Pulitzer Center features Cuban artists on ‘Free to Express’

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A report by Andrea Torres for Local 10.

For artists in Cuba discussing political and social issues such as racism, sexism or lack of free speech is risky in a country that labels artists with alternative views as “counter-revolutionary.” This is the topic of a short film the Pulitzer Center published on Monday.

Adonis Milan said he used to direct a theater group until Cuban institutions censored him. He continues to work, but he said he does so with “a feeling of danger”  in the same way human rights activists live in constant danger.

Milan, 24, told the short filmmaker Esohe Osabuohien, a Pulitzer Center fellow interested in bilingual journalism, that he believes a theater should be a space for freedom, but that he says, is impossible in Cuba now.

“The people live in fear, afraid that ‘What will happen to me if I say what I feel or what I think?’ And in Cuba, it’s like that,” Milan said. “That’s why, for me, the theater was like a search of looking for the truth.”

The film also featured three other artists. Luis Manuel Otero, a 30-year-old visual artist, said he is exploring the ideas of activism on the Communist island in the political and social context. He described Cuba as a totalitarian regime without diversity of opinion.

“I believe it is very difficult for people to talk,” Otero said.

Yanelys Nunez Leyva is a 28-year-old writer who started her work as an art curator after she was fired from a government magazine. She said she was working with Otero on a project called “The Museum of Dissidence in Cuba,” which started in 2016 and has a Facebook presence and has received coverage from the New York Times to Cuban independent media.

It includes a website with a blog that has discussed everything from gender violence to the challenges the LGBTQ community faces on the island.

“Even if I don’t prevail, I think it’s worthwhile to fight,” she told the New York Times after her firing in 2016. “There is a pretense here that freedom of expression is respected. What I am doing could help build pressure to force them to follow the law.”

Gloria Ronaldo Casamayor, 64, works in the Cuban Film Institute and has worked on three films dedicated to immigration patterns related to the sugar industry.

“Artists do not fight anything,” she said. “The artists show a reality.”

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