Graffiti: El Sexto / Cuban Blogger Magazine

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.47.24 PMThe development of graffiti as rebellious art expression in Cuba has been rough and rather late when compared with the rest of the world. However, in the last two years has seen an explosion of popularity thanks to the work of El Sexto — the Sixth — the pen name of the Danilo Maldonado Machado, a unique Cuban graffiti artist who has taken on, as is known, his art as a form of dissident expression.

El Sexto paints his graffiti on the streets of Havana, on walls, ruins, buses, traffic signs, etc., demanding freedom and recently remembering Laura Pollan, the late leader of the Ladies in White.

His public art is often diluted by the authorities, usually with pink paint. In one of his images El Sexto says that art is more powerful than the weapons of his oppressors. In December 2011, after his arrest, the political police tried to discredit him by saying that in reality he wasn’t a counterrevolutionary, nor an artist — he was nothing, just a simple drug addict.

El Sexto is a kind of Robin Hood, an anonymous face in Cuba that survives assuming a social commitment and, therefore, El Sexto is everywhere coming from everywhere, responding to the alienating media campaign which for over a decade has produce slogans for the release of five spies convicted in the United States.

Maldonado defines himself through an interview granted to on-line page, The Stark Life. Although the Cuban Internet is Paleolithic, the world follow us and we follow the world, he concludes.

The Editorial Board, Cuban Blogger Magazine

El Sexto / Reinaldo Escobar

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 10.03.01 PM

On the billboard: “Free our [Five] Heroes. Speech: “The citizen who calls himself ‘The Sixth’ has been detained for mistreating the public art. And now.” Artist: Garrincha

New graffiti is present on Havana’s walls. In large cursive letters thier author writes the word “Sexto” — Sixth — at times finishing off the the writing with a star, other times adding to the text the image of a face. It reminds me of the pioneer of Cuban graffiti, Chori, who left barely a wall in Havana without his signature made with white chalk back in the ‘60s, and, they tell me, from before that.

Is it a proper name, or perhaps the name of a hip hop group that in my profound musical ignorance I can’t call to mind? A retiree whom I greet now and then in the line for newspapers, asked me if this poster could be some kind of advertising for the Sixth Communist Party Congress, in the style of a campaign invented by Robertico Robaina in the years when he was first secretary of the Young Communist Union (UJC). Do you remember? 31 and Ever Onward and that Ever whatever, commander, ever whatever. But it doesn’t seem that Julio Martinez, the most insipid youth leader in the history of Cuba, is the one that has had the initiative.

Who knows? Maybe it is the sixth child of a marriage, or someone demobilized from military service who celebrates his release remembering the number he had in his unit or a sex maniac with poor spelling, and I can’t even rule out the hypothesis of my retired friend that it is a militant communist who, in this way, is reminding his party leaders that they have already celebrated the end of the congress.

Part of the Dossier of El Sexto, which will appear here piece by piece.

Graffiti and Scathing Flyers / Eugenio Leal

El Sexto Awakes

El Sexto Awakes

Graffiti, a term that comes from the Italian “graffio” meaning “scratch,” has existed since the dawn of humanity. We see it in the cave paintings of Lascaux, in France. Our ancestors marked the walls with bones and stones and left us their testimony. Also, in ancient Greece and the ruins of Pompey texts have appeared that revealed election slogans, drawings and the various obscenities of their inhabitants.

In Havana, in the early nineties, with the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the beginning of the economic crisis that the government called “the Special Period,” we found at various points in the city a symbol of the Abakuá fraternity. It consisted of a circle within which are two rods superimposed on a cross with arrows at both ends, which means “the roads are closed.”

At different times, other symbols and texts have gained ground in the urban environment and, systematically, government agencies have been alerted to erase, detect, apprehend, prosecute and imprison the graffiti artists. But as the system’s structural crisis became endemic, we became used to — both the repressors and repressed — the appearance, more or less ephemeral, of suggestive messages encoded in different parts of the city.

A few years ago, in Plaza along 23rd Street, an enigmatic text appeared. It was red, consisting of a vertical line with an arrow at the upper end that made an inverted letter V, and another, normal, much smaller, on the lower end. To emphasize, the reverse S was upside down. Virtually overnight the graffiti appeared on facades, walls, traffic signals, park benches, and whatever flat surface was available.

There was no need to be an expert in esotericism, the sign told us we had the change the situation of our society. Not only by the reverses word. The weight of the large V on the little one, on the lower part, indicated the instability of the system.

Recently, I met a young active graffiti artist who signs his work with “El Sexto” — the Sixth — and is designated National Graffiti Artist Vanguard. From a long time back I have seen his mark all over the city, that authenticates his self-identification. Now, in the most unexpected places, his texts and the characteristic signature line appear.

