The Cuban Museum of Dissent, a First Encounter

Yanelys Nunez Leyva

Museo de la disidencia en Cuba

HAVANA TIMES — I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to write this article. Perhaps because I’ve had too many emotions running through my mind recently: anger, anxiety, disappointment, discomfort. Feelings which haven’t allowed me to reflect calmly upon the situation.

However, I’ll try and narrate the events in the most self-controlled way I can.

It’s been a few months now that I’ve been taking part, alongside Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, in creating a work of art titled: “The Cuban Museum of Dissent”. Our idea is to develop an online platform which features under the same title of “dissident”, patriotic leaders, leading figures in Cuban History, who have in some way rebelled against the political doctrines established by those in power.

The museum acts as an archive but also as a space for dialogue, where different political standpoints can be exchanged as there is also a blog where people can debate, write comments and make observations about this subject.

My role within this project is to coordinate tasks relating to another of its branches, the Museum of Politically Uncomfortable Art, where we have produced a historical overview using artist biographies and events which have or do express an attitude of dissent in the face of established Power, not only governmental, but also against Art’s own system.

As the Museum covers a broad range of topics, we aim to work with different contributors who will be responsible for researching in depth the many manifestations of dissent we are interested in.

Although we must highlight that currently, to give you a basic idea of what this project is in its early stages, the information found on the page comes from Wikipedia or our national equivalent Ecured, as they are the primary sources of most young Cuban people have to look for information offline, since as you know, we’re disconnected from the Internet.

We wanted to use the concept “Museum” because it’s a validating space which gives root to and freezes different processes in time and space.

The museum was premiered in El Ranchito del Matadero, in Madrid, Spain, where Luis Manuel was an artist in residence in February, as part of the Artist for Artist program, created by the Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa’s studio.

When he returned to Cuba, we gave an online interview to Cubanet where we voiced our general opinions about this project.

And it seems that that’s when all my problems began.

About two weeks ago, the editor of the official newspaper Noticias de Artecubano told me that, under the orders of her superior, Isabel Perez, two articles I’d written and which were ready to go to print, wouldn’t be published. Why? Because I was connected to the Cuban Museum of Dissent.

Then, around about the same time, at the Revolution and Culture magazine (my workplace), they told me that I should quit work for the same reason. And that if I didn’t agree with that, they would put into effect a resolution categorizing me as an “untrustworthy employee” and that this would kick me out of the center.

“Dishonored” and stuck in a corner, I told them to apply their mysterious resolution which I now await.

Some of my friends support my reaction and tell me that I need to fight, to defend myself. Others tell me the opposite. They tell me that I’m not thinking about my future and ask me why I’m walking down a narrow path. Not publishing in specialized official magazines anymore and leaving an art gallery where I could establish myself as a Cuban curator are some of the arguments they use to point out my mistaken position.

However, I believe that art has the power to change things. If we are able to plant even a tiny seed with this project, then everything else ceases to make sense. It’s not a question about burning your bridges but about creating change and not just dreaming about it. With this museum, we hope to break down orthodox views which aren’t leading us to any positive progress, and we’re demanding, from all sides, for a project which will build a prosperous Cuba.

MDC (Promo) from havanatimes on Vimeo.

14 thoughts on “The Cuban Museum of Dissent, a First Encounter

  • You obviously don’t know any Cubans…lol. It is interesting that the regime always, and without exception, labels those who dissent as trying to “subvert” the revolution.

    …and Norma, Women in white, marching peacefully through Havana, carrying nothing more dangerous that a Gladiola, are not subversives, they are peaceful dissenters, something I would have thought you would understand.

  • The ‘dissent’ you talk about is the continual effort by Cuban people in Cuba, usually in contact with U.S. subversion, to overthrow the people’s revolution. In fact, however, people in Cuba regularly demonstrate and meet over issues about which they dissent, adding them to the electoral organizing – which has been almost constant – as a place to develop the revolution, not to work against it.
    Traitors – who plot to bomb planes, etc – are not dissenters.
    And as we all know, Cuba cannot tolerate organized efforts to overthrow its hard won victory, efforts participated in by U.S. infiltrators, people much like the Cuban Five except that the anti-Cubans work to build overthrow of Cuba;s government; the Cuban Five attempted to keep up with – find out – the endless plots in the U.S. to help that effort.


