Cubans were expected to fill Havana's massive Revolution Square on Sunday for a concert by Colombian singer Juanes and a lineup of top Spanish-language musicians who hope art can do what politics has not -- bring together Cubans here and in the United States.
The much-hyped event will be beamed live to an international television audience, including viewers in Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community and center of opposition to Cuba's communist-led government.
Television viewers will see an expected half million people, who are being urged to wear white as a symbol of peace, listening to music in the square where the man Miami loves to hate, Fidel Castro, once spoke to huge rallies.
Pope John Paul II held a mass in the square in 1998, drawing 850,000 people.
On Sunday morning, several hundred young people, organized by the Union of Young Communists, were at the site preparing to work security or staff food booths, undaunted by the prospect of a long day in the hot sun.
Are you kidding? I'm thrilled and can't wait to see Juanes and the others, Antonio Perez said, dressed in a white T-shirt, jeans, sneakers and a cap.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, well worth sweating for.
Joining Juanes will be 14 singers and bands from six countries, among them Miguel Bose of Spain, Olga Tanon from Puerto Rico, Jovanotti from Italy and Los Van Van from Cuba.
Juanes, winner of 17 Grammy awards, has said his Peace Without Borders concert is not about politics, but reconciliation. He believes U.S. President Barack Obama has opened the door to change by taking steps to improve U.S.-Cuba relations.
This concert is one little grain of sand more in the process of improving relations through art, Juanes, 37, said upon arrival in Havana this weekend. It is a gesture of peace, a way of weaving bonds of union.
ANGER IN MIAMI
To avoid the taint of politics, he has insisted that none of the musicians express their opinions on stage and that no politicians be involved.
I am not a communist. I am not aligned with the government, he told the Miami Herald last month.
Still, the concert has touched off protests and strong words in Miami, where many Cubans fled after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. Castro, 83, resigned as president last year due to health problems and was replaced by his younger brother, Raul Castro, 78.
Anti-communist exiles say Juanes is helping to legitimize a government that denies its people basic human rights and stifles dissent by throwing opponents in jail.
In August, Juanes CDs were smashed on Calle Ocho, the main street of Miami's Little Havana, in an attention-grabbing protest by anti-Castro exile group Mambisa Watch.
The group has said it will smash more CDs, this time with a steamroller, on Sunday evening.
Juanes had to get police protection at his Key Biscayne home in Miami after receiving a death threat on his Twitter account.
The Miami incidents have been a boon for Cuba by making it look like the more reasonable side in its five-decade old political conflict with anti-communist exiles.
Cuban Cultural Minister Abel Prieto told reporters on Friday the concert was a huge blow ... against that vulgar form of fascism practiced over there in Miami.
A number of Cuban dissidents have supported the concert, even though they say the government is using it to project an image of openness and tolerance that does not exist. They say they share the musicians' hope it will somehow help unite Cubans everywhere and bring about change.
News reports say Cuban authorities had warned some dissidents not to attend the event because they feared they would stage a protest.
But a larger concern may be that the concert, scheduled to start at 2 p.m. EDT, will take place under Cuba's intense tropical sun on an expanse of pavement with no shade.
The government has advised concert-goers to dress in light clothing and bring food and water.