Yunior García’s Uncomfortable Questions / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 3 February 2016 – In a recent interview, the young playwright and actor Yunior García Aguilera affirmed that he was “dissatisfied with everything.” A finalist for the Virgilio Piñera Prize for his work Sangre (Blood), and highly praised by critics for his piece Semen (Semen), this graduate of the National School of Art and the Superior Institute of Art (ISA) is now becoming a creative force in contemporary Cuban theater.

Aguilera lived several years in Havana during his studies and also lived some years in London where he worked with the Royal Court Theatre. Now he is back in Holguin, his birthplace, where he writes and directs for the Trébol Teatro (Clover Theater). He has had the good fortune of having some ten of his scripts staged by Cuban and foreign groups, including pieces such as Dancing Without Masks, All Men Are Equal, Shut Your Mouth and Blood.

However, right now the news of the young playwright comes not so much for his vocation in the theater but for his reputation for dissent. In an audio recording, which has already spread through the unexpected path of flash memories, he is heard to formulate some fifteen questions on which he reflects, in the style of The Silly Age, on the reality “of Cuba, of the country where we live.”

The context is a recent meeting of the Saíz Brothers Association (AHS) in Holguin, where the first secretary of the provincial Communist Party, Luis Antonio Torres Iribar, was present.

In his first question he tries to understand why the Roundtable television show doesn’t dedicate one day to “analyzing the rights Cubans have gained with Raul Castro: buying and selling houses and cars, acquiring cellphones, the internet, traveling abroad without an exit permit, and staying in a hotel. Rights that, he emphasizes, “we did not have under Fidel.”

Before posing his questions, García offers an introduction in which he praises the AHS in his speech, however he did not avoid questions about its management of funds for arts promotion in the province. “Why are some local leaders neglecting to budget to protect the culture and others are neglecting culture to protect the budget?” he asks.

The question brings up Iríbar’s name, because, as he notes, the leader was in the resort town of Varadero at the precise moment that Holguin was suffering its worst ever epidemiological situation, with several confirmed cases of cholera and dengue fever. Citizens themselves joked about the idea that the leader would be “first secretary for Matanzas,” the province where Varadero is located.

At minute three of his speech, García puts aside the issue of Iríbar and tries to clarify Cuban law in comparison with that of the United States. “Why in the national media do we criticize Arizona’s anti-immigrant laws, if we ‘Palestinians’ [as Cubans call Cubans from outside Havana] need a residence permit or temporary residence permit to work in Havana?”

García moves beyond the personal, social and cultural and also touches on the political through a simple, and long-standing, question to which no one has a convincing answer: “Why do we criticize a hegemonic world if in Cuba we live with the hegemony of a single party?”

Corruption is not immune from García’s review, as he wonders why not legalize it and force the corrupt who run the cultural institutions — “we all know who they are” — to pay taxes on what they steal.

“Why do we have the case of Juan Carlos Cremata when we thought that censorship had disappeared from the Cuban theater?” or “Why, when the GDP* grows every year, does the budget for culture get smaller?” are some of the uncomfortable questions that the playwright keeps firing.

*Translator’s note: Official government statistics show the Cuban economy on an ever upward trajectory…

Apologies to readers that the video is not translated and subtitled.