By Adonis Milan
HAVANA TIMES — At the end of last year, the museum of dissidence scheduled an event dedicated to gender violence called “Mi cuerpo es mio” (My body is mine). It was organized by Yanelys Nunez and Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, the founders of this museum who plan monthly events in this space. This time, Ulises Padron Suarez, an employee at the National Center for Sex Education (Cenesex) joined them as a coordinator.
The venue saw a jumbled meeting of what looked like a catwalk of a diverse range of artists to me. However, the thing that really made it stand apart was that it made staff who work and answer to government institutions’ interests, mix with a group of people who create work in a completely independent setting.
When asked what their interest was in making both sectors come together, Luis Manuel Otero answered: “My work, space and human project is to create a new Cuba, which doesn’t stem from the binary “you are bad and I am good”. I am tired of this. I am tired of institutions vs. non-institutions, of dissidents vs. the Government. These extremes have only served opportunists and create constant disagreements. I want a body of freedom of speech and thought. Creating something which resembles a dialogue between these two parties is important to take the first step towards a democracy.”
The program began with a monologue performed by actress Iris Ruiz, called Abicuo, which touches on subjects such as family life and domestic abuse. Then, the short film from the Isla series was shown, by multi-talented artist Nonardo Perea, who recently received a literary prize.
Then, Ulises Padron Suarez spoke about Cenesex and praised this institution’s humanist work, which is headed by Mariela Castro, Raul Castro’s daughter. His speech gave way to a flurry of questions from the crowd, which Ulises answered with evasive and preconceived answers, learned from the demagogue Mariela herself, perhaps.
I was scheduled to give a talk about women in the Persefone Theater group I direct, and to show an excerpt from a piece we are currently creating called Voces (voices) which Felix Dayan Fernandez performed. I took advantage of that moment to express my support for the Cuba Decide campaign, I then gave the floor to its leader Rosa Maria Paya, who was sitting in the front row. I asked her questions about the campaign and some people who belong to Cenesex got up and left when Rosa began to speak.
This revealed the level of intolerance and lack of ethics those who represent this institution have. Even when Rosa Maria Paya had sat through and listened to the colleague’s lies, echoing Mariela Castro.
After asking Ulises Padron what his boss’ reaction would be when she found out that he was acting as a spokesperson for Cenesex at a censored and openly dissident venue, he gave an answer which underlined the ridiculous: “I don’t believe the director will have any problems, because as a Cuban citizen I am free to express my opinion wherever I deem necessary.”
That first day ended later with a Spoken word performance by poet/rapper Afibola and male impersonation by Argelia Fellove. Just before finishing up, a boy appeared singing Que linda es Cuba! a song which praised dictator Fidel Castro.
The second day kicked off with the musical duet Boulevard. There was an exhibition on show during those two days called Una familia revolucionaria, and the documentary series Causas y Azares was screened, both by Yaima Pardo.
There were then two talks, the first one by Yanelys Nunez who spoke about female art critics in the diaspora community. The second one was by human rights activist Lia Villares, who spoke about her experience with different opposition groups and about the abuse the Castro regime practices against them.
Singer Yelier Guada finally closed the event, who dignified the plurality of the program for a moment. Rapper Yudith followed him, a Christian convert according to her, who urged the audience to believe in God.
This was how an event essentially dedicated to diversity ended. Decadence is polluting us, the search for equality puts us out of context and wanting fraternal ties makes us lose positions of decency.
That’s why I ask, how much do we need inclusion in all of our circles as a country? Do we need to keep our own views in order to create the society we want? Cuba is one big circus and we all need to play our part in the marquee! We learned that from Fidel. Let’s break this structure, let’s break this marquee and then we’ll have a fair change for all.