Cuba Performance


Some days ago, at home, we watched the documentary Cuba Performance dedicated to the artistic work of the group Omni Zona Franca.  The room was filled with long-hairs, and even some foreign authors, guests of the Book Fair, climbed the fourteen flights of stairs.  Amaury, the protagonist of the film, wasn’t present because a few days earlier his son had been born and he was drowning in diapers and sleepless nights.  It was Friday the thirteenth with a full moon, but the superstition didn’t stop us from enjoying a few hours of creation, freedom and relaxing.

The director of the documentary, Elvira Rodríguez Puerto, lived for weeks with Eligio, David and the other artists of Alamar.   Thanks to this close interaction, she manages to show us the mix of poetry, painting, zen and graffiti with which these talented autodidacts have filled the streets of the planned city of the “New Man.”  Dysfunctional and stigmatized, this unique eastern town is now a place where few want to live, filled with repetitive, identical concrete blocks.  Amaury lives and makes his art there, a large black man, he strolls with his miner’s hat and flowing tunic.  He manages to involve the neighbors in his performance art, making them forget the empty bags they bring back from the market and helping them loosen the rictus of incredulity with which they observe everything.

Our life is full of performance, and of performance art, loaded with symbolism, even  though we seem totally linear and mundane.  That is the sensation I get listening to the philosophy of this smiling poet who walks with the support of his wooden staff.  To wait for the bus, to stand in line for a single bread ration, to trade goods on the black market, to build a small raft to go to sea and even to pretend that we agree, are part of a script we have performed for decades.  Yet we yearn for the fluency and ease, the happening and spontaneity with which Amaury moves, so far from fear, conventions and controls.




  1. A nice antidote to the Oscars!
    A couple of points from Yoani’s earlier post: I happened to be leafing through a few pages of the website of my first degree alma mater, the University of Warwick, and I found the first two of three podcasts on Stalin: . “Guns and Rubles” is an insightful account of the terror, although I can’t agree with the assertion that the dictator wasn’t a suffering from any mental disorder. No one could behave as he (and the Castros) did without a clinically psychopathic disregard for human suffering. The interview may be heard on-line or downloaded as a podcast, and may go some way to answer some of the questions concerning the use of terror asked here. The second programme (yes, that IS how it’s spelled :)) concerns secrecy in communist societies and explains a lot. I recommend a listen.
    Point two: why did some of the countries of Eastern Europe escape the economic fate of the Soviet Union when the Warsaw Pact collapsed and what are the lessons for Cuba? Although countries like Hungary had had communism imposed upon them for four decades, there were plenty of civilized people ready to assume leadership roles and an electorate which understood democracy. This became more problematic as one moved east, deeper into the Pact, until one arrived at Russia, which has always been a dictatorship. Unfortunately, much the same is true of Cuba and, should the regime collapse overnight, the assets of the country would fall into the hands of those currently close to the levers of power. While many freedoms might be somewhat restored, many would not, and the oligarchs/government would still feel free to murder, imprison or bankrupt their critics, as they do in Russia today. It would be close to the status quo ante, but with a much more pervasive security apparatus than Batista ever managed.

  2. Ian, the Cuban people are totally different from those of Eastern Europe, nothing in common except the communist boot. When freedom and democracy are restored in Cuba, those in power today will have to look for refuge in some other friendly countries to them, they will have no chance to continue with their oppression and our people will not tolerate it.

  3. One more comment. Castro’s security apparatus is ten fold bigger than Batista’s.

  4. michel…canadiense dice: 23 Febrero 2009 a las 14:14

    Statute of Liberty dice:bigger than batista………….come on stop hallucinating……

    Michel dear, Batista’s intelligence department had less than 100 “agents”, Castro’s has more than 1 million accounting the members of para-police organization like CDR, Rapid Response Brigades, ICAP, etc

  5. In response to # 4 Michele. Canadiense.

    It baffles me when people like you with no concept of what Cuba was before Castro, is able to make such a nonsense statement in order to confuse others. I am not a defender of Batista and I believe dictatorship is bad regardless of who is in power. I happened to live under both dictatorial regimes and I can attest without exaggeration that Castro dictatorship is the epitome of hell in comparison with Batista.

    You can research the high number of people who faced the firing squad just because they didn’t agree with communism.
    You can also research how Castro engineered the firing squad and permanent incarceration of some of his own inner circle like Ochoa, Abrahantes, De la Guardia, etc…
    You can research and denounce to Human Rights Organizations, how many dissidents are presently in jail in Cuba.
    You can research and denounce the lack of free elections in Cuba.
    You can denounce how one dictator passed the reign of a country to his own brother.
    You can denounce how women are prostituted to tourists.
    You can denounce the “so called” free education which is nothing more than indoctrination of young minds.
    You can denounce the brigade of Cuban doctors in other countries spreading the seeds of communism.
    You can denounce how he destroyed and divide families.
    You can denounce 50 long years of dictatorship and suffering of noble people for the sake of communism.
    I can go on and on but at the end I will not be able to convince you and you still believe that Castro is the best thing that happened to Cuba.

