Cuban artist and dissident Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as El Sexto, has had an image of the late opposition leader Oswaldo Paya Sardiñas tattooed on his back as a tribute to “a man who changed our way of thinking … and was assassinated.”
Maldonado’s tattoo session in Havana two days ago was filmed as an art video by independent photojournalist Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo. His video was posted Friday in his blog and several other Cuba-related Web pages.
Maldonado, 29, said he already had a tattoo of Laura Pollán, the founder and leader of the dissident Ladies in White who died last year, done after state security agents ripped off a T-shirt with her image that he was wearing.
“These two tattoos are living tributes to these persons because this dictatorship does not allow people like us to express ourselves in other ways,” he told El Nuevo Herald in a phone interview from Havana.
Payá, a staunch Catholic who founded the Christian Liberation Movement, changed our way of thinking, without weapons, with love and with faith … and was assassinated for that,” Maldonado declared.
Maldonado has been detained several times by police for his activities against the government, including graffiti, pamphlets and other art works demanding democracy and condemning human rights abuses.
Pardo’s video shows Maldonado wincing as the image of Paya in his traditional pose, with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand flashing the “L” for liberty sign, is punched in black ink into the back of his right shoulder.
Maldonado also flashes the “L” sign during the video, accompanied by a rap song harshly critical of the government and sung by Silvito El Libre, the son of long-time pro-government singer Silvio Rodriguez.
Pardo Lazo said he filmed the tattoo session as “a beautiful gesture, a liberating gesture.”
Paya and fellow dissident Harold Cepero were killed in a car crash in July. His family and supporters say they have evidence the crash was caused by a second car that rammed their vehicle and forced it off the road.
The Cuban government says Paya died in a one-car accident caused by the driver, Spanish politician Angel Carromero, because he was speeding. He and Swedish politician Jens Aaron Modig survived the crash with only minor injuries.
Carromero remains in a Cuban prison and is expected to go on trial soon for vehicular homicide in the eastern town of Bayamo, closest to where the car crash took place. The trial is likely to draw intense attention from Spanish diplomats and foreign journalists.
Bayamo’s long-dilapidated provincial tribunal has received a massive facelift in recent weeks, Bayamo dissident Yoandris Montoya told El Nuevo on Friday.
“That place was chaos, the worst of the worst,” Montoya noted. “Now it has new windows, air conditioning, new paint, everything. It looks like a tourist hotel.”