BY DAVID OVALLE
Havana Night Club show members defected to Las Vegas from Cuba in November. Now the United States has officially granted them asylum.
Members of Havana Night Club, the Las Vegas show that drew international headlines when it defected en masse last year from Cuba, have received U.S. asylum, the show said Thursday.
That means the show’s 51 dancers, singers and musicians can now apply for Social Security cards, show spokeswoman Hannah Kampf said.
Fifty-one members of the show defected last November and began an extended run at the Wayne Newton Theater at the Stardust Resort & Casino. Two of the performers eventually returned to Cuba.
The show spans the history of Cuban music, starting from deep drums entrenched in the island’s African roots, moving to the era of Spanish colonialism, onward to the Tropicana cha-cha-cha pre-Castro days, and to the infectious reggaeton of today.
The show had performed across Europe and Asia and was invited to play in Las Vegas by entertainers Siegfried & Roy.
But troupe members couldn’t obtain visas because of the chill in U.S.-Cuba relations.
After the show’s director, Nicole Durr, proved to the U.S. State Department that the troupe operated independently of the Cuban government, visas were granted.
Cuba balked at letting them come, but amid international pressure—from exile groups, Hollywood stars and even protests by cast members—the Castro government relented.
Saying they would never be able to return to Cuba and perform, the troupe members eventually defected. Since then, the performers have had their run in Las Vegas extended, and even done two stints at the University of Miami’s Convocation Center.
Gloria Estefan performed with the troupe in Las Vegas in December.
Later, professional baseball pitcher Orlando ‘‘El Duque’’ Hernandez, who had defected with the help of the same immigration attorney, also visited the show—and teared up after seeing the performance.
The group also made headlines for something less desirable: In June, producers pulled a CD that featured a music video that some said promoted travel to Cuba. The show said the CD was made well before the group defected.