Cuban Faces of 2015: Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’, Graffiti Artist / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, 'The Sixth'

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 December 2015 — Irreverent and daring, the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth)—in a satirical reference to the ‘Five Heroes’—organized a performance for Christmas 2014 under the title Animal Farm. In Havana’s Central Park the artist intended to release two pigs on which he had painted the names Fidel and Raul, but he was never able to carry out the action because he was arrested on the way there and imprisoned.

During the time he spent in prison, El Sexto managed to send out drawings and letters that visually narrated the rigors of incarceration and in which he ratified his decision to continue making rebellious art. A hunger strike, through which he demanded to be released, led him to the brink of losing his life and made his cause even more visible. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience.

In mid-April of this year, 2015, this restless creator born in 1983 received the Vaclav Havel Award for Creative Dissent, in the midst of an intense international campaign demanding his immediate release which played out on the social networks with the hashtag #FreeElSexto.

In October of this year, El Sexto was released without ever having been brought to trial, and is now on an international tour.


US Embassy in Havana Denies Visa to El Sexto / Diario de Cuba

"This too shall pass"

“This too shall pass”

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 14 November 2015 – The United States Embassy in Cuba has denied a non-immigrant visa to the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), according to information on Friday from the artist himself, via his Facebook account.

The graffiti artist displayed a document where the embassy said that the decision cannot be appealed, but that it is not permanent. In any event, it recommended that Maldonado wait for one year before submitting a new visa application.

The artist was recently released after spending 10 months in prison without trial for trying to stage a controversial performance in December of 2014. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience.

Musician Gorki Aguila Arrested Along With Two Foreign Journalists / 14ymedio

Musician Gorki Aguila (Photo EFE)

Musician Gorki Aguila (Photo EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 November 2015 — The musician Gorki Águila was arrested this afternoon in Havana, as he was traveling in a car with two journalists from the television channel France24. The composer and singer managed to call this newspaper from the Fifth Police Station in the Playa municipality, where he was taken with the two reporters.

Águila, leader of the punk rock band Porno para Ricardo, does not know why he has been arrested and when talking with 14ymedio the police still had not informed him whether he would remain in a cell in the station, or be fined or prosecuted. Last August the musician was detained for several hours in the same station, where he was warned that if continue his activism “those who invite you to visit another country will have to come to looking for you in a boat.”

In May, a similar incident occurred when Águila was forcibly detained outside the Museum of Fine Arts in Havana for carrying a poster with the image of the graffiti artist El Sexto along with the word “Freedom.

El Sexto With Somos+ / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, with members of Somos+ (We are more). (14ymedio)

Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (the tall one in the center), with members of Somos+ (We are more). (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 6 November 2015 — On Thursday a roof in Havana’s Cerro district was a suitable space for a group of young people to have a meeting with the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (The Sixth). Perhaps because neither the artist nor the members of the Somos+ Movement (We Are More) are given to extreme formalities, it is inappropriate to call what took place a tribute. But in fact, it was. Continue reading

A Growing Number Of Political Arrests In Cuba, According To CCDHRN / 14ymedio

March of the Ladies in White from Havana. (EFE)

March of the Ladies in White from Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 November 2015 — Arbitrary political arrests continue to trend upward in Cuba, according to Monday’s denouncement from the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). In its report for the month of October, the independent entity reports “at least 1,093 arrests of this nature,” the vast majority “performed or supervised by the secret political police.” This is the highest figure in the past 16 months, exceeding the previous record reached in September of this year with 882 arrests.

Among the issues the CCDHRN views with greatest alarm is that “not all of the regime opponents arrested have been returned to their homes.” Among them are Hugo Damian Prieto Blanco and Wilfredo Parada Milian, who “have already spent eight days in provisional detention as a reprisal for having participated, in the last month, in separate peaceful demonstrations in front of the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Office,” the introduction of the report states. Continue reading

Mick Jagger Meets with Gorki From Porno Para Ricardo in Havana (NOT) / Fake News

2015-10-07_05.52.54Arsenio Rodríguez Quintana, Barcelona — On Sunday, October 4, after visiting the Cuban Art Factory in Havana, the Rolling Stones singer was walking with the rocker and Cuban government critic Gorki Aguila Carrasco along 5th Avenue, where the Ladies in White meet every Sunday and march in support of human rights in Cuba. Cuban State Security blocks Gorki from going to meet them, but last Sunday, the day of Orula, an orisha venerated in Cuba, the miracle happened. Gorki was wearing an El Sexto T-shirt that interested Jagger, who asked about El Sexto’s state of health after his hunger strike, and offered to buy some of his artworks to support him.