    I think you can serve a better purpose if you go to a communist blog to defend the indefensible and stop visiting this site to confuse people who want to help our cause.

  6. ***
    I want to buy a good Texas sized steak dinner for Yoani Sanchez. This lady is very thin–I hope her health is good. Many of the Cuban children seem to be lacking food.
    Quiero comprar una buena cena de filete–tomano de Tejas–por Yoani Sanchez. Esta mujer es muy flaca–espero que su salud esta bien. Muchos de los ninos Cubanos parecen faltar comida.

  7. #12. I’ll bet she is in very good condition. How many times a day must she climb the 14 flights of stairs? With that type of workout, she needs a good steak whether she is well or not.

  8. Hola otra vez.

    For some reason the spam catcher has decided it DOES NOT LIKE YOU. All I can say is that it has VERY BAD TASTE since YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME HERE. But I don’t know how to tell the spam catcher that — it currently has 4 or 5 of your comments in quarantine.

    Let me suggest that when you post a comment, do NOT fill in the boxes with your email and your website. Let’s see if that works.

    My continuing apologies.

    I think there’s going to be a software update sometime soon and maybe that will solve the problem.

  9. Great Post with pictures and good friends. I’m learning google maps and have found the island of the alligator, and all the towns and just how for they are from one another. Have a good day in the sun and best wishes to all.

  10. Thanks, I don’t know why it would not like me. I don’t even like spam (except fried over an open fire while camping).

  11. to Comment #11 -Statute of Liberty

    About this

    “I think you can serve a better purpose if you go to a communist blog to defend the indefensible and stop visiting this site to confuse people who want to help our cause.”

    I will have to say that I also do not agree with Comment #4 by michel…canadiense but still I believe in very strongly in this quote by Voltaire

    “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”


    I will have to add that the only way we have to defeat repression and intolerance is by practicing liberty and freedom.

  12. #12 and #13

    Every photo I have seen of Yoani since the elevator (lift) broke… she looks thinner and thinner… well… 14 flights of stairs what, 3 or 4 times a day? (6 or 8 counting up AND down) will do that to a person!

    But maybe as blog readers we should offer to buy a cow for the whole block… they could have a big roast in the middle of the street… you know she’d have 20 or 30 security people hanging around that day… all hoping for a bite!

    And it might help her neighbors to forgive her for the inconveniences of being her neighbor.

    Does anyone know how we might arrange this? I’m liking the idea more and more!

  13. I am not sure if many of you have seen the link I posted before of Omni Zona Franca.

    Let me describe what it is.

    There is a man standing with an overcoat in some corner in Havana holding a sunflower. People are staring and looking at him as if something is wrong and with curiosity. You can see that many come because they have learn about what is happening and they like to see too.

    This much attention attracted by just one person in Cuba does not go unnoticed for a long time so the police will soon become unwilling actors in the performance!
    They take him away!

    There you have it.
    Something different and very refreshing!
    Each one playing a role!
    One being different (the main actor holding the sunflower), multiple being curious but indifferent and two others executing the repressive role by orders of someone in the regime!

    Only one is in control of the acting the rest are re-acting motivated by the performance of the one!

    The idea is so simple! is pure genius!


    I wonder what charges they arrested him for? Would any of you guess?

  14. To Comment# 17 Silent Voice.

    That was only a suggestion to Michele, she can take it or leave it since I ‘am not the moderator of this blog.

    She is not going to change my mind but there are lots of good people that are avid to find the truth about Cuba and she is constantly distorting it with statements that have no facts. She probably visited the Island few times and overnight became an expert on the subject.

  15. I just wanted to tthank you, Yoani, for giving us a view of Cuba that I haven’t been able to see in th 52 years I’ve been on this planet. Keep up the good work, and I hope to someday see Cuba vor myself.

  16. At comment #22 Statute of Liberty

    As I said before the best way for us that ask for freedom and liberty for Cuba is to put it in practice.

    If we start ignoring someone else’s freedom just because we do not happen to agree with what they have to say then I believe that is the same they(The revolution) did to us.

    Let’s not do to them what they have done onto us.

    The way you fight intolerance is with with tolerance and repression with freedom!

  17. to #24
    I value my freedom much more than others that never lost theirs.

    I’m not trying to suppress no one for expressing themselves but by the same token I can’t remain silent when someone is distorting the truth, people like this need to be exposed for what they are and I will never retract from taking their mask out.

  18. #20 What do you mean what did they charge him with? Haven’t you read the Cuban Criminal Code? It’s right there.

    Section S4.398.62.9751.444.39.21.84b1.d

    It says, “It is forbidden to stand in public holding a flower.”

    Oh! Wait! No sorry, wrong country. That was the Myanmar Criminal Code.

    Oh yes… here’s the Cuban Code:

    Section 1A — Everything not expressly permitted is forbidden.

    Well that’s about all you need to know, isn’t it!

