Message to the Recruit who Watches Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara

You will tell me that I should have addressed this letter to those who imprisoned my friend and to those who resist releasing him. (Photomontage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 20 February 2022

Dear Luisma:

The last time we spoke on the phone, I suggested that you organize a gallery with your works under the title The Day After. I felt that you liked the idea, so I took advantage and said obliquely (as if I wasn’t implying that you should abandon your second hunger strike): “For that you need to survive.”

I have little to add now lest I hurt you, which is why I prefer, on day 93 of this diary, to address directly those who have you imprisoned.

Havana, Sunday, February 20, 2022

To the recruit Pérez

From the tall sentry box that you often occupy at a corner of the perimeter wall, you can see the beautiful landscape of a plain interrupted by timid hills. You carry a rifle. Your mission is to monitor and you are authorized to shoot anyone who leaves or enters without permission from that maximum security penitentiary.

For six months there has been an uncomfortable prisoner in the Guanajay jail. Your bosses have warned you that no one can talk to that man. Recently, a colleague of yours was interrogated and warned by military counter-intelligence because the brother of his girlfriend is an independent journalist. They found out from a photo that the girl uploaded to her Facebook profile.

In those fantasies that arise from boredom during your shifts on guard duty, you have imagined that a commando is advancing along the road that intends to rescue the accursed prisoner; sometimes they are Yankee marines with their war paraphernalia, other times a gang of criminals and sometimes you imagine that what is coming is a motley group of “very strange people,” as you have been warned that they are the friends of the abominated prisoner.

You have the impression that Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is not an artist, among other things because you have never seen him on television nor did they tell you about him at school. You identify him as a dangerous man, very dangerous, endowed with a super power that not even an Xman has, consisting of persuading people who approach him.

If you had read El Perfume, a novel written in 1984 by Patrick Süskind, perhaps you would compare the power of Luisma, as his friends call him, with that possessed by Jean Baptiste Grenouille, who turned those who wanted to celebrate his execution in a public square into participants in a massive orgy.

But that character was evil and killed to magnify his power. Your prisoner captivates with his kindness.

Nobody is going to rescue that prisoner in a suicidal action. The people who would give their lives for him are dancers, painters, sculptors, poets, musicians, journalists, art curators, poster designers. They would give their lives for him, but they are not capable of killing anyone. That makes them rare.

The bullets from your rifle are useless against what these people shoot.


You will tell me that I should have addressed this letter to those who imprisoned my friend and to those who are resisting his release, but in that case I would be tempted to insult very powerful people and that is a crime in Cuba.

#DiarioParaLuisma día 93


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