HAVANA TIMES – Ever since the first time I was summoned to meet with two State Security agents, two months ago now, I promised myself that I wouldn’t disclose anything we talked about during that meeting, and that I would ignore everything they told me about what I shouldn’t be doing. They asked me not to publish anything on my social media, and that’s exactly what I did.
But, on Sunday December 2nd, I was once again summoned to go to the Police Station located on 31st Avenue, between 108 and 110 Streets in Marianao; by the way, the subpoena didn’t come with a stamp, so I could have refused to have gone, but I didn’t.
During the course of these past two weeks, I haven’t been able to stop thinking that it might not be proper of me to remain quiet in the face of something that (I believe) violates my rights as a Cuban citizen who hasn’t committed a crime.
I was summoned this time because of my involvement, along with a group of artists, in a campaign against Decree 349 (which criminalizes independent art). We had decided to hold a sit-in in front of the Ministry of Culture, where we would peacefully read poetry, stories, put on performances, do exercise, yoga, and other artistic displays.
According to the State Security agent, an event like this went against regulations established by cultural institutions because it didn’t have an official license, so it would be illegal, but they weren’t sure it would really happen.
I explained to them that we were thinking about doing something like this so as to catch the government’s attention somehow so they would take our demands into account, which the minister and vice-minister of Culture had ignored up until then.
I have repeated (on many different occasions) that I have (and that we all have) the right to protest against Decree 349 which affects me as an experiential artist who hasn’t gone to an art school and doesn’t belong to any state organization, because I would need to have a high school diploma to do this in the first place and I don’t. The captain of State Security agreed with me on some of the points we discussed, but he made it clear that none of this was in his hands.
Another thing that has motivated me to write this article is the fear that the State Security agent’s threatening demeanor stirred in me. They concentrated on asking me whether I knew what a jail cell was like this time, to which I answered I did, that I do know what it is like. But, I didn’t explain to him that I know because in the ‘90s, in the middle of the Special Period crisis, I used to dress up as a woman to go out and so I was detained several times along with other girls, and we were locked up in a cell all night until they released us in the morning when the sun came up because they could humiliate us this way, for everyone knows that day-time is the worst for transvestites as streets are buzzing with people and we are an easy target for all kinds of mockery and attacks.
They used to give us a 50-peso fine every time they stuck us in a jail cell, many of which my dad paid off who never really knew why I was given them as I always found a way to make something up which he believed.
Thus, with accumulated experience, I can perfectly spend the night in a jail cell, or however long they want, even though they are violating my rights, even more so, when I believe myself to be an impeccable citizen and I don’t support anything that will directly affect my country.
Just for the record, I don’t have anything against the Cuban agents who “attend” to me, they are doing their job and I guess somebody is telling them how they should treat me, although they are acting in bad faith when they intimidate me and fine me, or worse yet, ask me what would happen to my mother if I wasn’t there, a threat which couldn’t be clearer.
It’s unacceptable that they are writing me a warning letter for public scandal, when I have never caused a public scandal. Besides, they don’t give me a copy of this warning letter so I have a record of what I am being subjected to. I have been looking into this and from what I understand, if I get three warning letters, I could be processed as a danger to society, and this could lead to some years of unfair jail time.
It’s obvious I can’t sit with my arms crossed, and may my fellow Cuban, the agent, forgive me for I know he is doing his best to help me, because he himself has told me that he isn’t interested in ruining me, but he has to understand that I can’t just sit here like a docile duck, because what they are doing, and have done, isn’t a revolutionary procedure at all in my opinion.
The day after my interview, even after I signed a warning letter in which they made me promise not to commit a public scandal, they made my neighborhood CDR representative go to my house so he could warn me not to leave my neighborhood, and then they planted two State Security agents nearby, as if I were a terrorist. I couldn’t even go out and buy some food because I was afraid they would do something to me.
I’m not a criminal, I have never committed a crime, I don’t take any kinds of drugs, I don’t traffic drugs, I’ve never done illegal business, not now or in the 19 years worked for the State. I have never stolen because I had excellent parents who taught me that human beings must be honest in every way.
This second “interview” has left me with a slightly confused image of the Cuban government… They are asking me not to meet with people like Yanelys Nunez Leyva and Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara [promoters of the anti-Decree 349 campaign] any more, they act as if they own me, now they are the ones exercising their power over me and deciding who can’t be my friend. Is that even legal?
I am, and we are, independent artists, every one of us thinks and believes in what we want. We have to respect each other, thinking differently can’t turn us into enemies. We are artists, they need to understand that we only want good things, nothing bad.
I can see in the way they operate that they aren’t far off from being like Batista’s henchmen. They need to take a close look at how they are exercising their power, and make certain comparisons so they see that I am not wrong in my interpretation.
I would like them to know that we are living in the 21st century and everything changes, like their own procedures need to change, and their backward way of thinking, that is if they want the Revolution to remain intact and spotless. Violence doesn’t ever lead to anything good, much less when it is used against artists, that is a serious mistake that moves them away from their real function.
Yes, I write for Havana Times, it’s true, and I have published my stories on Diario de Cuba, but I do this because I am free to write for whatever platform I choose to write for. This is where I have my blog, it’s an opportunity that no official Cuban media outlet will give me and I sense this is why I wasn’t accepted to be a member of UNEAC, when I had enough experience to become a member.
I have always tried to publish my stories in Cuban magazines and I have been ignored and never even received a response as to why they don’t publish me. I don’t waste my time on sending them to national competitions either because as well as being against the way works are selected, I am seen as a dissident and so I have no place in this society.
Let me clarify that I don’t keep tabs on or am even interested in where money comes from for any alternative media platform, and I don’t care who finances them because I’m just a simple writer, and that’s all I do. Similarly, if I send my work to international competitions, I’m not the only participant, and if I do win a literary prize and win a certain sum of money as a result, well I have to make a living somehow and whatever I earn stays in Cuba at the end of the day; eggs, chicken, rice and croquettes are the only things I spend my money on, I can’t even give myself the luxury of eating lobster.
I also believe that them telling me that I am doing something wrong by publishing artistic photos against Decree 349 on my Facebook page, is a violation of my rights. I mean I don’t want to be rhetorical, but I’ve already said it so many times… I’m against this damned Decree, I have a right to protest, it isn’t illegal, and I am also a visual artist so this is my way of fighting for what I believe attacks my civil rights; I don’t use patriotic symbols in my photos, there aren’t even other people in them, it’s just me against the Decree.
Let’s see what happens to me after this article is published. For now, my only intention is to let them know that anything is possible, even more so when we don’t see eye to eye, less so when the captain of State Security tells me that he doesn’t know what this business is of independent artists is about, that this doesn’t exist anywhere in the world, that all artists need to be institutionalized…