Cuban artist confirms public rally despite prohibition of authorities

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera.
Cuban artist Tania Bruguera. Getty Images

Claiming the performance is not an artistic work but a political provocation, Cuban authorities denied artist Tania Bruguera the permission to hold a rally at Havana’s revolutionary square Tuesday afternoon.

Cuban pro-government bloggers have called Bruguera “a CIA agent” and “a mercenary.” A statement from the Cuban Union of Artists and Writers advised its members of this “political provocation” and labeled Bruguera an “attention seeker” and her performance an “opportunistic” action, that aims to boycott impending negotiations between the U.S. and Cuba.

But the artist said the event will take place as planned.

“I’ll be there. I’m not going to hide. I’m not doing anything wrong. I am just exercising my citizen rights,” she said by phone from Havana.

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.

Tuesday’s planned gathering, dubbed #YoTambienExijo (IAlsoDemand), is a campaign that began on social media inviting Cubans to have a say in the future of the island. The idea is to set up a microphone at Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución at 3 p.m. and allow participants one minute to express their views or state their claims on the future of the island.

The movement has grown to more than 3,900 “likes” on Facebook and more than 460 people have said they plan to attend the event. The proposed event also is gaining popularity on Twitter.

Bruguera, a well-respected artist in Cuba and abroad, arrived in Havana from Italy on Dec. 26 to make arrangements for the rally. On Saturday, after a three-hour meeting, she learned that Cuba’s National Mixed Media Arts Council (CNAP) denied her the institutional support.

According to the press release sent out by the group, Bruguera was told that the gathering was not proper to do at this time because “the action would negatively impact public opinion, in a key time of negotiation between the Cuban government and the government of the United States, in which they seek to reestablish their diplomatic and commercial relations in full.”

Del Valle, according to the rally organizers, did offer the option for a gathering at a private space — such as in factories or schools — in the future.

“The artist didn’t agree because the purpose of her performance demonstration is to provide a space for all people to have a voice in an open space and not within the confinement of an institution,” the press release stated.

On Monday, she sought required demonstration permits from Cuba’s National Revolutionary Police with no success. “I went to different offices but they kept sending me to the CNAP. If you are an independent artist, you can’t do anything on your own”, said Bruguera who blamed on authorities any violent outbreaks that may erupt on Tuesday.

The “#YoTambienExijo” movement is reminiscent of a performance demonstration that took place in Havana in 2009 known as El Susurro 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.”

In Miami, meanwhile, several Cuban exile groups said they plan a simultaneous rally to be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.

One organizer, Rosa María Payá, daughter of the deceased Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá, said they wanted to give a space for Cubans to “put the topic of discussion. Cubans have been left outside in these negotiations. It should be the Cuban people who decide, not the U.S. president or a Cuban general.”

Payá also wants to rally for a referendum in Cuba, and pick up her father´s legacy: the Varela project.

“The voices of the Cuba people should be heard but above all they should be effective. For this, we are calling for a referendum,” she said.

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