Cuban Poet Rafael Alcides has Left Us / Lynn Cruz

Rafael Alcides

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 20 June 2018 — Yesterday, on June 19, 2018, in the afternoon, 85-year-old Rafael Alcides passed away. The sensualist poet, friend and main character in “Nadie”managed to do what very few can: “Live in keeping with his ideals.”

He spent his last days resting at his home in Nuevo Vedado, after having fought a long battle against cancer.

The end of his journey has left a deep abyss in not only the people who knew and admired him, but in everyone who has fought for their ideas. continue reading

He was ostracized because of his critical thinking. He was such a grand figure that he would always say that he hadn’t been censored, despite his novel “Contra Castro” and poetry collection “Nadie” being banned.

Alcides chose to distance himself from social and cultural life because he didn’t agree with the direction national politics were taking. He was referring to Fidel Castro’s treachery, to the ideas he himself had fought for as part of the underground movement before the 1959 revolution.

He inspired filmmaker Miguel Coyula with his eloquence and gift for speaking leading Coyula to make his first documentary “Nadie” (Nobody) about him. Coyula always says he will keep the film showing (in private in Cuba) for as long as possible, in the face of the poet’s brilliant personality.

Being a free man living in a totalitarian system has meant that this film is still banned, even today. Nobody on the island is talking about it. Not critics, or poets from his own generation, or pro-government press or the news.

However, the poet has had a taste of eternity. Governments and politicians come and go. Those of us who love him will always be “grateful like dogs” for having his work among our literature.

Alcides didn’t have an age. He was brimming with so much passion that he seemed more like a child who was stunned by a world unknown to him.

For those of us who were close to him, we also have the priestly example of how he treated his writings, unwilling to sell out.

As a friend, I know that I will always miss him and that I will have to get used to thinking, what would Alcides have had to say about this?

The poet from Bayamo asked that his ashes be scattered in Barrancas, his hometown.

Note: Translation from Havana Times

Cuban Government Withdraws My Punishment / Lynn Cruz

Click on picture for link to audio of hearing.

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 21 May 2018 –On Friday May 18th, at the Actuar Agency, the Labor Justice Committee (OJL) informed me of its recent decisions regarding the complaint I filed because this former organization, especially its director Jorge Luis Frias Armenteros, violated my artistic representation contract because of my online activity against government and Party leaders.

This column, where I write and give my opinions about social and cultural subjects normally, seems to have been the reason for my sanction.

Frias not only violated my contract by not giving me 30 days notice, which stemmed from him not wanting to represent me, but it also prevented me from working at an International Film School of San Antonio del Los Banos (EICTV) workshop, which still legally belongs to Actuar. continue reading

After several phone calls from the Head of the Committee, Ivan Rodriguez, I went to the meeting: “They ruled in your favor,” OJL members told me. Prepared for the worst, I didn’t get it. I was knocked off my guard by the news and also by the fact that everyone was talking to me at the same time (which happens quite often here in Cuba).

They had to tell me one more time, my punishment had been lifted. I had been repressed, condemned for a violation which I didn’t commit and which I have been fighting since late March not only with Actuar but also with the International Film School of San Antonio del Los Banos (EICTV).

After pressure was created via independent media and social media, the government decided that the OJL would accept my complaint and rule that a violation of Resolution 44 of June 16th 2014 was made, within the artistic sector’s labor regulations.

It doesn’t imply that actors have to have pre-established beliefs or ideologies in any of the four clauses present in Chapter 3, Article 17.1.

Covertly, it appears that Frias has committed another crime against me, protected by articles 8 clause d and 24 of Law No. 83 in 1997. Improper Imposition of a Disciplinary Measure, which is foreseen and punishable in article 297.1 and 2 of our Criminal Code.

Even so, Frias continues to hold his position. In return, my punishment has been withdrawn and I can continue to criticize the government. As a result, the regime has publicly recognized that neither Frias nor I committed a crime, in the eyes of Actuar’s employees. A happy ending for everyone.

And if we are taken to trial, we will both be prisoners of conscience: him for blindly obeying an ideology and me for doing the opposite. This unusual and unprecedented event shows that being on either end of the spectrum is dangerous today in Cuba, which is a great thing for those who fight for their rights.

Of course, while the OJL proved me right, at the same time they informed me that this would be until another “fact”, “element”, “I don’t know what” comes up. Those words mean government, so this is only a momentary victory, I imagine they are trying to let time pass, forget the scandal, to then expel me again.

Translation from Havana Times

Cuban Youth Losing Their Fear / Lynn Cruz

Cardumen

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 17 May 2018 — While high-ranking officials were driving their cars and locking themselves into air-conditioned offices, a group of artists realized a project (perhaps the most ambitious to date), the recently concluded #00 Havana Biennial. Outside of Cuba’s institutional establishment, it took place from May 5-15.

Responses from state-led cultural organizations were harsh, along with those from State Security. They have ceased to represent the artists who joined in this project, as well as standing in the way of their right to exhibit their works at state-controlled galleries in the future. Repressive aftershocks also took place in private spaces, where presentations were held.

