Cuba is a pressure cooker about to explode. Sadly, a naïve North American leftist elite continues to think that this is due to the US embargo. And while the embargo certainly plays a part and must end immediately, the suffering of the Cuban people is ultimately caused by Cuban government corruption. We need to decolonize the American left, which needs to surrender to reality its fantasy of a socialist tropical paradise.
The Cuban revolution is long over and what remains in place is a corrupt bureaucracy supported by a complicit military in a dictatorship of nostalgia that falsely performs socialism while torturing and devouring its people. The violent events of July 11th in which thousands of Cubans all over the island rallied peacefully begging for food and healthcare only to be met by Cuban police brutality are a watershed that reveals how the current Cuban government has betrayed the revolution.
Artist Tania Bruguera, who has been posting on the situation from her home in Havana, is currently living under house arrest conditions, constantly under interrogation and surveillance by aggressive detectives. Some of her friends, like artist Hamlet Lavastida, have even been arrested and jailed under false charges and are awaiting trial and who knows what terrible fate.
I support Bruguera unconditionally in her courageous struggle to give a voice to her people, demanding the liberation of all the civilian adults and minors beaten, arrested, and jailed just before, during, and after the July 11th rallies, innocent people currently held without bail, secretly tried, and condemned unjustly.
I met a youthful Tania when I worked in Cuba throughout the 1990s, in the footsteps of Ana Mendieta, as I curated and installed four exhibitions about the pain of exile. The Cuban government secretly invited me to become an art ambassador of the revolution but even then it was clear that all that remained was a nostalgic political scaffold headed for the current crisis. I thus declined their invitation because of my commitment to neutrality within the Cuban cultural civil war between Havana and Miami, even as the Florida exiled community rejected me for dialoguing with the enemy.
I have spent 30 years of my artistic practice listening to both sides, as listening is my human right. And while there is no question that US interests continue to contaminate everything on both sides, this historical moment requires a public stand. Therefore, I stand with Tania Bruguera and the Cuban people in their desire for food, health care, and freedom of speech. And if this requires the overturn of stubbornly corrupt Cuban politicians behaving in ways ironically similar to Batista’s regime in 1959, so be it.
Ernesto Pujol, August 2021
From San Juan, Puerto Rico