    Cuba’s MININT is an institutionalized expression of Fidel Castro’s florid narcissistic personality disorder. He’s driven to know what anybody is saying about him.

  • Monotony is a way of life for a very high percentage of Cubans. But how I wish I could sit down and enjoy one of those grilled steaks with you. When I go to Cuba I always have two suitcases as I take household requirements, but when the weight is approaching 50 lbs, I use nice super soft toilet rolls as fillers. As you also probably know, all cases entering Cuba are subjected to X-ray examination prior to reaching the roundel, where those nice mutts earn their living by sniffing. That incidentally is where I have witnessed co-operation between Canada and Cuba, as at Toronto the Ontario police sometimes use sniffer dogs in the passages leading to the plane, a good idea!

  • What a boring job!

  • I agree. Some government minion is reading this very comment. Message to minion: my household has a closet full of super soft 4-ply toilet paper. My kids drink real milk like I have a cow in my backyard and just because I can, I am going to grill some steaks tonight. Viva la revolución!

  • In all seriousness, you are correct. When I began dating my wife, she was formally interviewed by a MININT Coronel. Talk about putting a chill on the courtship! For my part, I was oddly befriended by a Cuban guy who wore plaid shirts and spoke great English. He told me he had lived in Texas for 10 years. He wanted to know all about my family in the US and what schools I had attended, etc. Actually, his approach was pretty ham-handed but I didn’t dare rebuff him. All of my other close Cuban friends were approached as well. The good news is that when I first arrived in Cuba, I was fairly naive and open-minded. It was only after living there a long while that I grew to oppose the Castros. By that time I had already been vetted and I had learned when and where I could share my opinions.

  • Moses, the Cuban MININT has had a file on you ever since you first lived in Cuba. They have always been interested in Americans who spend a long time on the island. Your file would include a psychological profile, a list of all of your Cuban friends and associates and where you travelled the island. They evaluated the risks you posed and your potential for use as an agent of Cuban intelligence against the US government.

  • Moses if you Google Moses Patterson Cuba, you will find a whole load of quotes by you and reference to Facebook. I can vouch as fact that facebook is monitored! – you won’t find me on it or on twitter.

  • I haven’t the slightest doubt that MININT monitors all the web sites about Cuba. It would be a negation of the duty and function not to do so.

  • Do you really think that the regime’s minders monitor Havana Times? Does that mean that if I were to write “the Castros suck”, that some minion of the regime would start a ‘Moses Patterson’ file? Thanks for the heads-up.

  • I with full knowledge of Cuba, know that Yanelys has shown an unusual level of courage, because in expressing her views she has exposed herself to the probability of imprisonment without trial. Where we live in Cuba people are nervous about expressing any political view especially in the presence of non-family members.
    I am fully aware of the number of dissidents in Cuba’s jails and Yanelys is taking the risk of joining them. By so doing she merits being described as having “an unusual level of courage.”
    Don’t think for a moment Chess4Knowledge that the Castro regime does not monitor these pages!
    I don’t have to read about Cuba, my knowledge is first-hand.

  • an “unusual level of courage” ? It seems you have not read too much about how many victims Castro has under his responsibility ?there are many others that have shown a “higher level of courage” and in fact are still showing it, I can mention: Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of UNPACU (, also Antonio Rodiles ( Oswaldo Paya, who was assassinated by Castro’s dogs. Bertha Soler, leader of the Ladies in white movement. I think is good what this girl is doing, but >>> she is expressing her feeling using Art, while others are fighting and facing other consequences >>>> Castro needs to go > >>> Castro = Hitlers = Mussolini = Fascism = Terrorism = EQUALS LACK OF FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY !

  • You Yanelys have shown an unusual level of courage, braving the threats which along with instilling fear are part of the armoury of the Castro regime and the Communist Party of Cuba.
    For the regime, dissent is unacceptable, Expressing individual viewpoints runs counter to their desire to form a ‘mass’ which accepts their control without question.
    I wish you success in your endeavors.

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