HAVANA TIMES, March 9 – This past December, the Cuban Ministry of Culture censored the Poesía sin Fin arts festival; though this event had taken place annually since 1999 in Havana’s outlying Alamar projects.
The organization sponsoring the celebration was OMNI-ZONA FRANCA, and its coordinator Amaury Pacheco agreed to an interview with Havana Times:
How did Amaury emerge? – as a poet-performer, a beggar, a transvestite…?
I’ve always liked to move through images. Yes, I know images separate us ideologically, but one chooses where to work, and I became interested in fooling around with clothes.
Like children do when they masquerade?
Yes, that’s true, but I began to understand later.
You had studied for the military…
Yes, tactical command for four years. In the ITM I learned how to organize men for battle…the psychology…how to lead under wartime conditions. It’s complex, because you learn techniques related to how to work with humans but at that same exercise control over them.
It’s not perfect, but that gave me the option of doing something, not doing it or doing what they taught me differently. And this has turned OMNI into a power by us being together. Notice that I didn’t say a brotherhood. It’s about being together.
Do you believe performing is an attempt at filling a hole that philosophy and religion have not been able fill?
I believe that when something is manifested in a place, it’s what is needed in that place. The 1990s Special Period crisis allowed for the creation of other spiritual spaces. Religion was paralyzed as only a sermon, to me, distant from the real needs of people. OMNI then appeared as a place to get together and spread light, one could say.
When I met you I was impressed that you go on fasts and vow yourself to silence in the city, visibly, as a way of making people think about God.
I wanted to look for a way that didn’t represent the tidy state of officialdom. I can talk about God to a person who steals, but from a position of commitment not distance or separation. To someone who’s on drugs, before telling them to just say no, I prefer to talk with them about how ancient cultures used drugs. You can even read on cigarette boxes today that it says “smoking can harm your health.” But I think this is an inverse type of publicity.
Now, how can a person who is tired, over-informed and paranoiac speak about God without the authority of Christ but with the all the authority of existence? I learned that when I shake your hand I’m telling you I love you and that God loves you, without confining it to words that are just an empty cliché.
Why did you choose poetry?
Marti said poetry is more important than industries, because it bolsters or demolishes the soul. Poetry has the facility and speed of the contemporary commercial.
Do you have some relation with the Franciscan ideal of poverty?
Yes, and the saints affected many really visible transformations. The Hebrew prophets, just as Christ, their process of ending up on the cross was performance. Or San Francisco de Assisi calling to the sun brother, brother to the wind… San Lazaro makes me think of San Francisco de Assisi, someone in search of bridges. That’s why performance is what most attracted me to contemporary art, and writing. Octavio Paz said writing was like walking. I saw that instead of using the place where everything goes, the television, I could use the city as a real life spot.
How do you feel when somebody tells you you’re crazy?
In those moments I make a transfer of experience. I forgive myself for thinking badly of them, about what they said to me. I don’t think, “Forgive them because they don’t know better.” No, instead I forgive myself because I in fact know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I know that if I go out into the street and relate my experience to that of the Caballero de París, I’m not doing anything original, but those who call us crazy in the city have taught me a real freedom and a responsibility for the actions in my life.
Has anyone ever attacked you because of your image?
No. I keep walkin’ forward, be it in places where they don’t know me or even when I’m alone.
And what’s the most common reaction?
What do you think people look for in you when they confide in or confess to you?
Look, just like trash cans are necessary for throwing away garbage, the streets also need to be filled with people who listen. When people find somebody who is not opposed to their ideas, they can walk two or three blocks with them with the aim of resting… it’s therapeutic for both of them. A first step of tolerance is established, for a more total understanding.
Then a bond is created and people pour their souls out. I believe in preaching for madness, because I’m also the Verb, vibration. And I believe in the modern fetishism of commodities, even in the spiritual realm. In this way I can well package spiritual experience for you, like coca cola, so you become addicted.
This question was asked of me by some tourists: Do you believe that there is spiritual misery in Cuba?
There is a hymen that has been crystallized, there being a real potentiality for a spiritual leap, something that is not the cheerful Cuban mask or their capacity for acceptance. I think Cubans need, like Lezama said, “a half night with God.” The values proclaimed by the Revolution are only authentic when they are sustained by a spiritual base. It’s necessary to live them because otherwise you don’t get to people…people don’t believe you. We too are part of New Age thought.