By Adonis Milan
HAVANA TIMES – What happens when your life is reduced to silence and solitude because you speak your mind, going against the status quo? The existence of someone living in Cuba will never be the same after they speak out against the Government.
I lost my theater and my actors, my friends no longer answer my calls, neighbors become your watchmen, people you know cross the street so they don’t have to greet you and, last but not least, my own family has served as a means for State Security to further reduce my chances of living a peaceful life on the island.
This is the story about how I was kicked out of my home, with threats from State Security.
As some of you know, I am a theater director and dissident. As if you could be one without being the other! Ever since I broke all ties with the State’s cultural institutions, I have worked to keep my theater going with independent means.
Thus, I began to use my home as a rehearsal space, for meetings, classes and one or two underground theater performances. This home belongs to my paternal aunt Dignorah Valdes, who left for the US two years ago, and has stayed there this entire time; leaving me to look after the house before she left and registering me at this address.
It’s an apartment at 301 Gloria Street, between Suarez and Factoria Streets, Old Havana. Actress Lynn Cruz baptized it “Casa-Teatro”.
It was obvious that counter-intelligence services were going to stop that residence from becoming an independent art center, no matter what the cost. Like what happened with El Circulo house/gallery, the Museum of Dissidence or the Institute of Artivism’s (INSTAR) headquarters, places that were attacked by political police so they couldn’t function.
They have been using the strategy of marginalizing any dissident in society for decades. They start off by destroying your reputation and even manage to turn your own family against you.
Such is the case, that my aunt called me many times telling me to leave the house, because apparently neighbors were calling her and telling her that this was a meeting spot for the counter-revolution and other immoral acts.
I must admit that my general relationship with my family has always been quite tense… I’m like the black sheep in a traditional Cuban family. Why? Well, I’m gay, an artist, an anarchist and a transgressor in every respect when it comes to preestablished behaviors. There was only one thing left to convince my family that I am a madman, and that was for me to speak out against the Government.
Even though my family are far from the revolutionary mold, they have marched [at the government rallies] like everyone else, silent and accepting everything. Irrational fear is a disease that is eating away at Cuban society, because whether you like it or not, you end up becoming an accomplice of a regime that violates its people’s rights and submits them to silence and a life of misery.
However, there are people who break this silence, for whatever reason, and they overcome this lethargy, standing up to this baseless fear and telling the truth. I am proud to say that I form part of this group!
My aunt, who requested asylum in the US, has returned to Cuba after two years so as not to lose the apartment. That’s the maximum the Cuban State gives people who live abroad, before they take away their home.
She is just one example of the thousands of Cubans who emigrate to the US so they can receive benefits from that government and get residency. Then, they come and go from Cuba as they please, holding onto their property and with the money they receive in benefits, they can spend a couple of months without having to worry about a thing.
This creates a dichotomy because if you’re requesting asylum in a country, it’s supposedly because you can’t go back to your own, let alone live in peace. Which means that thousands of Cubans have managed to come back and live like bacterias, in a sick body that is US-Cuban relations.
Living the best of both worlds, without the slightest bit of commitment out of ideology or principle. When you live in a country where opportunism and lies reign free for so long, the main principle is to survive no matter what the cost.
My aunt has kicked me out of the house, after a summons she received from the police. She says that she went to the station and then she was transferred to Villa Marista, where a Lieutenant-Colonel met with her, which from the physical descriptions seems to have been Kenia Morales Larrea, a well-known repressor from State Security’s 21st Department. This henchwoman is famous for her systematic repression of other anti-establishment artists such as Tania Bruguera, El Sexto and Lia Villares.
According to what I heard, they were very explicit in telling her that if she left me the apartment, it would be seized immediately.
A string of reproaches and insults made it easy for her to kick me out without thinking twice. I remember that she used the word “scum” to decribe the people who she says I am part of the counter-revolution with.
It’s amazing how the Cuban dictatorship can close off a person’s mind so easily. The people she accused of being “scum” were just some of the individuals who have managed to get benefits from the US government like Cuban emigres have, prerrogatives that my aunt and all of her family are enjoying to the max today.
I decided that this was going to be a peaceful process because she is an older woman, she’s my family and she has high blood pressure.
On December 5, 2018, my birthday, I left her house with all of my belongings at 5 AM. My official address had already been changed, I went back to my maternal grandmother’s house, a completely dysfunctional home with several sick people.
Ironically, I found myself moving suitcases and dozens of theater books across twelve blocks in Old Havana, from one apartment to the other. I remember that the last thing I moved was an old fan (an emblem of Cuban theater because of Virgilio Pinera’s Aire Frio), a Venetian mask from the Commedia dell’arte and more books by Shakespeare, Brecht, Havel… It was like a bad dream, having to drag things that make you who you are, but no place represents you or keeps you safe from the constant rotting of the soul of a zombie nation, for 60 years.
If my words about Cubans are sometimes quite strong, I prefer that than to have my instincts and thoughts crushed by totalitarianism.