The Mask, a New Political Battlefield

Masks like this one, designed by Rebeca Monzó, are not allowed in state workplaces and schools. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 23 October 2020 — That piece of cloth that for months we have been forced to wear over our faces threatens to become a new political battlefield. The mask has already entered the radar of the censors, who are beginning to want to dictate rules about the design, the artwork or the message they convey.

In recent months, this new apparel, which everything points to will be with us for a long time, has undergone a process of individualization and adjustment among those who want to wear more than just a piece of fabric over their mouth and nose. In search of difference and to make the most of it aesthetically, different models appear every day, which may or may not comply with health standards.

Masks with flags, sequins, family shields, hilarious mouths and scary fangs… all that and more is seen in the streets. But as state workplaces have restarted their working hours and schools in several provinces reopened their classrooms, masks have run into the same official restrictions that limit other pieces of clothing.

Several friends and acquaintances have told me that at their companies they are already beginning to hear the commands, warning they they will not allow facemasks with foreign flags, especially the United States, or with written messages of any kind, or with political images, criticisms of the Cuban regime, or erotic content.

In a society where the scissors of censorship have tried to cut back everything from the length of male students’ hair to the way pants or blouses fit, masks are the new piece that must be tamed. “We are not going to allow you to come with an offensive poster on your face,” an administrator told a young worker from the Cultural Property Fund who wrote the word “change” across his.

“Those red bars and those little stars cannot be brought into this classroom,” reproached the Holguin teacher who teaches a friend’s daughter. She questioned where she was going to get another facemask, since the one she was wearing was the only one she had been able to obtain on her own. The teacher shook her head from side to side in response, and the woman insisted: “Who said that this is part of the uniform? Are you going to distribute some olive green?”

The pulse is just beginning. Let’s not rule out that in a few weeks a clear list will come out with the designs or motifs allowed on the masks, and which others are outright banned. A country of prohibitions.

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