Three Cuban Cultural Promoters Fired For Publishing a Review From ’14ymedio’ in an Official Catalog

The excerpt from Regina Coyula’s theater review that appeared in an official catalog with a reference to 14ymedio. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 November 2017 — A scandal is shaking up the National Council of Performing Arts (CNAE) a few days after the end of the 17th edition of the Havana Theater Festival. The publication in the festival catalog of an excerpt from a review of the event that appeared in 14ymedio has caused three employees of the state entity to be reprimanded and dismissed from their positions.

The head of the CNAE’s Directorate of Artistic Development, Noel Bonilla, his assistant Marielvis Calzada and CNAE vice president Marlén Gutiérrez are the three workers punished by the publication, who now find themselves in the midst of a process of administrative sanctions.

The inclusion of a paragraph from a theater review published in this newspaper last February and signed by Regina Coyula unleashed the wrath of the authorities of the Ministry of Culture (Mincult) because the text came from the independent press, a part of Cuban journalism censored and hidden by officialdom.

The excerpt chosen for the catalog addresses the performance of Mariela Brito in the piece Departures, by the company El Ciervo Encantado (The Enchanted Deer), which deals with Cuban emigration. “But beyond the stories told, others float like empty rafts, those who didn’t live to tell,” says the author of the article.

Although the excerpt from the review, included on page 69 of the catalog, does not contain direct political allusions or ideological messages, Mincult officials blamed the three employees for having allowed the name of this newspaper to appear in an official publication.

“The first thing that happened was that they brought us together and asked: ‘What is14ymedio doing in a Council publication? Why is it in the catalog, instead of promoting other authors who are within our institutional system and the recognized press in Cuba?’ ” explained Noel Bonilla on Monday by telephone to this newspaper.

Bonilla adds, “it is true that it was published in the wrong way, without consultation, not verified” and especially “in the haste with which the catalog was put together” and because of “the delays that occurred in the printing process.”

The Festival, which took place between October 20 and 29, had the support of the French Embassy in Cuba, the Goethe Institute, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway among other foreign entities.

Bonilla said in his Facebook account days ago that “after almost fifteen years” he ended his responsibility as head of CNAE, after committing an alleged error. He informed readers that “he will remain attentive” to the world of theater because he considers himself “a cultural agent committed to the poetic obsessions” of artists.

In this message on social networks, the promoter told “those artists or aspirants” who were waiting for their evaluations, not to worry because “I’m sure someone will ensure continuity very soon.”

“Who sows walls collects nothing and that dreadful nothing will lead them to failure, to oblivion, to the abyss,” he says.

In a telephone conversation with 14ymedio the promoter was more cautious and avoided confirming that he had been removed from his position. Bonilla said that “until this minute” he has not been told “any official information about being fired from my job,” but confirmed that it was required because of several errors of content in the festival catalog.

With a degree as a Professor and Instructor of Dance, Bonilla has worked as a dancer, choreographer and professor at the Higher Institute of Art (ISA) of Havana. Before the incident, he was in charge of overseeing the artists in their qualifying evaluations and overseeing the progress of their projects.

“He is very capable and has managed for several years to survive in a position that carries a lot of responsibility but where one can very quickly make a misstep,” says a young actress who has worked with Bonilla and who prefers anonymity. “Right now everyone is talking about the injustice they have done to him,” she adds.

In February of this year, Bonilla was awarded the French Republic’s Chevalier Medal of Arts and Letters for his “exceptional trajectory” in the universe of Cuban and French dance.

Coyula, a regular collaborator to 14ymedio, cannot get over her astonishment at what happened. When she learned that her article appeared in the catalog she believed that “the cultural authorities had become more inclusive or that maybe it was due to someone’s ignorance of someone.”

“What I never thought was that by including that excerpt they might fire these people from their positions,” laments Coyula, who for eight years has run the blog La Mala Letra (Bad Handwriting) with topics ranging from social stories to computer news.

This independent newspaper has been blocked from servers in Cuba since its foundation. To access the site, Cuban internet users frequently use anonymous proxies or read the articles through an emailed news service or in the PDF with a selection of the best of the week, which is distributed hand-to-hand.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.