The government has always questioned the funding independent artists use. Family remittancces are among the main ways hard currency enters our economy today. However, people who send them have been labeled “traitors”, “stateless”, “worms”, “Imperialism’s bootlickers”, and even had eggs thrown at them in the past. continue reading

If the government really wants to establish a dialogue with young artists, it needs to start off by recovering our collective memory, calling things for what they really are and articulate a more coherent discourse, at least. Instead, intolerance and lies continue. White money can’t be the only thing that doesn’t threaten power.

The Cuban regime offers almost nothing to artists, but rebelling against it will provoke it to use all of its resources and forces to crush you. Why? Because of ideology? As a result, this can only be applied to business. Regarding remittances for example, it doesn’t matter whether the relative sending it to you believes in socialism or not, money is the only thing that matters. Therefore, there can’t be another biennial because the Havana Biennial is the established market and is controlled by the feudal lord.

Recently, young filmmakers who were unhappy about what happened at the past ICAIC Young Filmmakers Festival, and they called for signatures for an anonymous campaign called Cardumen. Censorship of the movie Quiero hacer una pelicula, by film student Yimit Ramirez, the lack of officials’ understanding as well as unfair accusations because it was made independently, stirred the critical consciousness of these budding artists.

Tania Bruguera carries on with her Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism, INSTAR. Bruguera has managed to develop a space for independent and free art due to her artistic career and international fame. As a precedent, as well as her personal work, she created the workshop: “Arte de Conducta”, where she has discovered and educated talented people, who have now attended the #00 Biennial as guests.

This was what happened with performance artist Ana Olema. In her piece, she sued the State for having made her body disappear. Conceptually-speaking, she also made use of underground movement strategies in Cuba before 1959.

Every big idea starts off as a grain of sand. Between all of these communicating vessels, a super verbal dialogue, one thing is certain like a gem of Cuban culture, critic and intellectual Gerardo Mosquera said recently, who was also invited to the #00 Havana Biennial: “Young people are losing their fear.”

Translation from Havana Times

The Cuban Revolution Sentences a Revolutionary Scientist / Lynn Cruz

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 10 May 2018 – Cuban scientist sentenced to one year in prison for ‘disrespecting” government authority, was the title of an article recently published in the Miami Herald. And that is Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, a universal researcher. His work and light transcend the borders of this island.

A great man, with a high level of thought and a firm opinion, he appeared one afternoon at my house to offer his support after the injustice committed against me, which today prevents me from working as an actress in Cuba, for reasons similar to those he has faced and which led to his current prison sentence. continue reading

During the government of Fidel Castro, Ruiz refused to sign a letter approved by many of his colleagues, as well as important intellectuals and Cuban artists, in support of the execution of three young men who hijacked a boat that traveled from Regla to Havana in an attempt to escape the island.

He expressed his disagreement in being an accomplice to such a crime. For that reason he was expelled from his teaching position at the University of Havana in 2003.

At that time, writers like Jose Saramago, Eduardo Galeano. Artists like Ana Belén, Víctor Manuel, who sympathized with the revolution, expressed their disagreement with the regime over the summary execution.

Years later, Ruiz managed to work again as a scientist, apparently his punishment was over. During a congress in California, he presented an investigation on the indiscriminate hunting of turtles in Pinar del Río and in the town of Nuevitas in the province of Camagüey. Then he was again expelled.

His last role as a scientist happened after having won a scholarship to work together with the Humboldt Institute in Germany.

However, Ruiz also carried out a hunger strike because of the lack of medicine to cure his sister’s cancer. After his protest, a series of negligence and abandonment of patients cases in similar conditions at the Oncological Hospital located in Havana came to light.

After his dismissals he moved to Pinar del Rio where he has worked on a farm that he also shares with his mother and sister.

Now, he has been sentenced to one year in political prison, masked under a “contempt”, charge after the actions perpetrated against his farm by State Security agents. Ruiz Urquiola lives as he thinks and follows the revolutionary Marti traditions, as an honest man who defends the right to think and speak without hypocrisy.

More than one hundred years after our national hero died in combat, in the land where a revolution based on his ideas took place, one cannot be free or honest.

Translation from Havana Times

Utopia in Havana at the Alternative Biennial / Lynn Cruz

At the Instar venue of the Havana Alternative Biennial

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 7 May 2018 — Gerardo Mosquera, an important art critic and Cuban intellectual, made a gesture of solidarity towards me by inviting me to read his paper: “Utopia in Havana”, as part of a theoretical event which forms part of the Havana Alternative Biennial, which was independently organized and has received quite a lot of pressure from the Cuban government and institutions.

The news that I would be the one to give voice to his words made me forget my uncertain professional future for a few days, a future which the regime’s arbitrary decision has put in jeopardy, preventng me from working as an actress, even though I have always lived and developed my career as such in the country mostly.

With its secondary office at the Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism (INSTAR), led by Tania Bruguera, this theoretical event took place on Sunday and a considerable number of artists, academics and vendors attended, not only from Cuba, but from different countries such as Brazil, Norway, Denmark, Mexico, Spain and the US. continue reading

In this paper, Mosquera carries out a meticulate analysis of the Cuban government’s political maneuvers, by way of the founding and developing the Havana Biennial, which aimed to establish a South-South interaction, to connect artists in this hemisphere (the majority, he says), but really it aspired to transform Cuba into the leader of the Cold War, within the so-called Third World.

