists and bands nominated for Latin Grammy awards plan to attend the Sept. 11 gala in Los Angeles after potential protests over their presence by anti-Castro groups forced a change in venue from Miami. "It's important we are there because this is a cultural event they have perhaps wanted to turn into something else,"
jazz pianist Chucho
Valdes told Cuban weekly online magazine "La Jiribilla" in its latest edition seen Monday.
He was referring to hard-line, anti-communist Cuban American groups' plans for protests in Miami against the presence of artists from the Caribbean island. Those exiles scorn the artists as stooges of Cuban President Fidel Castro's government.
"As representatives of Cuban culture, we have to be where we belong, without fear," Valdes, who has been nominated with his group Irakere for their album "Live in New York," said in his comments to the cultural Internet magazine.
Other Cuban nominees include pop artist Andres Alen, salsa singer Isaac Delgado, singer Omara Portuondo of the Buena Vista Social Club group, country artist Celina Gonzalez, Afro-Cuban music singer Lazaro Ross and salsa band All Stars group, according to Cuban music authorities.
"They are all major figures of a very high level, with national and, in some cases, international recognition," Alicia Perea, president of the state-run Cuban Music Institute, said.
"They have to go (to Los Angeles) because that's a space they have won. It's their unalienable right and they must be given conditions of dignity, equality and respect," she said. "Our position is that wherever Cuban artists are invited, as long as they are treated with those conditions, we should go."
Local authorities, who control the departure of Cubans as well as the entry of foreigners, say the Grammy-nominated artists all have been cleared to travel, and are now awaiting entry visas from the U.S. government.
No comment was immediately available from the U.S. Interests Section, Washington's diplomatic mission in Havana, which has had no formal relations with the Cuban government for four decades.
Perea said it was "a shame" that "a display of crass lack of culture" had forced the switch from Miami to Los Angeles.