Rob Sequin | Havana Journal

On Monday March 30, 2009 Yoani Sanchez was allowed to speak at a Biennial Habana art event. She was allowed to speak briefly at an open microphone and seized the opportunity well. She wrote about her time at the microphone and a video has come out of Cuba.

Yoani writes “An unforgettable night yesterday at the Wilfredo Lam Center, thanks to the performance artist Tania Bruguera.  A podium with microphones, in front of an enormous red curtain, formed part of the interactive installation in the central courtyard.  Everyone who wanted to could use the podium to deliver—in just one minute—any rousing speech they pleased.

As microphones are rare, certainly I never met up with any in my time as a Young Pioneer reciting patriotic verses, I took the opportunity of the occasion.  Advised ahead of time by friends in the know, I prepared a speech on freedom of expression, censorship, blogs, and that elusive tool that is the Internet.  In front of the lenses of national television and protected by the foreign guests at the X Havana Biennial, I was followed by shouts of “Freedom,” “Democracy,” and even open challenges to the Cuban authorities.  I remember one boy of twenty who confessed that he had never felt more free.

Tania gave us the microphones, we who have never been able to deliver our own speeches, rather we have had to suffer under the hot sun the speechifying of the others.  It was an artistic action, but there was no game in the declarations we made.  Everyone was very serious.  A dove rested on our shoulders, probably equally well-trained as that other one fifty years ago.  However, none of us who spoke considered ourselves chosen, none wanted to stay for fifty years shouting into the microphones.”

(The dove Yoani is referring to is the one that landed on Fidel Castro’s shoulder during an early speech. In the Santeria religion that is practiced in Cuba, a dove is a symbol of a God or a blessing. )

Video of Yoani Sanchez speaking about freedom of speech in Cuba

Yoani is the first speaker out of several. The dove is obviously a plant and the two “soldiers” behind here appear to be actors. So, the microphone, dove and soldiers were part of a performance art piece. I suppose this is how Yoani and others were allowed to speak, because they were simply part of the artistic performance. However, I believe their messages were real.

Translation of her speech from the video

Here a translation of Yoani’s speech as seen in the comments section of her original post, And they gave us the microphones…

Cuba is an island surrounded by sea and is also an island surrounded by censorship. Some of the information control, and especially with the Internet, have opened up some cracks for bloggers. The alternative blogosphere is known to a good part of the Cuban population. We accentuate the awakening of public opinion. The authorities consider the technology to be a wild horse that has to be tamed. The independent bloggers want to run freely. Difficulties in disseminating our sites are many. Passed from hand to hand and thanks to flash memory drives, CDs and obsolete diskettes, the content of the blogs goes through the island.

The Internet is becoming a public square of discussion where the Cubans are writing their opinions. The real island is starting to be a virtual island, one that is more democratic and more pluralistic. Unfortunately these winds of free expression on the internet are being recognized by government officials. Let us not wait for the authorization to use the internet or to have a blog or to write an opinion.

It is time to jump the wall of control.

Artist’s work lets Cubans speak out in Havana for freedom

Havana art show erupts into a protest of the islanders’ lack of freedoms and can be seen on YouTube. By Fabiola Santiago of the Miami Herald.

A packed performance art show at the 10th Havana Biennial, a prestigious international festival, turned into a clamor of ‘‘Libertad!’’ as Cubans and others took to a podium to protest the lack of freedom of expression on the island. The provocative performance Sunday night, recorded and posted Monday on YouTube, was staged by acclaimed Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, a frequent visitor to Art Basel Miami Beach who lives in Havana.

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Havana Journal Inc. proudly and openly supports Yoani’s efforts to enjoy freedom of speech in Cuba.