A Decree That’s Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be / Fernando Damaso

Máscara [Mask].  Work by Rebeca Monzó, Havana.
Fernando Damaso, 16 December 2018  — Decree 349, which concerns regulations governing the broadcast, exhibition and promotion of artistic products, has created much concern among creators. The problem is not about “the enemies” making propaganda against it, but rather the real danger that the decree represents.

The danger consists in that, under its shelter, the authorities could establish censorship over what is authorized, as well as over the strict political/ideological criteria used–in place of intrinsic value–by those who evaluate artistic products.

This is not a new phenomenon and it has, in our country, its closest antecedent in the sadly known “grey decade,” during which the cultural bureaucrats of the National Cultural Council approved or disapproved creations, taking into account the creators’ militancy, or lack thereof.

The phenomenon had already been manifested before in the now-extinct USSR and other socialist countries, when everything new and innovative was persecuted and prohibited, shielded by the supposed defense of the socially convenient. Further back, it had emerged when the so-called “academies” refused the works of the Impressionists, Cubists, abstractionists and modernists in the fine arts, and the new tendencies in music and dance.

In other words, the concern is valid.

I ask myself, who are the “superfunctionaries of culture” selected to determine the good and the bad, and what should be authorized or prohibited? I don’t believe they exist.

To date, just as has occurred in the economic sector, I only know bureaucrats who strictly comply with the orders from the powers that be in defense of their political/ideological interests–which are not necessarily those of the majority of the citizens. Besides, we Cubans tend, by custom, to hold back or overdo it–more often the latter than the former.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison