50 years in the making: Cuban culture visits the White House

The Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club The 25th Anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Washington DC, America - 15 Oct 2015 It marked the first time in over a half century that a Cuban musical act has performed in the White House. (Rex Features via AP Images)
AP

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The sounds of Cuban music blasting through the White House was a remarkable moment for guitarist Eliades Ochoa and singer Omara Portuondo.

They never thought they'd make it here.

Portuondo told CBS News the performance represents her flag, her culture and her ideals. Ochoa says the trip will be part of his artistic record forever.

The musicians were little known out side of Cuba for decades. In the 1990s, the Buena Vista Social Club album made them a worldwide sensation.

That inspired an Academy Award nominated documentary, and soon many band members had found fame in their 70s and 80s.

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Buena Vista Social Club Band performs in Madrid, Spain on July 21st, 2015 AP

Omara and Eliades hope today's White House visit is just the beginning. Eliades believes a day will come when everyone will be able to sit down and eat at the same table.

That gets a laugh from Omara, who says her band mate speaks the truth and beautiful words.

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Margaret Brennan with guitarist Eliades Ochoa and singer Omara Portuondo of the Buena Vista Social Club CBS News

Their final song Thursday afternoon was "Quizás, Quizás, Quizás" (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps), which Omara learned from Nat King Cole.

"I knew Nat King Cole," Omara says. "Yes, he went in Cuba, we sang with him and other singers. He sang 'Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.'"

Perhaps has never been so promising.

  • Margaret Brennan

    Margaret Brennan is moderator of CBS News' "Face The Nation" and CBS News' senior foreign affairs correspondent based in Washington, D.C.