Open Letter to El Sexto / Angel Santiesteban

“This too shall pass.” Photo courtesy of Lia Vallares

Havana, May 28, 2015

Dear brother in the arts and in the fight, Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto):

I received with joy the news that you were honored for your creative dissent by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) with the important 2015 Vaclav Havel Prize.

I was excited for three reasons: first, you’re a Cuban artist; second, you maintain a dissenting attitude, both in your artwork and your social activism; and third, you find yourself serving an unjust imprisonment.

Photo courtesy of Lia Villares

After several attempts to arrest you, in that stubborn resolve of the dictatorship to silence those of us who express ourselves freely, they did it while you were traveling in a taxi carrying two live pigs, each painted green, on which you had written in red letters two names too important for the repressors: “Fidel” on the body of one and “Raul” on the other.

Like you I could not foresee the maneuver that they would finally get me with, after several tries and four years of cooking up the alleged crime of gender-based violence that they hung on me. They had also tried that with you because they know the general rejection that sex abuse produces and by that method they seek to torpedo international solidarity toward those who think differently on this island. International public opinion is their main objective, knowing that they won’t have problems with native artists: most will abide by the ruling order. In the end, two pigs were the excuse to lock you up.

I guess the dictator should take pleasure knowing you are now behind bars. But the same thing will happen as in my case: never before has our creative work been so free and fruitful and profound.

I also recently learned that when the award was received on your behalf by the artist and dissident Lia Villares, she announced your decision to dedicate the award to our worthy Ladies in White and to me, a gesture for which I humbly thank you.

Your solidarity, at a time when you suffer unjust imprisonment as much as I do, doubly fills me with pride because, besides in dedicating it to me you have placed my name beside those worthy women who seek justice relentlessly, despite the beatings and arrests they suffer Sunday after Sunday, without which their forces would fade and their demands, through repetition, would lose a bit of humanism and justice.

The totalitarian regime does not worry that the world checks on its injustices, nor care that it appears ridiculous before international human rights organizations, because they are dictators, unfortunately. Understanding their dictatorial and inhuman essence helps us explain and then project into our works art all their aberrations.

I know your human worth and your courage in facing the black bird that has perched over your life seeking to trample your rights. I pray for you every day, that your heart will not wilt as you experience firsthand the abuse and humiliation that men who suffer captivity are subjected to in this country, and I hope that, on the contrary, you will be filled with hope and your work will be nourished with justice and humanity. May God protect you.

Take care of yourself and receive the brotherly embrace of Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

May 28, 2015

Border Unit Prison, Havana