"It’s Incredibly Important That We All Speak Up, Even if We Are Afraid Afterwards"

The artist has decided to denounce José Luis Cortés, who was her partner, after receiving a threatening message on revealing the alleged abuses to which she was subjected. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 25 June 2019 — The public accusation made by the singer Dianelys Alfonso, known as La Diosa de Cuba (The Goddess of Cuba), against the musician José Luis Cortés El Tosco, for alleged verbal, physical and sexual abuse at the time when the young woman was a singer in his orchestra, has unleashed the Cuban #MeToo movement. On Friday, 14 June, the artist revealed the alleged mistreatment suffered during five years on Alexander Otaola’s program and, since then, the reaction on social networks has multiplied and put sexist violence at the center of the national public debate.

#MetooEnCuba, #NoEstasSola (You Are Not Alone) and #DiosaYoSíTeCreo (Diosa I Do Believe You) are supportive hashtags many Internet users have used to show solidarity with the artist, whom many others have doubted and disbelieved.

A week after opening up about the alleged abuses, La Diosa decided to file a complaint against José Luis Cortés for threats. According to the artist in conversation with 14ymedio, the musician sent a message with the phrase: “There will be consequences.”

The police declined to pursue her complaint and the singer had to resort to a prosecutor, with whose intervention she was able to present the complaint. “They told me that I could not do it, that they could not receive the complaint because, to them, the message was not a threat,” she says.

The singer regrets that official organizations have not offered her any help. “I have not received support from anyone. I went to seek help from an association of gender violence (The Feminist Assembly), I went desperately to seek help from them, I discovered it through a friend. What I’m going through is very difficult because I have had no one concerned about my situation, to know how I feel, right now I am very afraid, for many reasons, not only what José Luis Cortés can do to me, but also that justice is not done in this country and that things do not go well.”

La Diosa also denounces pressures in the workplace and says that she has heard rumors of attempts to expel her from the state music company she belongs to. “If they expel me from the Cuban Rap Agency they put an end to my life, because the only thing I can do is sing, this scares me,” she explains.

For Alfonso, one of the hardest things about making public her past experience is that many have doubted her or questioned her reasons for bringing it to light after so long.

“Many people are asking the same questions. For three days I didn’t know what to do about the situation until, little by little, visiting a women’s association, they explained to me that this is a normal process. But it really affected me a lot, the response of so many people demanding that I shut up and asking me why now. Little by little I was showing the evidence and some began to believe my story and they apologized for not having believed me. It was very difficult for me to see that, after having had the courage to speak out, there were people who did not believe me, it was devastating,” she laments.

Nor has it been easy, she says, to see how many of the people who, according to her testimony, witnessed the events she denounces, have now turned their backs on her out of fear. “Today, the campaign that is being supported is what keeps me going, those people who have used the phrase #YoSíTeCreoDiosa have helped me keep going after that day,” she says with relief.

Alfonso agrees that the Cuban artistic scene is very permissive about abuses and that is why she has decided to make her story public. “I have allowed it to be publicized on social networks of all kinds because it is the only thing that protects me here. I do not think Cuba will change because, unfortunately, the laws are not strong,” she said.

The artist believes that on the Island a woman can not get ahead in the world of music without the support of a man or a producer. “It took me five years after I repatriated, I returned to my country without any help from any kind of media, television, radio, anything, and the answer is in my past, that I never spoke about it. I did not talk about it anymore, I tried to think that I had forgotten it, but life wanted this to happen.”

Dianelys Alfonso started out with almost 20 years of working with NG La Banda, the orchestra led by Cortés, winner of the National Music Award in 2017. “I was very young and the worst thing that can happen to a young girl is coming from being a healthy person, leading a quiet life, with super-educated parents and ending up in the hands of someone who beats you… It’s something I do not wish on any girl.”

Alfonso, who was the musician’s partner for a while, is now about to file a complaint against him also for the “physical abuse” she experienced in those years and she already has a lawyer.

After what she has been experiencing in recent days, Alfonso has a message for Cuban women who are living in a situation of abuse. “I tell them to not remain silent, to speak up, for all of us to shout to stop this situation, because if we remain silent we continue to be victims until the last days of our lives. This leaves us with many consequences, scars that we never forget. It is very important that we all talk, that we go out and denounce it, it is very important, even if we are afraid afterwards.”

This kind of controversy is not new for El Tosco. Recently his name was linked with a video by the artist Michel Mirabal in which the painter appeared “playing on” the buttocks of several women as if they were percussion instruments. The audiovisual was denounced by dozens of Internet users and ultimately Mirabal withdrew it from the social network.

Mirabal defended himself saying that the project was not finished and added that he was organizing a “live concert” with Cuban music figures such as El Tosco and the producer Maikel Barzaga. “I was sitting quietly in my house and a stellar man of the arts called me to participate in a global project… Michel takes the sound to the buttocks of women whose faces we do not see,” said Cortés himself.

Ultimately Mirabal apologized to those who “felt attacked” and published several photos of himself with his daughter.


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