Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 5 February 2018 — I recently read Tania Bruguera’s statements about an artist’s rights. One of them referred to the artist’s right to dissent.
Within an authoritarian system, the artist begins to live a double dissidence, first in art, then in society.
Having your own voice is always grounds for suspicion among members of your artistic community, but when it’s the Government who has the last world with regard to a phenomenon which only concerns art, like deciding who is a revolutionary and who isn’t, then this does put us in a delicate position.
The two times I invited my closest colleagues to the alternative venue: “Casa Galería El Círculo,” (led by artists and activists Luis Trapaga and Lia Villares), some have told me: “I don’t go to those places.” Others have just respond with silence or stop calling you. And if worst comes to the worst, they repudiate you.
There were actors, theater directors and filmmakers among those I had invited to watch my play “Enemies of the People.”
After the scandal (produced by the presence of State Security forces and police at the home/gallery’s doors, saying that it was a counter-revolutionary play), an actor I had invited, who ironically also makes theater at his home, called me to say that: “He felt used by me.”
He was quite frankly terrified when he saw himself in a video that the house’s owners and a journalist had decided to film, as their only form of defense and way to denounce this injustice.
Plus, this actor is someone who has strong opinions about Cuban reality, who I had always had an open and straight-to-the-point dialogue with before the event. I even told him that something similar had happened at this same place when the documentary Nadie was scheduled to be screened, which the creator, filmmaker and theater director Miguel Coyula, couldn’t even attend.
Even so, he had a scornful attitude towards me: “I feel used.”
What do these words mean in our context? If a lie is repeated enough times, it becomes the truth. Fidel Castro transformed the Cuban people into an army, whose soldiers didn’t fight against an enemy, but fight each other instead, while he took all of the glory.
The subtext that lies between the lines of this phrase: “They’re using you” is “Let me be the only one to use you.” Thus, artists who are condemning or approving slander campaigns against their colleagues, who are being persecuted for defending the right to make political art, become pawns in a game of established power which isn’t only being played by arts institutions, but by the Cuban government itself.
“Enemies of the People” deals with an event that continues to go unpunished today: the sinking of the 13 de marzo tugboat on July 13, 1994.
Back then, Castro condemned the US Government instead of the captains of the attacking boats (encouraged by him even?), the real ones responsible for the genocidal event which caused half of those on board to die from drowning, including children. However, survivors’ testimonies are pristine proof of the event.
However, Article 3 of the Cuban Constitution states: “In the Republic of Cuba, the sovereignty resides in the people, from whom all of the power of the State emanates….” it goes on to say: “All citizens have the right to fight, using all means, including armed struggle, when no other recourse is possible, against anyone attempting to overthrow the political, social, and economic order established by this Constitution”… and ends by saying: “Cuba shall never return to capitalism.”
This explains why the people responsible for the sinking were labeled “heroes” and haven’t been sentenced to this very day. We mustn’t forget that the brains behind this system were the brains of a lawyer.
Note: English translation from the Havana Times which also published the original in Spanish.