It’s interesting to read what Mosquera writes when he remembers the origins of the Havana Biennial: “If we are marginalized, we will create our own space.” He was refering to the isolation the US government had put Cuba in. However, I imagine this is the same reason which drove the #00 Havana Biennial’s founders to rebel against Cuban institutions’ own exclusion, who govern over what art needs to portray and create in an authoritarian manner, without taking artists’ needs and much less the public’s, into account.

As a result, the Havana Biennal has become the fifth ongoing international biennial in the world today. However, Mosquera, one of its founders, was never invited again. He also says that the rest of the official organizers continue to be the same group who set out with this project in the beginning and that they have no desire to change it.

This was made perfectly clearing when the Berlin Wall came down: “Cuba was unable to reinvent itself in the post-Cold War era. Instead of responding to new and challenging times, it introduced minor changes to keep everything the same,” Mosquera mentions.  Therefore, the Biennial was created within the Revolution’s utopiam which fit in with the community, with a participatory atmosphere, where students collaborated with artists voluntarily, in search of new talents and giving them an opportunity to exhibit their work, but it ended up becoming an arts market.

Mosquera draws our attention to how the #00 Biennial organizers’ bold act, which could learn from past experience, advocating for them: “to not impose a unilateral Messianism”, and goes on to add: “they have to remove themselves from the obsession of “changer la vie” which drives the utopia towards an authoritarian lack of reality.

He also quoted Eliseo Diego: “maybe the best reason to create a biennial is to want to make an exhibition, which doesn’t exist, come to life, and decide to make it yourself.”

In doing so, Cuba’s utopia will continue to take place until May 15th in Havana’s homes/galleries, in the Old Havana, Cerro, Playa, Vedado, East Havana, Marianao, Central Havana and even in Miami.

Translation from the Havana Times

Blacklisted in 21st Century Cuba / Lynn Cruz

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 28 April 2018 — I have been witness to the most absurd experience in my life as an actress. I only had testimonies of actors such as Pancho Garcia, Rolen Hernandez and Mirian Munoz as a reference from the well-known “Five Grey Years” (a period of witch hunts, persecuting intellectuals, artists, homosexuals, religious people and followers in the ‘70s). I always saw these things as events in the past, but reality surpasses the imagination.

As I explained in previous posts, I was recently expelled from the state-led agency Actuar for arbitrary reasonsThe agency’s director, Jorge Luis Frias, carried out the measure without taking into account the fact that he was violating the clauses of my artistic representation contract, which I have had with this company for over 10 years, by blindly obeying his superiors. continue reading

Taking the Labor Ministry’s advice, I filed a written complaint. People at the Human Resources department, where Actuar’s Labor Justice Committee (OJL) resides, were very nice to me. Everyone was surprised about my situation and couldn’t understand why Frias wouldn’t tell me the reasons for my expulsion. I was also dumbfounded.  Even when I suspected what the reasons were, I refuse to take part in this nonsense.

I left them with a copy of the letter which explained what had happened. Frias has committed two violations. First of all, he canceled my contract without waiting the established 30-day period to tell the worker why this company has decided to revoke the contract. Secondly, he went behind my back and colluded with the International Film School of San Antonio del Los Banos’ management, who knew about the measure before I was told anything and it prevented me from attending a workshop that I have worked at for the past six years as an actress.

Last week, I received a call from the OJL secretary to tell me that Friday April 20th, they would meet with me to answer my complaint. I arrived at the agreed time, however, I had to wait because the OJL boss was running late. He arrived wearing shorts and flip flops. The assembly began ten minutes later. Approximately 15 people attended.

Frias coldly admitted that he had violated my contract and the solution he offered was to reopen the contract for 30 days and then decide to revoke it again. A completely insane idea. Basically, the procedure they were using with me was the most similar to the labor trials that took place in theaters in the ‘70s.

I saw myself wearing a scarf on my head, or like Mirtha Ibarra in Hasta Cierto Punto, a Tomas Gutierrez Alea movie. I had to keep myself from smiling in the face of so much nerve and absurdity. I wouldn’t call it a lack of respect as that would be taking it too seriously.

Everyone who had treated me nicely before fell into the situation. Most people were offended because Frias, like a programmed robot, said: “She has been expelled for her protests online against the people who govern this country.”

I looked over all my assessment papers as an actress, my work contracts and it didn’t say that an artist had to be a hypocrite and dishonest anywhere. It doesn’t say in writing that an artist has to stop being free to say what to think. Everyone who was gathered there to judge my case abused and ignored the fact that their wages depend on artists work and the funds generated.

It’s even more twisted when it comes from a company that has apparently been “representing” me all this time yet hasn’t sought out a single job for me. These offices have become just another part of our bureaucracy, which has nothing to do with the reality of actors living in Cuba. Actors’ work depends on the rules of the market. Every co-production that is processed via these companies give large sums of hard currency to the country and they take a 7% cut out of our personal wages. This is what really sustains the bureaucrats who were incriminating me.

I was attending a blacklisting assembly in the middle of such an ambiguous reality. A system which doesn’t have its values defined. A veiled market economy, without a truly structural change which at least articulates a coherent discourse. More than making me sad, it made me feel like I was inside a madhouse. But, it’s better to watch the video for yourselves.

Note: Translation from Havana Times

Free Education with Clowns and Reggaeton / Lynn Cruz

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 19 April 2018 — People here have been talking about reggaeton lyrics for a long time. I remember the famous video which a grandfather uploaded to YouTube, where his trendsetting grandson was grinding on top of a girl like an adult to a raucous reggaeton beat.