Distinguishing himself from others, who have also dabbled in the art of graffiti, he also prints flyers. And so he shatters the ancient iconography of the system of government. Among them are: “Give Back My 5 Euros,” which satirizes the alienating campaign for the 5 spies of the Wasp Network imprisoned in the United States; “With Reason Held High” in opposition to the slogan of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs); and “The Sixth Truth” where his image and the word Truth appear which discredits and shows the phobia occasioned by the truth. In his way, The Sixth transmits an important message: We are beginning to exercise our rights.

Please! Keep El Sexto in your sight. We will not allow the totalitarian regime to devour this young man, as they did to others when there were no modern information and communication technologies.

Part of the Dossier of El Sexto, which will appear here piece by piece.

October 2011

“Catch and Release”: El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado) Arrested on Saturday, Released on Sunday, His Work Confiscated / Lia Villares, Danilo Maldonado

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 1.52.26 PMSaturday [18 May 2013]

El Sexto is raided at his home this afternoon at 1:15 pm, according to Alexandra his wife and owner of the apartment, who learned of it through an email from her dad who lives downstairs and saw men and women in uniform and in plainclothes, accompanied by 2 neighbors from the CDR [Committee for the Defense of the Revolution], and a major from MININT [Ministry of the Interior], in all about 5 people, they showed him a search warrent and confiscated his laptop, spray paints and all the works they found and took him away in a patrol car. As of now with destination unknown.

Translator’s note: This post and the following ones (now with earlier time stamps) together form a report on El Sexto’s (“the Sixth” — Danilo Maldonado) arrest, the search of his home and the confiscation of his belongings.

18 May 2013

My Confiscated Works and the Scene of the Crime (Part 1) / El Sexto – Danilo Maldonado

El Sexto – Danilo Maldonado

– 8 mini cards in the name of Danilo Maldonado – 1 Canon camera – 1 Thinkpad laptop – 15 virgin discs – 76 yellow cards with the writing “I determine” 4 signed by El Sexto – 4 recorded discs – 2 recorded discs with photos and video. [Identifies Danilo as “unemployed”]

37 spray paints, multiple colors and brands – 4 templates to paint – A dossier of the Salbutomal (asthma medicine) project – 1 book of curriculum vitae – 3 DVDs – 3 canvases (of paintings)

1 Samsung cellphone – 14 cards with paintings and sketches – 15 canvases with paintings, 2 Voices Magazines, 4 photos with counterrevolutionary elements

[same as above]

20 May 2013

Post Arrest 3 / El Sexto – Danilo Maldonado Machado

Undesirable

Fear is a role. You play it how you want. [After el Sexto’s t-shirt with Laura Pollan was ripped off him by State Security, he had her face tattooed on his skin, followed by those of other recently deceased heroes of the freedom and democracy movement.]

Faces of the new Cuba. Benedict XVI was in Cuba this week. There, where change is beaten among the Castro reforms and the demands of the famous dissidents, there are also more anonymous people who from their commercial undertakings, their rap music, or their graffiti, modify the face of the island. This is a tour of this new Havana labyrinth.

20 May 2013

El Sexto’s Signature: New on 23rd / Ignacio Estrada Cepero #Cuba

Este es mi Camino Bajando (1)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (2)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (3)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (4)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (5)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (6)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (7)

Este es mi Camino Bajando (8)

By Ignacio Estrada Cepero, Independent Journalist

Havana, Cuba: The Cuban graffiti artist Daniel Maldonado known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth*) has recently plastered his signature in different places along the central 23rd Avenue.

23rd Street in the capital municipality of Plaza, is the site chosen by the Cuban artist recognized for graffiti, to leave his autograph in protest against those who have recently been erasing his work in different public places.

According to recent statements from the artist he is trying to retake the streets again this year and to show that despite government censorship he will continue giving Cuban the gift of a genuine work without government contamination. Recently in a conversation Danilo Maldonado said “…if these little guys keep crossing out my stuff, I will continue crossing out theirs…”

One of the recent signs of El Sexto’s authorship is just a few yards from the central corner of 23rd and L, a writing that reaffirms his will and I quote “…This is my path… Going down…”**

Translator’s notes:
*”El Sexto” takes his moniker — “The Sixth” — as a take off from the “Cuban Five” — five admitted Cuban spies imprisoned in the U.S. and lionized in Cuba (one of the 5 is now on parole).
*”Este calle es de Fidel!” — This street belongs to Fidel — is a slogan commonly used in Cuba in support of the government; it is often shouted at repudiation rallies against dissidents such as the Ladies in White and others.  El Sexto’s take off is “This street/path/way is mine…”

January 21 2013