They also spoke about the possibility of Gorki opening for the Rolling Stones should the conversations with the Ministry of Culture for the Stones to play in the Karl Marx Theater bear fruit.

Now that so many American rock, pop and jazz musicians are coming to Havana, it is worth remembering that this city where I was born had home grown impresarios (from 1910 to 1959) that brought the best American or European musicians of their times to Cuba: Enrico Caruso, Nat King Cole or Lola Flores, for example.

The person who cut this ebb and flow between Havana and the world was Fidel Castro. For more than 50 years – except in 1978, another USA-Cuba political rapprochement, and in 1999. The Castro regime not only censored jazz and rock so that it would not come into Cuba, but also censored and imprisoned those who played it.

Jagger, regrettably was in Havana but he didn’t meet with Gorki, the news is false, but my dear friends Ailer and Lia Villares will perhaps smile at my autumn dreams from Barcelona.

‘El Sexto’ Marches with the Ladies in White This Sunday / 14ymedio

The artist Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto,’ marched with the Ladies in White this Sunday (Photo Angel Moya)

The artist Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto,’ (the tallest person in the photo) marched with the Ladies in White this Sunday (Photo Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 October 2016 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), joined 48 Ladies in White during their traditional walk down Fifth Avenue in Havana this Sunday. Released last week after ten months in prison, the graffiti artist accompanied the women and about twenty activists who gathered outside after mass at Santa Rita Church.

Also participating in the march were Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), along with the families of the three activists arrested while trying to approach Pope Francis during his visit to Cuba. The regime opponents Zaqueo Baez, Ismael Boris Reñi and the Lady in White Maria Josefa Acon are still being detained, after having been arrested on 20 September at the Mass in the Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.

In the east of the country, UNPACU reported more than 80 arrests today to prevent individuals from reaching the Sanctuary del Cobre. In Havana, after the march, more than 50 Ladies in White and activists were arrested.

El Sexto Talks With Somos+ After His Release / Somos+

Photo taken from the Internet

Somos+, 20 October 2015 — They have released Danilo Maldonado, better known as El Sexto (The Sixth). We are happy for the participation of all the activists and people who continued to press for his freedom before this injustice, in spite of the long wait. A special thanks to all our members and sympathizers who collaborated with the campaign “We are for El Sexto,” and also for all the mobilization of information about this case. We want you, Danilo, to continue spreading your art, an uncensored art full of truth. Much success to all the Somos+ Movement and all those Cuban lovers of freedom. As you said so well: “Bad people exist because the good allow them to.”

Translated by Regina Anavy

‘El Sexto’ Released After 10 Months In Detention / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ (Artist’s File)

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ (Artist’s File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 October 2015 — Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, was released this Tuesday after 10 months detention in Valle Grande Prison in Havana. Around 10 in the morning an official entered the cellblock where the artist was detained and told him to collect all his personal belongings. “They handcuffed me and outside I waited for “the negotiator,” the graffiti artist related, and that’s when they said they would release me.” Subsequently he was taken in a car to the door of his home in the Arroya Arenas.

According to a statement from the prison authorities, the artist will not be prosecuted. “They told me my immediate release is ‘without conditions’,” Maldonado told 14ymedio. In a phone conversation with this newspaper the graffiti artist, detained since last December for organizing a performance with two pigs painted with the names of Raul and Fidel, joked about a possible legal claim on his part for the police to return the animals seized at the time of his arrest. Continue reading

El Sexto Resumed Hunger Strike Two Days Ago, According To His Mother / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, 'E; Sexto.' (Claudio Fuentes)

Danilo Maldonado, ‘E; Sexto.’ (Claudio Fuentes)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 17 October 2015 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto,” resumed his hunger strike two days ago, his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, said on Saturday. By telephone from Valle Grande prison, the graffiti artist said he would maintain the strike until he is released.

Last week El Sexto declared he would resume the hunger strike if he wasn’t freed within the first 15 days of October. He fasted for 24 days, stopping earlier this month when a lieutenant colonel, who identified himself as a “mediator,” assured him that he would be released in “less than 15 days”.

