14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 18 January 2023 — A rumor had been going around the Island since December of last year: the dean of the Universidad de las Artes (ISA) had been relieved of his duties. This euphemism is usually used in Cuba when referring to party hacks who are dismissed or dethroned. Many simply go on to occupy other positions. Some, if suspected of disloyalty, are condemned to the pajama plan. While the more fortunate ones, if well connected, tend to fall up.
December 12, 2022 was the last day the Universidad de las Artes’ Twitter account tagged José Ernesto Nováez Guerrero in its publications. The next day, in his place it began tagging Rolando Valentín Ortega Álvarez, who was the director of the Centro Nacional de Escuelas de Artes [National Center for Art Schools]. And just two days later, during a visit by the booed minister Alpidio Alonso to ISA, its tweets were already referring to Rolando Orgega as the dean of that institution. The discrete revelation occurred amid the celebration of Cultural Workers’ Day, while ISA was preparing its delegation to attend the Congress of the Federation of University Students (FEU).
There was no official announcement, nor a press release. There was no farewell in the State newspaper Granma, nor a brief notice of the new tenant occupying the highest seat of leadership. To this day, many professors and students continue to be unaware of the substitution. ISA changed the dean as if he were the subject of a Bad Bunny song, “Ella es callaíta” [She is quiet].
In August 2021, quite the opposite occurred. A month after the most significant social uprising in Cuba, with much fanfare the official media announced one of Iroel Sánchez’s disciples as the new dean of the Universidad de las Artes. Nováez Guerrero didn’t have the CV, nor the degrees, nor the required level of teaching experience for such responsibility. He did not have the slightest idea, but he didn’t need it. The young Taliban had posted on Facebook, “The streets belong to revolutionaries and communists. Homeland or death! The combat order is given.” And that, automatically, converted him into a master and doctor in the eyes of the dictatorship’s bureaucrats.
His assignment seemed to form part of Iroel Sanchez’s strategy to place his fandom in key positions within cultural institutions. The “Las Villas clan” took advantage of the social whirlwind to position their pawns on the chess board and accumulate power and influence, aware that the party had started. Díaz-Canel, more scared than Ceausescu and not knowing from where the shots would come, preferred to surround himself with those from his province (we know that regionalism in Cuba continues to be key to understanding political moves.) It didn’t matter much to him that his speech abused the word “science.” If they needed to place a novice like Nováez in a position that was too big for him, they’d just do it.
Furthermore, ISA was not just any university. Professors Anamely Ramos and Omara Ruiz Urquiola were from there. From its classrooms graduated Tania Bruguera and a certain playwright they prefer not to mention. The Universidad de las Artes had already been the scene of several hunger strikes, some which received media attention such as the “split pea soup” strike. ISA was playing a role similar to what the University of Havana had played in the past. It was imperative that they put out that flame before it spread uncontrollably to the rest of a sector so dangerous (and powerful) as the students.
His assignment was never well received by his students nor the professors. José Ernesto continued to be a little snob, well connected but lacking his own merit, a “moron.”
But Nováez lasted less time in that position than it takes a Master to obtain their diploma. The cushions in the dean’s office did not have time to adjust to the bottom of the brand new dean. What happened? Did his little poems not motivate those cloistered in the meetings? Did he not realize that corruption tends to run rampant in these institutions? Or did he clash with the big fish of other clans, such as Viceminister of Culture Kenelma Carvajal, the wife of Alex Castro Soto?
For now, Nováez the novice, will need to be statisfied with representing the Network of Cuban Artists and Intellectuals in Defense of Humanity, a network so obsolete it only serves to trap trolls in the southern seas.
Translated by: Silvia Suárez
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