In front of my house, and also in front of the Ministry of Culture, is the “Union Internacional de Estudiantes” Primary School (UIE) which ironically has a huge photo poster of Che Guevara laying bricks during the school’s construction in 1961: “The Year of Education.” Today, two or three Fridays every month, birthday parties are held at this center in school hours, where better-off parents hire clowns, decorate the yard and even rent out bouncy castles, sometimes. continue reading

As well as rubbing luxury in the faces of those less advantaged financially-speaking, it is a distortion bearing in mind socialist schools still indoctrinate children with collectivism. On the other hand, lewd and violent reggaeton music doesn’t only bother the community, it also forms a part of these parties at primary schools.

Recently, a neighbor from my building called Xiomara Vazquez, the principal of the school to complain about noise. Vazquez defensively answered, arguing that children were holding a Pioneer (communist kids) activity and that they don’t put reggaeton on. That’s to say she lied outright, which you could confirm for yourself just by going out onto the balcony, and she went so far as to ask my neighbor: And you can hear it from the fourth floor?

The interesting thing is that these celebrations generally start off with children’s songs which compete in bad taste with the monotony of reggaeton music, as if you couldn’t educate children listening to classical music, for example. Clowns hired for these events don’t seem professional either. They look like buffoons and still shout even when they are speaking into a microphone. All of this anachronism provokes a distortion, as well as a strange reading about what the educational foundations are at socialist schools here in Cuba, today.

It’s very contradictory. The government’s efforts to uphold itself as the great righteous one (in appearance only), ultimately ignores or abuses the essence of teaching values. Children spend most of the day at school, therefore, the government has a great responsibility when it comes to the future, but they don’t seem to be too bothered by it.

Of course, if everything that needed to be censored was censored, instead of just artists and the press, the country would probably collapse. Art can’t change anything by itself but it can make people reflect upon certain subjects, which dissociate themselves from their context, that are perceived to be represented.

The recent rise in censorship is due to the government having seen its darkest side portrayed by independent journalism and artists. So many views can’t be wrong. They can gag artists, but they can never silence art. They can arrest journalists, but they will never silence the truth.

In the censored documentary Nadie,” by Miguel Coyula, poet Rafael Alcides, the lead character, talks about double standards in Cuba, about how children are taught to be fake from a young age, thereby losing their innocence very quickly.

Ever since the ‘90s and the euphemism of calling those years of great crisis (unnecessarily too) the “Special Period,” began this journey of social deterioration, which the country is currently facing today.

Maybe teachers’ inertia and Vazquez’ own, not knowing how to deal with economic differences or because teaching staff don’t earn enough to make it to the end of the month, but rather receive extras from well-off parents, or because of the lack of opportunities to relax and have access to entertainment, are some of the reasons why they adopt this permissive and deforming behavior. Where does education stand today as a priority, as the driving force behind future generations?

Translation from Havana Times

An Unjust Punishment Twofold / Lynn Cruz

Lynn Cruz

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 3 April 2018 — After being expelled from the San Antonio de los Banos School of Film and TV (EICTV), the Actuar Agency has decided to not represent me anymore.

Actuar doesn’t find me work but it stops me from being able to invoice my work as an actress if somebody else hires me in Cuba.

There are two companies which represent actors who work in film and TV, Actuar and Caricato, both of which are owned by the State. The fact that they are denying me representation means that my legal assessment documents from here on out as an actress in order to get paid, won’t be valid, as the company won’t validate them. This decision is an attempt to destroy and put the brakes on my professional life here in Cuba. continue reading

But, something strange has happened, it seems that Actuar and the EICTV, didn’t reach an agreement. The EICTV is blaming Actuar for refusing to represent me, but I received word of Actuar’s order after I was banned from taking part in the Norma Angeleri workshop at EICTV.

Jorge Luis Frias, Actuar’s director, bit his tongue when I asked what the reasons behind this decision were. As I caught him off guard and the script he was supposed to repeat hadn’t been written yet, he didn’t know what to answer, so he promised to write down the reasons for my expulsion in a week’s time because the real people who executed the order don’t reside within this agency.

Has this decision come from the Ministry of Culture or Villa Marista, Cuban State Security’s military base?

In face of such an obvious sham, I told him that they had also done something illegal, because before undoing my contract, both parties have a thirty-day period to repeal the decision if need be, if I haven’t worked for longer than six months or because of absences, and if both parties don’t reach an agreement, a legal process could be opened.

So, I am still legally a member of Actuar, however, my last wages from EICTV were brought to my house in cash, when Actuar should have issued me a cheque. Frias, like any good executing soldier, didn’t care about going off his bureaucratic script because the “good director” has clearly been assured that he wouldn’t suffer any consequences, even if I made a claim.

Now then, it doesn’t say anywhere in this joke of a contract that representation must be withdrawn because the artist doesn’t accept being gagged and stopped from saying what she thinks, which is the real reason behind these schemes and manipulations.

I can’t explain how bad I felt while I tried to explain what had happened to Angeleri, who had practically been deceived by every board member at the EICTV.

Nobody who lives outside of Cuba is ready to understand that this is a sick society where everyone wears a mask and that the line between the truth and a lie, between what’s real and pretend, has been lost.

