I remember well the day of the Havana Biennial when Tania Bruguera, in her performance titled Tatlin’s Whisper, installed a pair of microphones so that anyone could enjoy one minute of freedom from the podium. Shortly afterward, this irreverent and universal artist went to Columbia and shocked everyone when — as a performance — she distributed cocaine to the audience. In Cuba, her gift to us was an intense dose of opinion without any gags; in Bogota she confronted them with evidence that drugs are the beginning and the end of many problems in that nation. The Colombian authorities were scandalized, but ultimately accepted that art is inherently a transgressor. But some of us who participated in Tatlin’s Whisper here, continue to be barred from entering movie theaters, theaters and concerts.
A week ago I learned that Tania — our Tania — has decided to found the Migrant Peoples Party based in New York and Berlin. This new party will defend those who were taken to the United States as children and now feel themselves in danger of being deported. She will also focus on undocumented Yugoslavs in Madrid, Nigerians who hide from the police in Paris, and Tamils who falsify their passports to stay in Zurich. Her new work of art/politics is grounded in those who, driven by personal dreams, economic hardship, war, family reunification or the unequal conditions of the world, have settled — without papers — in another country.
I admit I have the impulse to join this immigrant party, give than we eleven million Cubans are segregated in our own nation. There are pieces of our own territory we cannot access, cruise ships plying our waters that we are barred from by our national passports, land given in usufruct for 99 years only to people who can prove they weren’t born here, and joint venture companies for people who say “Madame et Monsieur” or speak in the cadences of Spain. Not to mention the severe restrictions they impose on us to enter and leave our own borders, restrictions that evoke the airport checkpoints where they detain illegals. There are times when we feel our nationality is like an expired visa, a canceled residence card, permission to be here that they can take from us at any time.
December 21, 2010