Cuba: The Empty Rostrum
January 6, 2015
HAVANA TIMES — The last moments of 2014 were quite eventful. Occupied in
my own, personal matters, I haven’t been out of the house in many days,
but have kept abreast of what is happening in the country.
I want to condemn the criminal proceedings that the Cuban government
wishes to institute against the artist Tania Bruguera. No one has the
right to curtail the full expression and development of art, much less
appropriate a public space and transform it into a sacred temple, as has
happened in Cuba.
I loved the idea of setting the performance in Havana’s Revolution
Square, though I would have liked to have seen it anywhere in the
country. I also oppose the detention of the other individuals who were
headed for the Plaza to take part in the artistic, social and political
I support and admire Bruguera for sticking her neck out for Cuban
artists – most of time entirely focused on their professional
realization-, for placing her art at the service of the entire people,
for drawing our attention to the dangers that stem from our lack of
freedom of expression. I am happy the person fighting for the
recognition of others (“those who can never speak”, in this case),
inviting us to reflect on the usefulness and efficacy of words in an
increasingly aggressive world, is a woman.
The idea of staging this performance has proven very controversial. For
some, it was neither the right place nor time, considering the joy of
the majority, their hopes that the US blockade will soon come to an end
and fear that this clumsy reaction by the Cuban government might anger
the US government and make it change its mind. This is a comprehensible
Though we share that fear, others among us think that it was an
intelligent choice. Our stores will likely fill up with new products
soon, but the rope around a number of fundamental human rights will not
be loosened. It is therefore up to us to untie it, to demand those rights.
The performance was organized in a way that wasn’t the one expected by
part of the public. Some people in the art world felt disappointed that
nothing happened in the Plaza on December 30. They think that her work
lacked an interesting outlet for those who went to the Plaza to see art.
I also believe Bruguera, who has been staging performances for years,
knew very well what she was getting into and simply allowed the
government to give her work its finishing touches.
The result is that no one was allowed to use the microphone and that is
the most regrettable outcome. The tribune, to invoke Antonia Eiriz’
painting, was left empty.
We could perhaps be less ambitious, try to set up a tribune closer to
us, less publicized but just as important – something along the lines of
a “neighborhood tribune,” where people can go to speak their mind,
condemn something or, quite simply, appease others, to demand and also
propose ways of overcome our difficulties. But, how are we to challenge
those who oppose us of their own free will or out of caprice, those we
have allowed to act this way for very long? Are we ready to take the
Perhaps we should start at the level of the family, where there is
always more than one tyrant, conscious or not. At home, we toyed with
the idea of improvising a household tribune. Though were are not exactly
a “dysfunctional” family, everyone (fortunately) thinks differently than
the rest. When we thought about “taking the mike”, we realized all of us
have a lot of demand: not to continue living under the reign of
self-censorship and self-repression (while trying to avoid hurting
someone), not to continue to subject ourselves to the loud television
and its vacuous and false propaganda (one of the members of the family
is hard of hearing, but, sometimes the TV is on loud out of sheer
habit), eliminating the verbs “impose” and “decree” from our
conversations, and many other things.
The idea didn’t convince me, however, because the demands were almost
always addressed to something or something external. We would first have
to identify and defy the tyrant we carry within, the one that judges and
tempts us. Our demands would be better developed and channeled this way.
Then, we could defy those who would efface our individuality – first at
home, then in the neighborhood, then in the country. Perhaps, going
through this process, the next tribune will not be left empty, even when
the artist who called it didn’t get there on time.
Source: Cuba: The Empty Rostrum – Havana Times.org –