But, they haven’t punished me because luckily enough, I’ve never lived off of this salary, I have always gone to the EICTV because I love film and that’s why I offer my services as an actress to the students and professors there. I feel I have a duty to work there, to give back all of the knowledge that my own teachers have given me, in this marvellous exchange that making a movie entails.

The only thing they’ve managed to do with these decisions is to destroy the school’s image, which is far from being the place that Fernando Birri described during its founding:

“So that the place of utopias which is nowhere by definition, can be found somewhere.”

This is another of the Revolution’s failed dreams, in the hands of irresponsible, unprincipled persons who are blinded by power.

In my case, the measure only reaffirms what I’ve always been, an independent actress and the students that I’ve worked with at the EICTV who want to call me, I’d like to tell them that I was indoctrinated at socialist schools, where I was taught that the most important thing in life was to be good at whatever I chose to do and, for a long time, my History teachers made me believe that money would cease to exist in 2000 in Cuba.

Starting over is a real challenge for any artist. If they want me, I’ll work for free. Artists don’t believe in bureaucracy.

The video below is not translated into English but it is subtitled in Spanish:

Post reprinted from Havana Times.

My Unexpected Expulsion / Lynn Cruz

Lynn Cruz

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 23 March 2018 — I have been working with the San Antonio de los Banos School of Film and TV (EICTV) for sixteen years.

Normally when teachers, both Cuban and foreign, connect with some actors, they always ask for these every time they hold their workshops, where purely creative interests are considered, as part of a dynamic that transcends any ideology, creed or political affiliation.

This is what happened with Argentinian director and actress Norma Angeleri, who I have been working with in an actors direction workshop for six years. continue reading

I recently discovered that a Cuban professor had been expelled from the documentary school where he had taught for 12 years, who hasn’t gone public with the news, because he is still waiting for a response from Fernando Rojas, the Vice-Minister of Culture.

Rojas and Susana Molina, the current director of EICTV, decided to expel him because they believed him to be: “politically incorrect”.

Of course, this would never have happened when the school was a Non-governmental organization. In the hands of political commissars now, unprincipled subjects with a green light to crush anyone who threatens their weak official discourse, there isn’t any kind of will to maintain the school’s prestige.

On Monday March 19th, an actress friend of mine told me that the casting for Angeleri’s workshop would take place on Wednesday the 21st. The news took me by surprise as I had been working on some exercises the week before for the theses of direction students on the regular course. I was sure they would call me for Angeleri’s workshop, but it seems I’ve also been put in the category: “politically incorrect”, but because I’m just an actress, they didn’t even spare themselves the effort of telling me, as they believed that everything would have been assumed.

I immediately called up producer Rafael Acosta, who I have known ever since I first started working at the school, and after insisting more than once, he finally answered. I really needed Arley Perera’s phone number, who is responsible for calling the actors, but Acosta told me he didn’t have his number, and when I asked him about the casting, he replied that I was indeed not on the list.

Then, I decided to speak to Angeleri myself so as to clear up any doubts, as she had written an email to me saying: See you soon, dear! When I contacted her, she couldn’t hide her surprise and said that she had asked Perera if I was going to the casting and that he had awkwardly replied: I don’t know, I’ll tell you later. It was after 7 PM when we spoke, Perera had already gone home and Angeleri suggested I call Orietta Roque, coordinator of Higher Education, which is where the workshop was taking place, to make sure that it wasn’t a misunderstanding.

Roque told me that there wasn’t a problem with me personally, that it was the producers’ decision and that she couldn’t do anything to change it. We had a confrontation on the phone, and she finally said that I wouldn’t be able to go to the casting.

Nothing that Roque had said was true, first of all, her husband Gerardo Chijona, who also teaches a workshop on the same program, doesn’t allow producers to organize his casting and he, like the majority of teachers, take their own cast.

On the other hand, the injustice is even greater if you take into account the fact that Angeleri teaches a casting workshop with complex scenes from an acting perspective, with real film rigor, as her students are film professionals, which means to say that even if I went to the casting, that doesn’t mean I’m going to get a place on the workshop as it’s highly competitive.

I have also got several job offers from abroad thanks to this workshop’s intensity.

In the end, and in the face of the blatant situation, I just had to apologize to Angeleri for the shame she would experience for seeing what it means to live in a country where the slightest bit of respect for professional competence doesn’t exist as it isn’t my ability and discipline as an actress that is being decided behind my back, but what my point of view on the country’s current situation is, which is being subjected to a new terror policy.

They didn’t show Angeleri any respect as they lied to her face. The schools’ producers, alongside Roque, have censored me giving vague excuses which only prove the lack of personal conviction those at the head of arbitrary measures have who are only trying to cut me from my profession.

Note: Translation from English version of Havana Times

Cuban Socialism’s New Man in Havana’s Capitolio / Lynn Cruz

text

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 7 March 2018 — “Oprah Winfrey, one of the world’s best neoliberal capitalist thinkers,” is a critical essay by Nicole Aschoff for The Guardian newspaper about the speech Winfrey gave at the latest edition of the Golden Globes.

