Cuba Culture in Times of Prohibitions

Daisy Valera

HAVANA TIMES, Dec 10 — On Saturday, November 26, for the first time in my life I stepped onto the streets of San Antonio de los Baños, a town about 20 miles from Havana.

A billboard with the image of the old 1930’s cartoon character El bobo de Abela (“the village idiot”) seems to welcome those who stand around at the town square transport stop after getting out of a private truck (apparently the most effective means of transportation to and from the capital).

I appreciated the encounter with the caricature and the memory of those past years of struggle against one of our tyrants*.

A place called “El Paso del Soldado” was the meeting point of several community activists in San Antonio. This was where they had planned to hold the first “ArtEco” (Art, Ecology and Community) cultural festival throughout that day.

But the festival didn’t take place, despite its having been coordinated for a month with the Casa de Cultura of the municipality and being included in that cultural center’s plan of activities.

Posters advertising the event in the park were taken down at the behest of higher authorities, those who did so told the neighbors.

The organizers, the “La Rueda Collective,” were unable to set up the street fair or have participatory games for children. Nor were there any of the exhibitions of art or poetry that had been prepared with so much work.

The grounds were left without anyone cooking up a drum of caldosa (soup).

The festival had aimed to put on a big concert with a variety of musical styles: rap, rock, trova, and others. The city was left only with the hope that some reggaeton group might show up the next weekend.

What justification did the city’s officials have for canceling a cultural activity created by the community?

Who gave the order?

Finally, the person who accepted responsibility was identified as being Jesus Ranos Dorado (the municipal director of Culture of San Antonio).

The festival was supposedly canceled out of misunderstandings. Apparently those people in charge of culture in the city didn’t understand that was is a performance or a public forum. Nor did they believe the young members of La Rueda had the authority to set up a booth where people could exchange used clothing and toys.

The organizers were called on the carpet — as we say around here — and asked what they meant by a sign reading “Support Your Community, Be a Part of Change.”

The authorities acted as if it wasn’t clear the La Rueda Collective was seeking to raise the issue of the ecological disaster that threatens the city and the Ariguanabo River, and address insufficient variety of cultural alternatives.

The culture center withdrew its authorization and the loan of the audio equipment. The activity therefore couldn’t get underway and the guest artists simply went back to their homes.

On December 4, singer-song writer Silvio Rodriguez performed in this city of his birth, and he wants cultural development in that community run smoothly.

We know this because of his response to a letter that Marfrey Cruz Medina (a La Rueda activist) sent to Silvio’s blog, “Segunda Cita” explaining the facts.

The troubadour, too accustomed to flattery, accuses Marfrey of wanting to use his name and replies that La Rueda should communicate whatever activity they propose to the agencies in the community.

However the troubadour avoids some important issues.

First: Aren’t rancid bureaucrats the ones who manage culture activities in San Antonio?

Second: Does one need authorization from superiors to put on a festival?

Unfortunately the answers, which are obvious, are not so apparent to some people.

Despite the accusations of the singer, the prohibitions and lack of support from those who represent the Ministry of Culture in San Antonio, the La Rueda activists are trying to continue their forward movement to provide the city with the ecological culture and entertainment that it deserves.

* Gerardo Machado y Morales (May 1925 – August 1933)

Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

Daisy Valera has 208 posts and counting. See all posts by Daisy Valera

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