The process towards change in Cuba is not going backward, but it will be slow, said Cuban artists participating in an event in Miami on Wednesday to highlight the role of art as a catalyst for the pro-democracy movement on the island, one month after the outbreak of the protests.
Espacio 23, home to the collection of Cuban-born American businessman and philanthropist Jorge Perez, was the setting for the panel discussion “Homeland and Life: Listening to Cuba,” with actor and singer Yotuel Romero, multidisciplinary artists Tania Bruguera and Coco Fusco, and art curator Rene Morales.
Romero, one of the creators and performers of the song “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life), the soundtrack of the protests in Cuba by his own definition, called for patience and to keep faith that freedom can be achieved after 62 years of dictatorship.
“I believe that everything has its time, its process, what happened is a big step that has no backward movement. When you plant a seed you can’t expect the tree to come out already, the seed is germinating,” said the singer of the group Orishas.
“Change is slow, we have to keep pushing because what Cubans need at this moment is the support of other countries,” added Fusco.
Cuba is not the revolution
In her opinion, the important thing is for the world to understand is that “Cuba is not the revolution, it is not the power, it is not the state, but the people, the people of Cuba,” she added.
The New York-based artist stressed the importance of the song “Patria y Vida” because it “gave the words” to Cubans who did not know how to express what they thought about the movement of their country and captured a collective feeling.
Romero mentioned that art played “a big role” in the protests and not only the song, also the San Isidro Movement and 27N, as the young artists who participated in a protest to demand freedom of expression on Nov. 27, 2020, in front of the Ministry of Culture headquarters are known.
“We must not think that the answer is outside, we have to keep fighting for this, it is in every Cuban,” said the singer.
Tania Bruguera, one of Cuba’s most internationally recognized visual artists, participated in the panel from Havana via teleconference.
Bruguera, who straddles New York and Havana, was in Cuba when the protests broke out on July 11 but was unable to take to the streets because she was under surveillance at home.
The silencing of artists
In addition to the panel, Espacio 23 launched on Wednesday a special selection of visual works by Hamlet Lavastida, Maykel Osorbo, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Anyelo Troya González, the first three of whom are currently imprisoned and the last one is serving a sentence at home.
This exhibition will be open for a month so that the Miami public can give exposure to artists who have played an important role in the “awakening of civic consciousness and the desire for freedom” in Cuba, said Anelys Muñoz and Patricia García-Velez Hanna, curators of the Jorge Pérez collection.
The Cuban dictatorship has tried to delegitimize or detract from the value of those artists “friends” of Espacio 23 and this is a way to show their quality and “give them a voice” now that they are silenced.
The videos have been provided to the museum by friends of the artists and members of the San Isidro Movement who are outside Cuba, because except for Hamlet Lavastida none of them were part of the collection of Jorge Perez’s artistic space.
The businessman, who retired this year from the management of the construction group The Related Group and left it in the hands of his son, is one of the largest collectors of Cuban art today, if not the largest.
Although he donated in 2016 more than 170 pieces, including canvases, drawings, photographs, installations and sculptures by Cuban artists to PAMM, of which he is a founder, Perez has continued to add to that part of his collection.
The curators said that Espacio 23 has plans to organize a major exhibition of Cuban art in 2022.