In a statement on Friday, Amnesty International denounced that the Cuban authorities of failed “miserably” by not fulfilling the promise of freedom for Danilo Maldonado. The London-based organization believes that the artist is a prisoner of conscience and maintains that the attitude of Havana is “a painful illustration of the indifference of the Cuban government for freedom of expression.”

El Sexto was arrested last December for organizing a performance with two pigs, painted with the names of Raul and Fidel.

El Sexto “Should Not Spend Another Day Behind Bars,” Says Amnesty International / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ (Artist’s File)

Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ (Artist’s File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 16 October 2015 — The organization for the defense of human rights Amnesty International has denounced in a statement Friday that the authorities of Cuba failed “miserably” in keeping their promise to release Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto.’ The London-based organization believes that the artist, in prison for almost a year, is a prisoner of conscience and argues that the attitude of Havana is “a painful illustration of the indifference of the Cuban government to freedom of expression.”

Last week, the graffiti artist warned of the possibility of resuming his hunger strike if he was not released in the first 15 days of October, as he had been promised by the authorities.

“Danilo is deprived of his liberty as punishment for peacefully expressing his views. He should be released immediately and unconditionally and should not spend another day behind bars,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International. Continue reading

Another Sunday of Repression of Activists Throughout the Country / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)

The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)

14ymedio, Havana, 12 October 2015 – A new round of repression against activists was experienced in Cuba this Sunday. The arrests began in the early morning hours in order to prevent dissidents from participating in the march on Fifth Avenue in Havana, which on this occasion included a tribute to the late leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan.

The march through this downtown street was joined by 57 Ladies in White and 21 human rights activists, in addition to the mother and grandmother of artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto. The walk began in Gandhi Park, next to the Santa Rita Parish in the Miramar neighborhood. Later several dissidents were arrested, among them the blogger Lia Villares and dissident Antonio G. Rodiles.

Activist Arcelio Molina Leyva reported to 14ymedio that “the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) was raided, and they stole everything they could,” besides detaining “those who were there.” The dissident detailed that among those arrested were Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Ovidio Martin Castellanos and Yriade Hernandez Aguilera. Continue reading

El Sexto Will Resume His Hunger Strike Next Week If He Is Not Released / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto.” (Artist’s File)

Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto.” (Artist’s File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 October 2015 – The mother of Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, has talked by phone with the artist, who reaffirmed his decision to resume his hunger strike if he is not released before 15 October. Captive in Valle Grande prison, the graffiti artist says he is willing to return to fasting, even in the midst of his recovery from 24 days without food that ended earlier this month.

Maria Victoria Machado told 14ymedio that she was able to speak for three minutes on Wednesday with graffiti artist and this he told her his decision to stop eating again starting next Thursday if they do not proceed with his release.

Machado said she received a call from Amnesty International asking for authorization to demand the release of her son at the United Nations

Maldonado also said he had been “well treated” by doctors in the prison and that he was “much better.” His mother, meanwhile, told him that the file of his case “is still with the prosecution,” without any new response from the legal authorities.

Machado also said that on Tuesday night she received a call from Amnesty International asking for authorization to demand the release of her son at the United Nations. The human rights organization considers El Sexto a “prisoner of conscience.”

El Sexto: He Who Laughs First, Laughs Twice / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Danilo Maldonado, "El Sexto," painting the balcony wall of Yoani's apartment

Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto,” painting the balcony wall of Yoani’s apartment

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 3 October 2015 — There was no mistaking it. It was the same face that smiles defiantly from some paintings in which it resembles an unrepentant Christ. I had seen the signature of El Sexto at bus stops, followed his ironies on Havana’s walls, and wondered if this young man really existed, putting so many dreams, so many screams into his midnight strokes . But there he was, standing in front of me, in a T-shirt with a spray can.

“You cross out my stuff, I cross out yours,” said some of the artist Danilo Maldonado’s first paintings. It was when the police were using pink paint to hide his graffiti. Walking down Linea Street you could guess that behind those colorful patches in the middle of a wall that had gone decades without maintenance, the irreverent artist had left a drawing.

So when I stumbled upon El Sexto, thin, rebellious, talented, it seemed I had rediscovered a well-known face from my family photos, someone I had shared colorful nocturnal moments with, insolent and clandestine. With time I discovered that I was also facing a man who would not give in to fear and who would use his own body as a canvas for disobedience. Continue reading