While reading it, and as a result of Aschoff’s brilliant analysis, I could understand one of the ways that this economic and political movement is being manifested. continue reading

According to Winfrey, anyone can go as far as she has. She could criticize Trump but not the system that fabricates the fantasy of wanting a life that doesn’t necessarily keep in line with an individual’s real possibilities. In other words, Winfrey defends the “American dream” which is also the “Latin American nightmare,” not just for immigrants but also for the realities of Latin American people.

The heart of Winfrey’s speech addresses the fact that every success or failure is an individual’s sole responsibility. It omits the existence of political, economic or social situations and that’s why Aschoff calls her way of thinking “neoliberal.”

Because ideas also fall into abstract terms, Cubans were also given a dream, the dream of social justice; it doesn’t matter that it might be unsustainable given the fact that the conditions to move towards this “Communist paradise” were never created. Karl Marx didn’t say that a Revolution could bring about a communist system.

It isn’t easy to analyze a system which has been adopting and adjusting certain positions, based on the philosophy of the “temporary.” This has been the trap that the government has fallen into in the long run, a prisoner of its own inclinations, it wants to survive although it has to deny itself, its own rhetoric in order to do so and the most important thing in the name of the majority is to demand that: “We need to improve” in order to disguise this transition towards state capitalism.

Even when it keeps its so-called “achievements” going: “Free healthcare and education.”  As part of a globalized world, Cuba also runs the risk of not being exempt from this neoliberal political and economic movement, in its different forms of manifesting and defining itself.

Reality on the island, the product of the historic exhaustion of four generations which have walked along a cobbled path, in the name of anti-imperialist resistance, is that of apathy and discredit towards politicians.

Cuban society is moving more and more towards individualism, saving oneself at any cost, in the face of the chaos and social disorder that have taken over the country. In the long-term, years of sacrifice have only proved that Cuba is nothing but a poor country, trapped in a geopolitical conflict, which dates back to the Cold War.

This wouldn’t be dangerous if the economy had been strengthened during the nearly 60 years of this same system, with a real rule of law and civil society. In Cuba, poor governance also prevails today with a president and a small anonymous group that control and exercise power from the shadows, who are only worried about their opposition, in any way they take form, whether that’s in art or politics.

El Capitolio de La Habana. Photo: progresosemanal.us

A while ago, during a movie shoot for Cuban TV, I was at the Vistar magazine office, a gossip magazine which has popped up within this low budget capitalism that is becoming more and more visible and tangible here. At the office entrance, there was a slogan: “Consuming what we produce is a way of being patriotic.”

Preparing yourself for Cuba’s future will mean doing business but without questioning the Communist Party and its so-called “achievements.” That is to say, the current Cuban government’s ideology is focusing on the business world. Those who were born in the ‘90s, for example, didn’t live during the time of the Russians and so they became conscious within a dollarized society. For them, the Revolution is just a brand up for sale in Old Havana, where Cuba spreads its legs like a prostitute. And the new Cuban Parliament will establish itself there too, in the Republican Capitolio.

What happened to the idea of Cuba’s “New Man,” forged from the steel of an anti-imperialist Revolution?

From Worms to Repatriates: Cuba’s Exile Community / Lynn Cruz

The Camarioca exodus of 1964. (Havana Times)

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 27 February 2018 – Ever since I began making Political Theater, one thing hasn’t stopped tormenting me, it’s almost psychological torture. It has something to do with the fact that you end up living in a constant state of paranoia.

A prisoner of labels in a world that doesn’t have time to see the nuances of something, where everything is black or white, especially in an authoritarian system which hides behind the guise of a Leftist government which defends social justice, theoretically-speaking. continue reading

In his book Sabbat Gigante, Nestor Diaz de Villegas, the writer who stirs things up among the Cuban exile community, says that the “worm” has been Castrismo’s greatest creation. He was a political prisoner when he was just 18 years old because of a poem he wrote to Carlos III Street, which later became Salvador Allende Avenue after the Revolution triumphed. A teenage prisoner of conscience.

Drawing conclusions from his analysis, you could deduce that Miami became the city of worms. Something that Fidel Castro created together with the US government. This is how Castro purged the island to prevent any kind of political competition. The first “worms” to leave would be the middle class, small business owners, professionals and intellectuals.

 

An organized repudiation of those leaving the country at Mariel in 1980. “Out with the Antisociaists. Out with the scum” (Havana Times)

An organized repudiation of those leaving the country at Mariel in 1980.
However, 54 years after the first mass exodus in 1964, Cuba is a doomed land today. Opposition on the island is also slandered off as “mercenary” for receiving funds that come from these same Cuban-American “worms” that probably left during the Camarioca boatlift.

A new kind of “worm” left during the following exoduses, the working class who don’t live off of funds from the White House once they are there, nor are they Cubans with renowned surnames. When the time came, they were also labeled “traitors”.

However, in his Sabatt Gigante, Diaz de Villegas says: “There is a kind of late vindication in the fact that the monstrous worm returns to Cuba, transformed into a butterfly.”

They sustain the country with their remittances. However, the Cuban government made sure of adding a 10% tax to the dollar with regard to the Convertible Cuban Peso (CUC). I’m using its English abbreviation so as to not confuse it with the other PCC (Cuban Communist Party), one of destiny’s ironies.

Thus, every time a Cuban begins criticizing the government in a direct way, and shows them that they aren’t afraid, they run the risk of being converted into a “worm”. You have no other choice but ostracism or exile.

