Though I’m a writer, I can’t enter the Cuban Book Institute, located in the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, without leaving my ID at the door and picking up a pass. However, if I were a foreigner, I’d have free access to not only walk around without anyone wondering where I was going. Moreover, I’d also be able take pictures of the beautiful home which the Institute serves as.
Since I’m Cuban, I’m not allowed to snap pictures of my compatriots who choose to make their living offering themselves in the street (by telling fortunes, demonstrating the abilities of their pets or simply posing with a cigar in their mouth and a red flower in their hair).
Some cover their faces with fans while others argue with me telling me I can’t take their pictures if I don’t pay them. That was the case of the gentleman who makes his three dachshunds —dressed as people— sit or stand (according to his whim).
On Saturday I experienced another similar episode. I was going through a House Museum along with a French delegation. I had arrived before them and at once the attendant alerted me that I couldn’t take pictures there. Conforming to the rule, I put my camera away.
When I was going to leave I saw that the foreigners, cameras in hand, had taken photos of everything that had happened to them – yet but no one called their attention. I then asked myself whether it could have been that in the other room, where they told me not to take pictures, there may have been objects that shouldn’t be photographed. It seemed to me that here in this room there weren’t any of those problems, so I took out the camera.
Barely giving me time to switch it on, a custodian approached me quickly to inform me (nicely) that I couldn’t. I replied, “But everybody else is taking pictures, why can’t I?” However, the comrade kindly said, “Yes, but they paid a baro…, which is to say, they paid money.
The House Museum promotes the culture of my country, those asking to take pictures of others in the streets are Cubans like me, and the Book Institute should be a home for all Cuban writers. So what’s happening? Why don’t I get it? Does being Cuban restrict me? Who can explain this to me?