Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, a group of Cuban artists have called for a public gathering on Tuesday at Havana’s revolutionary square where they hope to set up a microphone to allow participants one minute to express their views or state their claims as it relates to the future of the island.
Dubbed #YoTambienExijo (IAlsoDemand), the movement is making its rounds on social media with a growing following on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, among others.
Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, the face behind the movement, said the event scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Plaza de la Revolución is not a political act but rather an artistic demonstration that allows her to exercise her right to “be a political being” and to “know what the idea is behind the nation we are building.”
The purpose of the event is for people to say “what nation it is that they want,” said Bruguera, who is well known within artists circles both in Cuba and abroad. “The idea is for people to speak for one minute and say what they think.”
The “#YoTambienExijo” movement is reminiscent of a performance demonstration that took place in Havana in 2009 known as El Sussuro de Tatlin. On that occasion, the microphone was open for participants to express themselves for one minute without being censored. Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez took the opportunity to highlight that “Cuba is a country surrounded by the sea and is also an island fenced off by censorship.”
The idea for Tuesday’s demonstration, said Bruguera, came after the historic simultaneous announcements in Washington and Havana on Dec. 17 that the two nations would reinstate diplomatic ties that were severed half a century ago. Bruguera said she wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, Raúl Castro and Pope Francis in which she demanded that Cubans “have an arena to participate and the right to have a different opinion without being punished for it” as well as to be able to “hold peaceful demonstrations on the street in favor or against government decisions.”
The artist said the #YoTambienExijo project includes Cubans who are outside the island and those inside.
“People who come from the art world, journalists, designers, editors, young people,” she said. “We’re people with different ideological positions and religious beliefs... We all have a different vision about what Cuba needs to be but we’ll be gathered in the same space because we have the right to be a part of what’s going on.
“The interesting thing is that it’s a group of people who up until now had not expressed their opinions about what is happening in Cuba because they felt that they didn’t have official or alternative spaces to do so,” she said.
Brugera, who is currently overseas, said traveled to Havana from Italy on Friday to seek official permission to hold the event. In an open invitation posted on Facebook, more than 300 people so far have said they plan to attend. Whether the Cuban government will allow that to happen remains to be seen.
“We”ll see how people react: if they go or if Tania stays alone in the plaza,” said Cuban-American writer Achy Obejas, who like many others is following developments in Cuba from the United States. “And we”ll see how the government reacts to the event, if they leave people alone or if they kick them out of the plaza and arrest them.”
Bruguera said the Castro government, “can say no if they don’t want the event to take place. But if people go, it doesn’t matter what they want. If one person, or 10 or 100 people go to share their opinions and to have a peaceful dialogue then it will happen regardless of what they want.”
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter @ngameztorres