A Performance of Freedom in Times of Dictatorships

Yenisel Rodriguez

Mulutrella is a living statue who offers highly political art.  He performs in the public setting of Plaza Vieja, which is administered by the Office of the City Historian.  The patrimonial and touristic atmosphere of the site disguises his controversial inclination.

The speeches that he makes include those of absurd characters who invite passersby to reflect on their daily strife.

I say “invite” because it’s very easy for one to continue along their way when they don’t want to or cannot participate in such a unique spectacle.  For those who stop, observation instantly turns into creation.

Mulutrella can play the role of a surrealist statue that advises parents how to think of their children:

“Your children are not your children; they are the children of life…

They don’t come from you, but through you”

Many parents are left exposed to their paternalism, to their children as well as to themselves when they validate Mulutrella’s comment with an abetting smile.

Mulutrella can appear with the yellow helmet of a construction worker, painted silver and dressed in overalls made of newspaper clippings.  From him are heard interjections that gradually begin to make sense.  Raising his arms and inspired by the aesthetics of comic theater, he begins to sing: “How long is it going to be like this mama, how long.”

People begin to repeat his choruses to a conga step.  There then emerges a jocular complicity that is also embodied as civic participation.

There are days when Mulutrella presents stark characters that vent their hostility directly against the order of things experienced in Cuba.  Those days are intense for Mulutrella because such radicalized art responds to real and difficult circumstances.  It’s another form of relating to the system, something closer to the common citizen.

Those are days of temperamental catharsis, of spiritual militancy armed with freedom, of political heroism and perhaps also of irrational exhaustion before the indefinable dilation of intuited change.

On those days few stop to listen to Mulutrella, and even fewer decide to participate in his performance.  Mulutrella is isolated and vulnerable in the face of the prophylactic leer of state power.

“Freedom.”

Mulutrella’s characters don’t say a lot on those days of Kafkaesque purification, yet popular astonishment has no limits.

Mulutrella returns home and behind the scenes tells me what happened.

“Yeni, today I lost the muse again,” he tells me glibly.

I again give him pertinent and prudent advice.

But at the root of it all, I recognize courage and substance in the actor standing in front of me.

Mulutrella is returning this year with new ideas to politically adorn the docile environment of Plaza Vieja.  It could be that when we find him we will choose to enjoy his art.  That’s why we shouldn’t forget that his stage is also an open door for expressing ourselves freely: a performance of freedom in times of dictatorships.

Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.


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