  19. Yoani, Thanks for posting from inside a Dictatorship. I read your post cause they give me hope for Cubas new future. The Backbone of the revolution will someday(within next ten years) be announced dead. Raul , would like to have control and leave it status quo. The youth and the students are not buying it and will DEMAND BETTER. I hope cubas future alows internet so that more images and ideas can be exchanged. Yoani you are “guapa”, not sure if spelled right? I,ve attached a hot guava pastelito to this message so Enjoy and Thanks

  20. ESTAS BUENA FLAKA………………………………………………………………………………….IMO

  21. Andy #27 you probably think you are joking but sadly what you are saying is the truth.

    article 8.1
    It is consider a crime any action or inaction social prohibited by the law under penal sanction.

    “ARTÍCULO 8.1. Se considera delito toda acción u omisión socialmente peligrosa prohibida por la ley bajo conminación de una sanción penal.”

  22. #30 — unfortunately… I knew that I was NOT joking. Only the “Burma” code was a joke… I knew that the Cuban law was exactly as I said.

    It’s unbelievable. And unbelievably sad. But true.

  23. #30
    PPS… I mean I knew that YOU knew it was true. I didn’t know that you might not know that I knew that I wasn’t joking!

    OH MY GOODNESS… I think I just wrote a sentence that deserves to BE in the Cuban Criminal Code!!!!!

  24. A day like today (February 24) 13 years ago, the Cuban nation was painfully shocked by the criminal act perpetrated by the Air Force of the Castro’s tyranny against 4 pilots who were flying on 2 unarmed light planes in international air space near Cuba. These patriots were called “Brother to the Rescue” because of theirs efforts looking for Cuban rafters who were fleeing in search of freedom in the Florida Straits. The young men who were killed and who live in the memory and gratitude of they countrymen were Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Acosta, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales. (Took from Diario de las Americas)
    The hate and only the hate drove the tyranny to murder these young men. They with their daily work looking for and saving Cuban rafters did remind the world about the Cuban tragedy and did remind the tyranny about the desperation their abuses causes on Cuban people, abuses that makes the Cuban people prefer to die in the sea then continue living under such a calamity. It was unacceptable for the tyrant that 4 young men dare remind the world about his cruel nature and what the Cuban people was suffering, then he simply decide to kill them and so did it.
    To day the 5 undercover policemen of Castro, these accomplices of this crime, are in jail in USA. There is a campaign started by the dictatorship for getting them free. In this campaign the tyranny has involved all its agents in the world and even a lot of misinformed people. They call those accomplices “the 5 spies” but they are not spies, spies does not spy theirs own people. They are undercover and corrupted policemen that organized the murder of these 4 young men in foreign soil using the more pure mafia style.
    Today not only sorrows the mothers, wives and sons of these victims of Castro but the whole Cuban people.

  25. One of the great things about Yoani’s blog is that she introduces me to aspects of Cuba I was previously unaware of.

    Her posting on Omni Zona Franca got me googling and wanting to know more about this fascinating Cuban group. I found the following website ‘Alamar Express’ which has a fair amount of content in English. Here’s some excerpts and a link:

    “Everything within the Revolution, outside the Revolution – nothing” – for over fifty years Fidel Castro has been emotionally blackmailing his subjects, allowing them to act, think and exist only if they adore and support him. The Cubans, who have succumbed to him, take humiliation, poverty, violence, and the official lies of the propaganda with humbleness. Those who do not want to be under his reign and are against him, either go to prison or flee across the sea.

    The movie Alamar Express shows young Cubans, who do not care about this slogan in the least, they are above it, outside it, beside it. Before it and after it. When the slogan is presented in the movie, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Revolution and the dictator’s 80th birthday, the main characters – Omni – are taking care of their daily business, in the most normal and natural manner. And this is not in any way reminiscent of the daily battle to make ends meet, tormented by the hustle of material existence, in a country overwhelmed by the lack of literally everything….

    ” They pose a problem to the dictatorship, as the Omni in Alamar do not deal with politics. Nevertheless the government sees them as a threat, and rightfully so. Because in the anthropological scrap yard Cuba has become as a result of the communist dictatorship, the Omni are collecting the rubble of their and their loved ones’ humanity to bring them back to a oneness and they try to talk to each other about the meaning of life, not asking anyone but themselves about their opinions. In this sense, even though there is no penal figure to persecute them, they express of the deepest, the most fundamental opposition of a sovereign human being against Those Who Think for Us and a challenge to Those Who Know Better How We Should Live Than We Do. They are proof that Life and a Person are stronger than the System and the Ideology. They are the hope for the rebirth of Cuba.”

  26. I did a bit more poking around the above website. Alamar Express is a movie – mainly produced by a Polish film maker about the Omni performance group referenced in Yoani’s blog posting.

    The movie has been produced with English subtitles. There’s also a trailer on the website. Fascinating. Gives me more hope for Cuba’s future.

  27. I just noticed the trailer for Alamar Express is also on YouTube. I found it after watching the Sunflower video that Silent Voice provided a link to in #20 above.

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