Cuban Writers and Artists Association Reaches New Low

Ernesto Perez Chang

UNEAC headquarters in Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — Trumpeted as a gathering of major importance, the 8th Congress of the Cuban Writers and Artists Association (UNEAC) to be held in April this year points towards the complete failure of the organization.

Judging from the growing discontent of many of its members, the failure of the institution to adequately represent artists and its subordination to the cultural policies traced by the government – coupled with the fact other issues have been prioritized in debates only to silence or smooth out the more urgent and decisive problems facing Cuban artists and writers today, the congress promises to be a kind of distractive ceremony aimed at saving what cannot be saved and demonstrating what cannot be demonstrated.

To avoid bitter confrontations, comments denouncing the arbitrary and despotic measures taken by the institution, the avalanche of protests and thorny suggestions that could put in question UNEAC’s foundational policies (as well as demonstrated, with a myriad arguments, that it has become obsolete in the country’s cultural panorama), only a handful of its members, selected with surgical precision, have been invited to participate in the preparatory meetings.

Young artists and writers no longer find in UNEAC an effective instrument for their work, and, if they resort to it, this is because there are simply no other options for certain matters.

Overwhelmed by internal disputes, absurd administrative methods, the feudal structure that the organization’s different departments have assumed, the immunity enjoyed by some of its leaders (shielded by the organization’s convenient status as a “non-government organization”), more than half of its main representatives, disappointed, exhausted, have tendered their resignations with pretexts of every kind.

Young artists and writers no longer find in UNEAC an effective instrument for their work, and, if they resort to it, this is because there are simply no other options for certain matters, such as arranging a trip abroad, organizing an event, securing authorization for something that borders on the illegal in Cuba or, quite simply, getting official approval, while the more seasoned veterans teach them the efficacious art of opportunism in practice.

I have even heard some of the older members suggest a new organization should be founded, a kind of “Circle for the Arts and Literature”, a veiled means of detaching themselves little by little from an institution that no longer even acts as a travel agency or a department of the National Housing Bureau. I suspect, however, that this dissent conceals a desire to move power elsewhere, a kind of coup against an institution where two or three individuals have entrenched themselves so as not to let go of the reins that, rather than mobilize, only hold Cuban culture in check.

An institution that calls on a miniscule fraction of its members to plan a rescue maneuver based on cosmetic changes and the defense of its immutable principles only demonstrates that it does not represent its membership and is merely a (broken and irreparable) mechanism designed to control these.

Listening to the highly optimistic declarations made by some national and provincial leaders following the meetings, one can discern how they conceal the fundamental problem that will destroy the institution: the need to reformulate the foundations of the organization, so as to rescue its true objectives and banish, once and for all, the attitudes of control and ideas of uniformity that suit some, who are almost invariably neither artists nor writers and, bafflingly, have grater decision-making prerogatives than all other members.

There could not be a more urgent discussion for the 8th UNEAC Congress. In fact, there shouldn’t even be a debate about what all members already know and has but two, obvious solutions: to reformulate or dissolve the organization.

An institution that calls on a miniscule fraction of its members to plan a rescue maneuver based on cosmetic changes and the defense of its immutable principles only demonstrates that it does not represent its membership and is merely a (broken and irreparable) mechanism designed to control these.

A gathering that does not prioritize a solution to the problems that affect the creative processes of writers and artists and does not confront and overcome the obstacles in the way of the free production of art and literature, is not a meeting, but a circus act.

The problem is serious and its roots go deep. I will write about this again in coming days. I invite you to reflect on this issue.


3 thoughts on “Cuban Writers and Artists Association Reaches New Low

  • Typical of UNEAC, they abandoned the dissident Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban who was imprisoned on trumped up charges. “Open Letter to Raul Castro”I want to remind you that before opening my blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, where I only said what I thought about the terrible circumstances of the lives of my people, I was an exemplary citizen who, thanks to the literary talent that God gave me, won prizes and recognition from national and international cultural institutions.”But, General, one day I discovered that the ethical price I was paying to be seen as an exemplary citizen for the totalitarian society that your family has imposed on Cubans was too high for my soul and my time in history. I had to overcome the fear of repression with which the institutions of indoctrination created by your family educated me from my birth.

    I decided to overcome the fear implanted by you in the generations of Cubans who have grown up under this failure that you call “Revolution,” and, in particular, the muzzle on the conscience of the artists who mainly pretend to support the socialist process that you command, but later are heard criticizing the Regime under their breath, because, apparently, the Cuban people have preferred to take the easiest, but the longest, road.”

    http://translatingcuba.com/second-open-letter-to-raul-castro-from-angel-santiesteban-2/

  • …and so it begins.

  • Excellent commentary on the terrible state of affairs at UNEAC. The organization was founded with the purpose of subordinating Cuban arts & literature to the purposes of the revolution. UNEAC does not serve their members, but only the Castro regime.

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