Meanwhile, a new kind of industry created by Castrismo has also been extended to the so-called “missions” that doctors, athletes, artists and teachers go on. They are the ones who really pay for the so-called “achievements of the Revolution” which are of course riddled with corruption.

Cubans rest at the immigration office in Penas Blancas, Costa Rica, on the border with Nicaragua on November 16, 2015. Photo: Ezequiel Becera /AFP
You can’t deny Fidel Castro’s intelligence; he collected all the glory for himself, at the expense of dividing, oppressing and crushing the Cuban people.

On the other hand, Donald Trump, the current president of the United States, who represents the ugly American, has stood out for his hostility towards immigrants from “shithole” countries. He has reinforced tensions with the Cuban government, condemning both nations to live in uncertainty and fear. However, it led to the Cuban government establishing the new category of “repatriate worm” after it was supposedly going to “reconcile with its exile community”.

Even though Cubans have a US passport, they still need a Cuban passport to travel to Cuba. Could Cuban and US immigration services please explain, what the status of a repatriate is?

Lynn Cruz is Committed to a Theater of Resistance

Lynn Cruz in a scene of ‘Corazón azul’, a film currently in production. (M. COYULA)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Waldo Fernandez Cuenca, Havana, 15 February 2018 — The theatrical work Los enemigos del pueblo (The Enemies of the People), whose presentation at the independent El Círculo State Security forces sought to prevent, undoubtedly marks a watershed in the career of actress Lynn Cruz. At that time she decided to create, with her partner the filmmaker Miguel Coyula, art in a totally independent and political way.

Lynn Cruz boasts an extensive career. Since 2003 she has worked in several Cuban theater groups, and had an enriching experience in German theater, in 2009. She won the David Suárez Award for Best Actress in Venezuela, and the Cayenne Short Film Festival Award in New York, in 2016, both for her leading role in the short film El niño (The Boy). She was nominated for Best Actress at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2015 for the short film Finales, produced in Ecuador. She has formed part of the cast of Cuban films like La Pared (The Wall), Larga Distancia (Long Distance), ¿Eres tu, papá? (Is That You, Dad?) and the documentary (NadieNo one, by Coyula, censored in Cuba and honored at the 10th Film Festival of the Dominican Republic, in 2017. continue reading

DIARIO DE CUBA talked to her about her beginnings and her constant search for freedom in her professional career.

“In my adolescence I did not have a defined vocation, nor did I know what to do with my life. Since I didn’t want to end up without a university degree, I chose to study for a degree in Geography, which was one of the easiest majors. On that path I discovered that what I really liked was acting,” she explained.

“I ventured into amateur theater groups in Matanzas, where I lived, but I couldn’t make my way there. In the year 2000 I moved to Havana, where I was able to enter a professional group called the Teatro del Puerto. I was there for a year. Then I worked in other theater groups, until in 2009 I traveled to Germany to work with the independent group Pig’s Appeal in that country.”

What was the experience of doing theater in Germany like?

Before that Colombia was the only other country I knew, and it was the first time I was in a developed country. That really affected me as an artist. I started to question my identity, because I worked with German playwrights and actors. I also had to deal with a text openly critical of the Cuban reality, by Carlos A. Aguilera, and my reticence to perform it. That did not mean that I was in agreement with the Cuban political system, because I have always been very rebellious, but until then I identified more with the institutions than with what was outside of them.

The experience of doing theater in Germany was so intense, from every point of view, that it totally changed me. From that moment on, I lost the motivation to work for institutions. Before my trip I had achieved the dream of every actor, which is to play a leading role in a film, in Larga Distancia (Long Distance), directed by Esteban Insausti. But in the end I felt that my life was the same, that nothing had changed. It was then that I begin to think about forming my own theatrical group, independently.

How did you manage to put together the work El Regreso (The Return), which marked the birth of the Kairós Theater in 2011?

The work La Indiana, by the Catalonian Angels Aymar, in which the Catalonian presence in the 19th century is portrayed, and the nostalgia with which those indianos (Spanish emigrants) wrote their letters, speaking of their native land, spurred me to draw a parallel with Cubans who have left and their nostalgia for a lost land. I managed to get the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation to support me financially with its staging. However, the money was not much, and we had to reduce the number of actors, from six, originally, to one.

Then came the opposition by the president of the National Council of Performing Arts, Gisela González, to the work to being presented at the Adolfo Llauradó Theater. But I was determined to stage the work, even if it was in a park. In response to that meddling, the Spanish Embassy secured a space at the Las Carolinas (theater), in Old Havana, but the technicians wanted a bonus to stage it.

This kind of payment is a standard practice when they see you’ve got foreign financing. If you don’t pay it, you pay the price I did: they sabotaged the show. It was a horrible experience because the audience came in ahead of time, because there were no doormen, among other very unpleasant incidents. For practical reasons I could not continue at the Teatro Kairós at that time. I had no money to support it, and I accepted other offers to work in cinema.

How did the play Los enemigos del pueblo (The Enemies of the People) come about. Was it your return to an openly critical and practically solo theater?

The theater director Adonis Milan found out that I had shouted “¡Viva Cuba libre!” at a show where that was not in the script. He told me that he wanted to work with me, and he showed me Charlotte Corday, by Nara Mansur.

