“That day, like the kids, I went out to play,” says El Sexto / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto) after his release. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 27 January 2017 — Since late last November Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, has lived a nightmare. He passed from one police station to another until he reached the dreaded Combinado del Este jail in Havana. His crime: to write on several walls a graffiti that read “He left,” a few hours after the death of former President Fidel Castro.

Last Saturday the street artist was released. A few hours after chatting with 14ymedio, on Thursday, the Office Immigration and Aliens renewed his passport and announced that he could leave the country. This Friday, El Sexto traveled to Miami in the company of his romantic partner.

14ymedio. How did the news of the death of Fidel Castro hit you?

El Sexto. That day they woke me up with the news and I could not believe it. The musician Gorki Aguila called me first, then other friends and then my sister who told me, “Hey, Fidel died, really.”

I dressed and, like the children, I went out to play. First I painted on a wall of a bodega in the corner of 23 and F, and also in other places until I arrived at the Habana Libre Hotel where a person who was connected to the Wi-Fi zone transmitted it live by Facebook. From then, the moment I made a graffiti with the phrase “He left” on the wall, spread.

Soon I went to my house, it was almost dawn and everything was very quiet. When I was lying down, the police opened the door of the room and took me by force. They beat me and threw me into their patrol car.

The did not give me any explanation during the arrest

14ymedio. Did they ever explain the reason for the arrest?

El Sexto. They did not give me any explanation during the arrest and they moved me to a unit in La Lisa, then to Guanabacoa, where they took my phone, which has not yet reappeared. There they talked to me about a crime of “damages. They then took me to the Zapata and C station, and later to Vivac. From there to the prison in Valle Grande where on the weekend of December 10, Human Rights Day, they put me in an isolation cell.

Then came Combinado del Este, where they received me with blows. They practically hanged me and took all the civilian clothes I had. I was forced to wear prison clothes.

14ymedio. Did you have any special surveillance in jail?

El Sexto. Every time I spoke on the phone, I was monitored. A re-educator told me they would release me soon, but I realized that it was to keep me calm and silent.

The children need see other beautiful things, different from what they see in that dogma with which they learn to read

14ymedio. How did the other prisoners react?

El Sexto. They showed incredible solidarity. I painted a lot and tried to get my drawings out of the jail. It was also good to know that so many people were watching my case. In particular, I want to thank Yulier Rodríguez, the graffiti artist, who was aware of my situation.

14ymedio. What plans do you have for now that you are back on the street?

El Sexto. The most immediate thing is to do everything to be able see my daughter. In addition, I want to compile some of the drawings I did in prison and make a book with those short texts and illustrations. The children need to see other beautiful things, different from what they see in that dogma with which they learn to read.