When I saw that work, so timid, I felt that I couldn’t do it. “Cuban theatre cannot continue to bite its tongue. It must make a commitment to the era in which we live.” I expressed to him that I would rewrite the text to see how it turned out, and so was born The Enemies of the People, where the main reason why Charlotte Corday [who murdered Jean-Paul Marat during the French Revolution] wants to kill Fidel Castro is because the crime of the March 13 Tugboat has gone unpunished.

And, as the cause of Castro’s death was never announced, I thought I could invent a murderer and, more than Charlotte Corday, it is history that does justice.

I feel like this work was not my choice, but that it chose me, because of the emotional impact I felt when I saw the images and accounts of the survivors of that crime.

Although I had second thoughts, because of the consequences it could mean for me, I felt it was my duty to do it. From that moment on, the feeling of freedom that I have felt makes up for possible losses.

What projects are you currently working on?

For some time now I’ve been writing a series of monologues that I have titled Patriotism 3.677, inspired by the anthology Spoon Rivers, by the American poet Edgar Lee Masters. This work is a discussion about the political situation and the future of Cuba, in which five people talk about freedom, democracy and change.

The Kairós Theatre is shaping up and wants to do political theater, in which the tyranny under which we live is directly criticized. It is a theater of resistance because, as everyone knows, all the other theaters belong to the Government. We have managed to perform The Enemies of the People six more times at private homes. Each stage, because it is different, makes every show unique.

I have also been working for the last six years as an actress, co-writer and producer on the science fiction feature film Corazón Azul, by Miguel Coyula. Shooting this film is like travelling, in terms of time and intensity. Working with Coyula, due to how long it takes to complete his films, becomes a life experience. He is a director who works in an artisanal way, and we were brought together by my conception of theater, with a small team, and independently.

This is related to the part behind the cameras. As an actress I like stylized cinema and, since there is not much of it in Cuba, where more realistic films are made, working with him is a real treat.

In Corazón Azul I play Helena, a mysterious woman who has been part of a genetic experiment carried out by Fidel Castro to create the new man. She is a kind of Helen of Troy, and triggers the main conflict in the movie. We have completed 50 minutes, adjusting to the actors’ time, as the budget does not allow for a traditional production.

Note: This translation is from Diario de Cuba’s English site

“They’re Using You”

The creators of the play Enemies of the People denounce that State Security called the piece “subversive” without knowing anything about it. (@liavillares)

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 5 February 2018 — I recently read Tania Bruguera’s statements about an artist’s rights. One of them referred to the artist’s right to dissent.

Within an authoritarian system, the artist begins to live a double dissidence, first in art, then in society.

Having your own voice is always grounds for suspicion among members of your artistic community, but when it’s the Government who has the last world with regard to a phenomenon which only concerns art, like deciding who is a revolutionary and who isn’t, then this does put us in a delicate position. continue reading

The two times I invited my closest colleagues to the alternative venue: “Casa Galería El Círculo,” (led by artists and activists Luis Trapaga and Lia Villares), some have told me: “I don’t go to those places.” Others have just respond with silence or stop calling you. And if worst comes to the worst, they repudiate you.

There were actors, theater directors and filmmakers among those I had invited to watch my play “Enemies of the People.”

After the scandal (produced by the presence of State Security forces and police at the home/gallery’s doors, saying that it was a counter-revolutionary play), an actor I had invited, who ironically also makes theater at his home, called me to say that: “He felt used by me.”

He was quite frankly terrified when he saw himself in a video that the house’s owners and a journalist had decided to film, as their only form of defense and way to denounce this injustice.

Plus, this actor is someone who has strong opinions about Cuban reality, who I had always had an open and straight-to-the-point dialogue with before the event. I even told him that something similar had happened at this same place when the documentary Nadie was scheduled to be screened, which the creator, filmmaker and theater director Miguel Coyula, couldn’t even attend.

Even so, he had a scornful attitude towards me: “I feel used.”

What do these words mean in our context? If a lie is repeated enough times, it becomes the truth. Fidel Castro transformed the Cuban people into an army, whose soldiers didn’t fight against an enemy, but fight each other instead, while he took all of the glory.

The subtext that lies between the lines of this phrase: “They’re using you” is “Let me be the only one to use you.” Thus, artists who are condemning or approving slander campaigns against their colleagues, who are being persecuted for defending the right to make political art, become pawns in a game of established power which isn’t only being played by arts institutions, but by the Cuban government itself.

“Enemies of the People” deals with an event that continues to go unpunished today: the sinking of the 13 de marzo tugboat on July 13, 1994.

Back then, Castro condemned the US Government instead of the captains of the attacking boats (encouraged by him even?), the real ones responsible for the genocidal event which caused half of those on board to die from drowning, including children. However, survivors’ testimonies are pristine proof of the event.

However, Article 3 of the Cuban Constitution states: “In the Republic of Cuba, the sovereignty resides in the people, from whom all of the power of the State emanates….” it goes on to say: “All citizens have the right to fight, using all means, including armed struggle, when no other recourse is possible, against anyone attempting to overthrow the political, social, and economic order established by this Constitution”… and ends by saying: “Cuba shall never return to capitalism.”

This explains why the people responsible for the sinking were labeled “heroes” and haven’t been sentenced to this very day. We mustn’t forget that the brains behind this system were the brains of a lawyer.

Note: English translation from the Havana Times which also published the original in Spanish.